cynara de goutiere

artist, cobble hill bc

Archive for April, 2011


Comments Off on Enormities

April 15th, 2011 Posted 6:04 pm

I once heard an Irishman say that

“Life is the vast expanse that lies between the great enormities of  birth and death”.

The past month in the world has certainly been a time to reflect on the thrust and tenacity of the human condition.


Posted in blog


Comments Off on Cross-patch

April 15th, 2011 Posted 5:02 pm

Quebec Wheel

Cross patch, draw the latch,

Sit by the fire and spin;

Take a cup and drink it up,

Then call your neighbors in.


When I learned to spin, the old nursery rhyme rattled around in my head like a bat in daylight and found no comfortable place to alight on.  What was that all about, I wondered?   Why was she cross?  Would she snap at me if I came near her?  Would I turn into a cross old lady if I spun?  As I sat spinning today on my old Quebec wheel, I queried it again.

I don’t think I could spin if I was in a bad temper.   Spinning is calming, centering work and although it can be a solitary activity,  I feel  humbled and connected to the community of women now and long past.  But perhaps I am vain to think so.   I spin for pleasure.  And although I’ll put many hours of work into a yarn for socks or a sweater, I don’t have to spin interminably to keep my family warm.

I’m spinning today for a pair of socks.  3 ply fingering, kool-ade dyed superwash roving (with nylon).  How New Age is that?  It’s pretty far removed from the greasy hay pricked animal, these not so honest and humble rovings – all those burrs on the fibre burned off with lye..I don’t even want to know about what else… the grape, cherry, lemon lime, smurf blue cocktail scent over that… but that was fun…


happiness is.. the whirr of the spinning wheel, and handspun socks!

.. and a song to sing about it…

Here’s a lovely ditty ~ Jean Redpath singing  O leeze me on my spinning wheel

and this lullaby to keep us from getting cross.














"Mellow the moonlight to shine is beginning
Close by the window young Eileen is spinning
Bent o'er the fire her blind grandmother sitting
Crooning and moaning and drowsily knitting.
Merrily cheerily noiselessly whirring
Spins the wheel, rings the wheel while the foot's stirring
Sprightly and lightly and merrily ringing
Sounds the sweet voice of the young maiden singing..."
                    The Spinning Wheel ~ Irish Lullaby

Posted in blog


Comments Off on Kumihimo

April 11th, 2011 Posted 7:01 pm











This past weekend, I participated in a Kumihimo workshop given by Alison Irwin.

Kumihimo is the ancient Japanese art of braiding.  Traditionally, the round cords are made with at least eight strands and were used for tying samurai armor.  They also make exquisite ties for clothing – particularly the obi sash on kimonos.

Alison is an inspiration –  impeccable in her presentation and documenting of her work and apparently insatiable in her art.  The combinations and permutations of pattern and colour seem to be infinite, and certainly the myriad samples, each carefully labeled with the pattern drafts proved that.

We were introduced to the Marudai and the  many utterly ingenious ways that Alison has invented to create her Marudais.  She’s even working on a system that will fit in a neat flat package so she can take her kumihimo-ing everywhere.

Then we worked with the cardboard disks, starting with eight cotton strands and increasing to 16 and working a sample piece with several patterns.  The black and white sample in the bowl shows only some of the patterns possible with eight and eight.

When I came home, I was so fired up that I made another braid, the tan and white one, with seven white and nine threads in contrasting neutral shades of tan, gold and olive.  With the subtle colour shifts, the simple block pattern is reminiscent of reptilian patterning.



Posted in blog

Fibre Diversion Diverted

Comments Off on Fibre Diversion Diverted

April 11th, 2011 Posted 4:19 pm

I’ve been cajoling myself for obsessing just a little too much about  fibre, …and knitting.. and fibre..


and NOT drawing and painting.

Just as I’m settling down to paint the withering skunk cabbage that’s been banished to the kitchen porch, and have all my pastels out and my golden yellows smudging my fingers, – a call comes in for me to pick up three bags full of alpaca fibre from one of our Spinning and Weaving Guild members that has been generously offered for our members to share.

Well. It was A Perfect Day for a quick diversion with Spring in full bloom…

and full feather!  ….

Immediately, on my arrival to the farm,  the alpacas were back staged.  I was greeted at Belle Cria Farm’s gate by Judy and some of her beloved farm animals.  First, wandering distractedly up the drive was the fair Joanna, a heritage white turkey hen in very determined broody mood.  She had just emerged from deep in the salal bushes where she’s been fussing with her nest.   She was completely white with an odd tuft of bristly things  sprouting from her breast feathers that looked like the remains of a barbeque brush.  And then from the wings and the motley ranks of bantams and barn cats, came the reason for her distraction. –  The Señor, strutting and posturing to command the spotlight with his magnificent outspread black plumage.  He is a Black Spanish turkey – a heritage breed that harks back to the first turkeys brought to America by the explorers.  I was imagining Columbus’s stout brave little ship Pinta as I watched this puffed out Tom in full sail sashay imperiously over to Joanna.


The Señor and the lovely Joanna













Judy told me that he was new at all this, and praised him and cheered them on, while the barn cats and bantams scattered.  He seemed perfectly adept to me.

The rest, as they say, is history.

My skunk cabbages have paled next to these creatures.  As I watched,  I wanted to paint them.  They need to be painted. The  amazing wattled and snooded visage glowing red and blue like the face of a Mandrill baboon.  The wan Joanna.  The drama, the humble eternal rites of spring brazenly played out in the sunlit driveway.

Here’s my first sketch.


I grew up on a small farm with fowl and goats and a pig and highland cattle … and artist parents.

My Mother was a great hand with a charcoal stick.




As I wended my way home with alpaca fibre stuffed to the ceiling of my little Jetta, and schemed of spinning and knitting, I came back to that and resolved, YES, to draw and paint, AND spin and weave and knit.

These are pottery buttons that my Mother made over sixty years ago. Now don’t you think the turkeys would need to be part of that fibre creation!


Pottery buttons





Posted in blog

Rumplestilskin’s Nemesis

Comments Off on Rumplestilskin’s Nemesis

April 6th, 2011 Posted 5:48 pm

Western Skunk Cabbage













On our walk, I squiched through wet gumbo in the roadside ditch to capture this beauty.

No doubt it would have been salad for the bear that lives there  – crunchy hors d’oeuvres before a feast of fat larvae, so I just took one.  It’s interesting how the first harbingers of spring for us – our native skunk cabbage, and the Indian Plum – Oemleria cerasiformis, are not so sweetly scented as we would like, but reek and beckon the insects and bears from their winter burrows.

… I want to draw it, paint it.  Simply, gloriously,  Magnificent.  I can even get past the smell, .. though someone has objected as it seems to have lost its place on the dining room table!



I can’t get enough of this colour this time of year.

At a Fibre Sale a couple of weeks ago, I found some yummy Fleece Artist rovings – Blue Faced Leicester and Kid Mohair.  I’ve been spinning them and plying them together.  When I first pulled open the tightly braided rovings and fanned out the glistening fibres, it was like molten gold.  Almost a shame to spin it, but I had to.    This was Rumplestilskin’s Nemesis!








Posted in blog