It’s the stage where the new work leaves my (lockdown) studio and goes to the brilliant framing artist – the very one I’ve so wanted to work with – for the next stage of their becoming. I am excited about this. When I see them next, 4-5 weeks from now they’ll be beautifully framed and ready for hanging in the pop-up show. So glad they are going into the hands of someone I trust, as I do Jonathan.

I’ve not signed them yet. When I do, it’ll be a silent, internal boom of a moment – Tuesday morning as the sun rises.

from my walk today in Hamilton

After Tuesday there’ll be one more piece to come back for finishing. Made from the photographs of each I send for framing, which are torn from a larger whole. I’ll put these back together, like a puzzle – a metaphor for us, as we re-emerge into a world forever changed by pandemic. Changed, but still connected.

It’s more than that, too. Also a metaphor for the workers at the factory who fired and gilded this beautiful porcelain with steady hands (or not) as World War II raged around them, as their jewish co-workers, managers and shareholders disappeared into work camps and death marches. These people also emerged into a world forever changed, when Hitler and the Third Reich was defeated. The factory where they worked in Poschetzau (now Božičany – see note at the end of this post), was permanently closed in 1945, then razed to the ground.

How this coffee set, made so lovingly by these people between 1938 and 1945 ended up in my Hamilton Apartment is a wonder. The paintings I’ve made, about beauty, fragility and connection across time, despite long isolations and lockdowns, are dedicated to them, and to the three Jewish families who’d founded, managed and worked at the factory since 1890.

I have great respect for these pieces. Beauty and function in the midst of adversity and ugliness is an act of defiance.

Three ‘puzzle’ pieces that need to work together for the reconstruction piece.
Keys to my old house; x’s & o’s, a stamp from The Republic of Chad, a food sticker from Canada. Air and sunlight.

Timing for the show is now in the hands of a team of us. Website designers, framers, printers – so many moving parts to get a pop-up show framed, hung and photographed, artist talks videoed and edited, press kits out, show ebooklet designed and written, photos of the work priced, input and a good online store built on a website (this one) which will be gutted and completely renovated…

…by Saturday June 19. The last day of spring, 2021. Cross your fingers and send love please – there’s a lot of prep.

the originals are holographic, depending on the angle of light

I’ll preview the show to my newsletter folks, one week ahead of the launch. If you’d like to be on that list, please write and tell me so, at You’ll be in good company – there’s no one on my list I wouldn’t be honoured and happy to share a meal with – and who knows? That may happen too. I send newsletters quarterly, and for special events like this one.

The Spring Pop Up show will feature sixteen Conversation Pieces, including 4 limited edition print releases (editions of 3 or 4, haven’t decided yet) from the upcoming fall launch. Sizes of work for sale vary from 8×10 to 20×16 (inches). They’ll be hung in my apartment (since public spaces are closed). The whole project is a response to lockdown, so that just makes sense to me (and it will make me clean up).

If there’s time to make it so, I’ll be offering limited edition prints of larger canvas pieces in my catalogue at the same time. We shall see what can be done.

underdrawing of ‘Cup, 2 saucers’ – second-to-last piece, finished today.

Božičany, (which was Poschetzau when this coffee set was made), is a village [population 593 in 2011] in Karlovy Vary District in the Karlovy Vary Region of the Czech Republic. As a result of the 1919 Paris Accords the village (then population 1000+) became part of Germany, but was in Bohemia during WW I. It is surrounded by deposits of the white clay (kaolin) used in fine porcelain china. I very much want to go there.

China, made from clay deposits in northern Czechoslovakia, close to the German border. From the earth, these fine, fragile things are fired, glazed and gilded, then bought by people who wish to make a ceremony of visiting over coffee. Add the story of the Paris Accords, then WWII, concentration camps, confiscation of shares, the Holocaust… intergenerational trauma.

These fragile, gentle pieces survive intact and still beautiful in the sunlight, half a world away from the little village where they were made eighty years before. This moves me.

Drawn to examine each one more closely. Where a hand slipped while drawing gold onto a tiny cup. What concentration! Essential, the steady steady hands and singular focus of each craftsperson in the gilding room. Was it a relief from worrying about what was going on around them, about what had happened to the jewish workers they had replaced? Was it a kind of defiance I wonder – making beauty in the face of death and abuse. I know, because now I am drawing their gilding work into my paintings, that their work could not have been done without love. 

Light in the darkness, love in the making of beautiful things for people to drink from, take pause with, to gather around in friendship. It was a business, too, and paid work at a time of great uncertainty.

My work here is also a business that continues through a time of  global uncertainty. I find myself isolated and in a city I don’t know, looking for new expressive work and surrendered to the fact that I cannot be in my studio to work on canvas. I think about how I love light and form – the singular focus of expressing this love, with whatever is to hand, on paper.  I find my dad’s travel watercolour set and some torn up bits, while drinking tea from an ornate china set I bought at auction…

As I draw them I discover my own fragility in the tiny cups, also my own worn toughness, my beauty. I think of trauma and how important things can happen even in the midst of it, especially in the healing of it. How we break and mend and wear through trauma, how we continue to function and grow. I think of what I’ve learned from Idle No More, and Black Lives Matter. The understandings that emerge still from The Holocaust, from post-colonial, post-apartheid cultures, from the American Civil War, the French Revolution, The Clearances in Scotland that sent my ancestors out across the sea, exiled from the land that once sustained them.

