Since the New Year we have been active with many projects. In late March, we drove to Banff where the Alberta Union of Public Employees (AUPE) was holding its annual Labour School. We had the pleasure and privilege of working with singer-songwriter Maria Dunn, community-engaged theatre artist Lindsay Ruth Hunt, labour historian and educator Winston Gereluk, and our team leader, video balladeer Don Bouzek, in the Arts in Labour History program.
We were so inspired by what the two dozen enthusiastic participants produced in such a short space of time. With our team as a resource, and using a successful wildcat strike by AUPE health sector workers in 2012 as their theme, they rewrote Billy Bragg’s variant of the song, “There is Power in a Union”, created five original theatre scenes, painted a 14 foot mural with Claire, and printed their own wildcat T-shirts with me. They integrated all this into a stage performance for the entire Labour School on their last evening, along with projections of video clips from the actual wildcat interspersed throughout their performance. Very powerful, very moving.
The winter provided enough time to get a suite of two new prints started; the smaller vertical version is done and the first screen of the larger horizontal version is set up now and ready to print the background. Glow-in-the-dark ink mixed into the sky means the northern lights actually glow if viewed with the lights out! It’s fun to print northern imagery like this. And they’re all a bit different, because of the way the different inks interact. Here are a few samples:
“Disturbances in the Field” was the inaugural exhibition in the new Omineca Arts Centre in downtown Prince George, a partnership between Emily Carr University and Two Rivers Gallery. Both of my sculptures were about BC Hydro’s Site C dam on the Peace River and one of them helped raise $600 for Treaty 8 First Nations’ legal challenges.
In April, our friend Juan Barbé published a gorgeous new book about papermaking. It not only includes artistic interpretations of various papers (including several of my silkscreen prints), it has actual samples of papers made from certain families of fibres glued in!
Claire has been working since the spring on a large commission. Just in case the 4’ × 8’ (1.2m × 2.4m) canvas component wasn’t successful, she started a second version as insurance, then another, and another … eventually painting a beautiful new suite of large canvases. All will look sensational with her torn, stained and painted canvas “trees” suspended in front of them.
With a lot of help from our friends and family (John Marien, Dave Jorgenson, Dave Jeffery, Randy Hadland, Judy Kujundzic, Ian Crawford) we’ve made great progress on completing the upper, winding section of our stairs to Claire’s loft office above the living room. All made from reclaimed fir, pine, spruce and yellow cedar. (A friend on Facebook calls it our Stairway to Heaven 😉
In March we met with three designers in Victoria to explore our options for building a studio there, which we need to do before we can move from Wells. We also need to sell Amazing Space before we can move. Unlike Victoria and Vancouver, though, the Wells real estate market is weak, so we need help in spreading the word about our building to find people who – hopefully – will want to make it their base for their own creative endeavour.
In the meantime we are revamping our gallery for the summer tourist season. We don’t know if this will be our last, but here we are 😉
We are now back home after attending the Dickens fair as well as the Out Of Hand fair in Victoria. Having a booth with Claire’s sister Judy who has been doing her own metal work made the experience a lot more fun. Here we are setting up at Crystal Garden:
Temperatures in Vancouver were just below freezing when we left; by the time we reached Wells it was -24C! A bit more snow fell in our absence:
It was great to see lots of family and friends while at the coast and we owe many thanks to those who offered hospitality, camaraderie and logistical support:
Caroline Zinz, Dave Jorgenson & Cheryl Macarthy, Margaret Inoue & Richard George, Marleen Morris, Andrew Young, Ana Simeon & Tom Martin, Sarah Cox, Ben Parfitt, Pam Loadman, Roger Crowther, Janet & Steve Gray, Millie Jenkins & Jim Dew, Art Napoleon, Sima Sharifi & Arnold Witzig; Ann Kujundzic, Judy Kujundzic, Ian Crawford, Natanis Christensen & her family, and David Beaver.
An additional bonus in Victoria was seeing Nettie Wild host a screening of her new film KONELĪNE: our land beautiful. We highly recommend this beautiful, powerful piece of work.
We had a fascinating, intense trip to Spain in September for our exhibition at the Spanish Plant Pathology Congress. You can see photos and read about it on our “message from the beetle” blog, which also has a page about our delicious Tapas Night at Sassafras Savouries.
Since then we’ve been very busy preparing for the Out Of Hand fair in Victoria November 25-27. Both of us are excited about the new bags and flags we designed and printed (more photos on our Bags & Flags page):
Thanks to Sima, Sophia, Reza, Dasha, Neil, Danny, Ying-ying, Dragi, Jovanka, Sharona, Lina, Micah, Paula, Jon, Juankar, Yael, Thea, Roselyne, Margaret, Ferenç & Laszlo for their assistance with translation!