I think of time, and how as I work all of these things are happening NOW in my mind, interwoven and in conversation together. 

Some stories light up like a flash moment of insight. Others are more like a flush of colour, a scratched line. Gilding sits on the surface, a skill that improves only with practice and focus. A skill I learn now, taught by the hands and minds of the gilders in Poschetzau from eighty years ago. Steady, steady hands as their world changed, all around them.

Piece number 8, a cup and saucer; number 12 a sugar bowl and spoon…. a madness of elipses from every angle, curves and fluting, pin-stripe gilding flashing in the light, transparent white glowing blue in shadows. I am called to get it right, to honour the 80 years of dignified function these pieces have lived. How many lips to this cup? How many hands to that handle, pouring… In what country? In what language? During what conversations, and with whom?

I think of how much I miss gathering with others at table, at coffee shops, over breakfast. This hasn’t happened for over a year now, since the pandemic lockdowns began. I’ve made many little pieces on torn up bits and on a whim I lay them out on my dining room table, like puzzle pieces that connect through colour and line.

This is satisfying on so many levels – a gathering, of sorts, in my house. Now a large painting is made from eleven smaller ones, each representing a moment I would like to share, a person, or persons I would like to join with in conversation. Torn apart, but still one piece, reconstructed. Then two more large pieces, reconstructed – one dark, another light.

It makes more sense every day, this work. Each piece will be framed, and also printed in very limited editions. The reconstructed pieces will be printed on paper and possibly re-worked (we’ll see what happens), then sold in very limited editions as well. Working to get all of this happening and online for you by early June. Stay tuned here.

It is earth day, 2021. I draw and paint from pieces of china made from eastern European clay. China made eighty years ago by people with steady hands in the midst of chaos. With my own steady hands I do my best to honour them in paintings while in lockdown in my apartment, which is the top two floors of a house made a hundred years ago of red clay brick from just over there. The abandoned brickworks beside the train tracks that I walk past every other day .

All of this – china, house, paper, laptop, paintings, my steady hands, are made from earth.

And now it’s 5am; the cardinal sings outside. Happy Earth Day.

Thirteen tabs open on my browser, two of which have been up for weeks now. Why, I wonder. Two beautifully designed and printed Emergence Magazines beside me on the table, an accompanying ‘practice book’ over there which inspires me to make my own. From where I’m sitting now I can see two bookshelves and imagine four more, three in the cabin and one upstairs in my morning room where I paint. One row of philosophy and poetry, another of fiction, a third much longer one about ecosystem, natural environments, ecologies. Mythology, storytelling, folk tales, art, maps and symbols – interpretations of the natural world. Four volumes of the Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada.

Conversation Pieces pink sheet reconstruction; sugar and tray reference photos

The Norton Anthology of Western Music and other tomes like it are in a box, over there. They’re boxed because I needed to make room for books that explore Time. The books in the box are relics; we think differently now than when they were published. Many important things are missing from their pages, like music written and played by people who are not white men. This is an example of academic historic scaffolding that does not hold up – a one-legged stool.

Conversation Pieces silver sheet reconstruction photo: detail 4 panels, April 16

Notebooks with pens on every surface in my apartment – purple, green, royal blue, black, gold – all with drawings and writings, colourings and figurings, witnessings and energetic lines pointing and moving forward and up. Doesn’t matter where I sit, there’s a book and a pen there ready to catch a thought when it appears.

Out the kitchen window a female cardinal skips and chirps along the eavestrough, a little dance of worry. She and her partner are my alarm clock in the backyard tree every morning and I’m concerned now, too – that something has happened to him. Ah but there he is now, red and resplendent, supportive on the roof beside mine.

Conversation Pieces Silver Sheet reconstruction, corner view (silver appears dark)

We are in a third wave in Ontario now, and police have authority to stop me, ID me and fine me if they believe I’m in contravention of the new lockdown rules. I’ve spent my morning reading and listening to reports, and what appears to be true without any doubt is that Provincial Governments west of New Brunswick have failed to take the clear actions recommended to them by health experts, in favour of appearing to support the ‘economy’. Here’s a good rundown of that insight from a Justin Ling opinion piece published by MacLeans.

I am feeling real anger on behalf of all essential workers at grocery stores, Walmarts, meat processing plants, and Amazon warehouses who are getting Covid from their coworkers who cannot afford to stay home, because they do not receive paid sick leave. On behalf of all prison inmates, I am angry that even reasonable efforts to protect their health have not been made. On behalf of all physicians and healthcare workers who are facing the cost of all this in human lives, I am angry.

C.Pieces, Silversheet with late afternoon reflections, April 16

Once again my Friday list appears on a Saturday. They are now Saturday Lists.

2. Think about what these lists are for and why I write them. If I’m just buying in to the general pandemic-fueled anxiety-laced need to MAKE UP MORE THINGS TO DO, then stop it. Just stop.

5. Make a short video with my face in it, and whatever else comes to mind.

3. Read Emergence 1 and respond with drawings and one paragraph per article in the purple notebook.

1. Write to D. Ford and J. Trudeau to insist that they legislate paid sick leave immediately. Keep writing and insisting.

4. Find five reasons to smile, whenever you think of it and at least seven times every day.