We also continue to work in support of the Treaty 8 First Nations and Peace River Valley farmers and residents who are defending the river against the BC government and BC Hydro’s Site C dam. When we heard that BC Hydro wants Arlene & Ken Boon off their 3rd generation farm by Christmas and had been drilling on their property, we wanted them to know they are not alone:
Agrologist Wendy Holm and others took that idea and the result is the Stake in the Peace campaign. There are now over 300 stakes outside the Boons’ house that people have purchased @ $100 each – you can, too! Just click Stake in the Peace.
Last week we helped organize an event in Quesnel with Ana Simeon of Sierra Club BC, Ben Parfitt of Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and Yvonne Tupper from Saulteau First Nation. Yvonne was one of the Rocky Mountain Fort defenders last winter and was also on the bus that went from the Peace River to Montréal and back to attend the West Moberly and Prophet River court cases. She is tireless! It was great to see her again, as well as Ana who spoke at the Paddle for the Peace, to meet her husband Tom, and to finally meet Ben.
It’s a privilege and joy to connect with all these people.
August 2016: Dear friends – hadi – bonjour – kaixo – ¿Qué tal?Some of you may have heard our big news:
We have bought into a house (with significant support from Claire’s family) in Victoria that is immediately next door to Ann Kujundzic, sister Judy Kujundzic and our brother-in-law, Ian Crawford. Chef, broadcaster and singer/songwriter Art Napoleon has been renting the house and we are glad to have this connection with him and his daughters.
We have put Amazing Space up for sale (see the “Building For Sale” page on this site) and though we can’t predict when a buyer will come forward, a few people have already expressed interest and one day we will have to face the upheaval of radical downsizing, moving south and building a studio in the back yard! After more than 20 years in Wells, it’s time for a change and a chance to be closer to family.
In late September, we’ll be exhibiting our forest and plant-based art at the 18th Congress of the Society of Spanish Plant Pathologists in Palencia, Spain. We are excited by this new opportunity to share our work, to donate some of it to the permanent collection of the University of Valladolid, and to learn directly from leading scientists.
Due to the fragile state of the Spanish economy and budget restrictions at the university, the organizers can host us, but they can’t fly us or transport our work there. Because Canada Council does not recognize this as an “exhibition” (!), we have started our own fundraising to cover travel and shipping costs. Our crowdsourcing campaign has photos and descriptions of what we are doing, where and why:
Chuffed.org is based in Australia and only hosts campaigns for social issues, the environment, refugees & other causes; it doesn’t take a % like most crowdfunding sites. We’ll appreciate any sharing of the campaign with others who might be interested in our project and contributing!
Looking back at our mild winter:
Bill’s exhibition “Behind the Lines” at Two Rivers Gallery in Prince George ran from January until April and included a number of new pieces. Claire provided pivotal support during production and helped with the installation.The public’s response and media coverage were very positive, and several dozen elementary school children who toured the gallery wrote letters to Bill about their concerns for the environment, homeless people and other issues – a profound gift.
During the exhibition, Two Rivers hosted a panel on Art & Change in partnership with the Pacific Institute of Climate Solutions and UNBC, with Bill, Kym Gouchie, Helen Knott and Nadia Nowuk, moderated by Michelle Connolly. What a fine evening!
In the spring, Bill designed a CD for Kym Gouchie‘s single, In The Hearts Of You & Me – a powerful, poignant and beautiful song that is a fundraiser for the Highway of Tears campaign. It was an honour to work on this project.
We also designed and printed another shirt for resistance to BC Hydro’s Site C dam, this time in Dane-zaa, then did a reprint of our Mamahtâwisîpiy shirts in support of the Treaty 8 Stewards of Land.
A few weeks ago we participated in the Paddle for the Peace – ten of us in the voyageur canoe that Marg and Jeff Dinsdale of Quesnel have restored! We finally had a chance to meet Ken and Arlene Boon, whose third generation farm is at risk of being flooded, as well as other key players in the remarkable “Cowboy and Indian Alliance” whose warm, respectful relationships are leading the way in the field of reconciliation. The drive was long, and we had to close our gallery temporarily, but it was worth every moment.
Speaking of paddling, Claire designed a new, full colour Bowron Lakes shirt this spring, and with Bill, a second, two colour Bowron shirt. You can see both designs in the “Shirts” section of this blog.
In late June we lost our dear friend, Charlie Roots, to ALS. He leaves a gaping hole in our lives, but we were glad we could attend his memorial in Whitehorse. His voice, smile and spirit will always be with us.
Charlie’s Mount Logan journal which Bill designed is now available and anyone interested in ordering a copy can email Bill. Our last conversation with Charlie took place via Skype in June just after it went to press, and he was radiant in the satisfaction of completing this project and sharing his story.
Bill recently finished designing a new Chris Harris book, British Columbia’s Cariboo Chilcotin Coast which will launch in early October. It’s been a privilege to work with such powerful imagery and as always, a pleasure to design with Chris, plus editor, Harold Rhenisch.
On the BC Day weekend, the ArtsWells Festival took place here and it was a pleasure to host Kym Gouchie, and seeing various friends from near and far, such as Sheila Allen, with whom Claire sang in the band Ad Hoc in Vancouver (thanks to Alan Zisman for posting so much material from that era of our lives!). We enjoyed spending time with her, Scott, Gina, and Katherine. Plus Stu Macleod and Mechthild Meyer from Ottawa, who came and cooked beautiful meals for us while we managed the gallery, and hiked Bill up Mount Murray. We also had a surprise visit from Jon Bartlett and Rika Ruebsaat, who founded the Princeton Traditional Music Society. We never know who is going to walk in through our doors!
Last weekend we were in Dawson City, Yukon for a remarkable printmaking event that takes place inside and beside the old newspaper office. Bill demonstrated sunlight photostencils for silkscreen printing, while Claire demonstrated collographs made with a portable Palm Press made by Saskatoon artist-innovator, Nik Semenoff. Here are some photos and commentary from some of the events that took place. And some of our own:
Here’s a very short clip of screen printing in action.
When we return from the plant pathologists’ gathering in Spain in late September, we’ll dive immediately back into work preparing for our booth at the Out of Hand Artisan Fair in Victoria, November 25-27. We look forward to returning to the lovely Crystal Gardens, and it’s good practice for our eventual transition to the coast. As usual, there’s lots going on and we are never bored!
Bill & Claire
PS As mentioned below, we try not to send out too many bulletins, and we send them via BCC, with no attachments, but anyone who wants to unsubscribe can send an email to us and we’ll remove you from our list; just put “unsubscribe” in the Subject line.
[November, 2015] Dear friends – bonjour – kaixo – ¿Qué tal?
Snow is falling here in Wells, but our gallery is cozier and brighter than ever, now that we’ve finally replaced all the old tinted, single pane glass with clear double glazed units – click the Renovations page above.
I am gradually shuffling content between our original website, a site primarily for my work and new one for our gallery (this blog). This way we’ll each have our own site, as well as one for the gallery, plus a portal from our new “Love Wells” page.
Last fall we spent some time with Eva Brucklacher, Birgit-Cathrin Duval, and Monika Birk here in Wells and at Bowron Lake while they were making a German language documentary film. “Unterwegs in Westkanada” runs just under 45 minutes. There are some beautiful shots of our area and we are honoured to have been included in the interviews. Kudos to Dave Jorgenson and Cheryl Macarthy of Whitegold Adventures for their pivotal roles.
In April we had the pleasure and privilege of exhibiting our work at GKo Gallery in Tolosa, Basque Country (Spain). While there we led some printmaking workshops and had time to explore. People were extremely hospitable and kind to us and there are a few photos and accounts of our experience here.
Both of us will be at the Out Of Hand art/craft fair in Victoria, BC soon, November 27-29 at Crystal Garden. (There’s a downloadable, printable coupon here for a $2 discount at the door.)
Claire will be at the Women’s Winter Faire at the Heritage Hall at 3102 Main Street, Vancouver December 19-20.
Although we weren’t able to participate in the East Side Culture Crawl, we did participate in the very first one, so both of us are included in this unique fundraising recipe book
On January 28, 2016 I have an exhibition opening at Two Rivers Gallery in Prince George, BC. This will feature my political letters series, such as this piece about immigration. I plan to have a few new ones, too, that deal with subjects such as BC Hydro’s Site C dam on the Peace River. Lots to do before then!
Speaking of Site C, with the assistance of singer/songwriter/broadcaster Art Napoleon, I designed and printed a batch of shirts as a fundraiser for the RAVEN Trust.
The design centres on the word Mamahtâwisîpiy in Cree syllabics, with the translation: “magical, supernatural or sacred river of wonderment.” We wanted to create a graphic of beauty and power with an educational function, and the response has been very positive. Thanks to an anonymous donor, contributions are matched dollar for dollar! If there’s enough interest, I may be able to do another print run before the end of the year. If anyone wants shirts, just let me know.
In the meantime, warm wishes from a wintry Wells,
Bill & Claire
PS We try not to send out too many bulletins, we send them via BCC, with no attachments, but if you want to unsubscribe, just send an email to and we’ll remove you from our list.
Amazing Space Studio
2338 Bowman Crescent
Box 41, Wells, British Columbia
Canada V0K 2R0