Sunday, April 29, 2012


 Just checking in here quickly to share a couple of photos.  Life has been pretty busy lately, and I ended up sick again for about a week :(

Spring has certainly sprung here, and I thought it might be fun for you to see what we do to roo the sheep - our sheep are pretty small, and I can handle the yearlings on my own.  This is a picture of Yadira, partway through the process.  You can see the area that has been roo-ed is darker, over her front leg.  The roo-ing process allows me to pull most of the wool, leaving the hair behind.  The roo-ed wool has almost no kemp in it, either.

And because he is so lovely, a picture of the ever-curious Yves.

Hope all is well wherever you are,


Monday, April 09, 2012

Spring here at Leaping Shepherd Farm

The star of the show today was Yves, the young wether on the right (he's the sheep with horns in the foreground of the picture).

Had I known what the day would bring, I would have taken the camera out with me in the morning before all the excitement, instead of taking pictures at the end!

When I went out to feed the sheep I could see that Yves had begun to drop some of his wool -so, being the curious fibre-loving girl that I am, I had to try giving a little tug...

Twenty five or so minutes later, I'd liberated all of Yves last year's coat. This is his lamb coat, and the final pre-cleaning dry weight was 7oz.  It's lovely and light, fluffy and smells all sweet and lanolin-y.  Max came out part way into the process and helped me with this little fella.

For those who are not familiar with sheep, the trick is to roll them on to their bottoms, belly up, supporting their weight against your legs. If you can keep their little hooves off the ground, they will not struggle.  Sweet Yves relaxed into the process without much struggle at all.  We took little breaks from time to time (for grain), and I was able to roo his whole coat in a surprisingly short period of time.  To roo a coat, you pluck away at it much in the same way as you would pull at a dog's shedding undercoat - it lets go with very little resistance.  Not every breed of sheep can be roo-ed, but Soay can.  In the spring, the previous year's coat gets a weak spot in it and, left to their own devices, the sheep will lose the wool in clumps as it gets caught on sticks and branches. Roo-ing is the process of plucking or pulling the coat.

Our sheep have fast friends within our little flock, and Yadira and Yves are close.  Yadira (the blonde) followed Yves around for most of the rest of the day, sniffing him and keeping an eye on him.

He hadn't minded the whole experience all that much, and had come back to us for more grain after Max and I'd finished with him, so we know that he hasn't become hand-shy.

She sniffed and sniffed at him, almost like she was asking, "Are you okay? - how about now?  Really? Okay?"

 The other sheep stayed nearby during the process, and didn't seem terribly bothered by the whole thing.

Yorick, our Ram, showed that he's not above eating hay out of the other sheep's coats, and spent some time rooting around in Winniandy's ruff, looking for tidbits.

You might be able to see in the background that most of the yard and field is still under a foot of accumulated snow.  The sheep's foot -er, hoofpaths are all cleared down to the ground, but the rest of the field is still blanketed in white.  It was a sunny and glorious day, and little Youella spent a good amount of time sunning her tiny self.

Max and I spent a few hours walking on air after the experience.  It was so much fun, and easier than expected, all 'round (I have a hunch that Winniandy and Yorick will be another story altogether).

Hope you had a lovely Easter Weekend.


Friday, April 06, 2012

Good news, everyone!

Things are a-brewin' here, chez Thiessen
With starting the business a few weeks ago, I've been getting my fingers into pies in more public ways.  One of those things is to start a YouTube channel of my very own.

If you've known us for any length of time, you'll know that our boys make films very regularly - and have almost 100 posted to their channel on the ubiquitous Tube.

There's no way I'll ever compete with THAT. And with the new biz, I thought a distinct identity from the humour of teenage boys would be, well, prudent (much as I love their movies and watch them).

So.  To make a long story short, my video experiments can be seen HERE

This is a little taste of what I've been up to:

Well, I'd better get back to the drawing board.



Thursday, March 22, 2012

A little information for the curious...

There's going to be a rather interesting event coming up this summer...Michelle Laurie and Nancy White are putting together one last ROZVIZ workshop! If you've wanted to get a handle on Graphic Recording and are anywhere near this part of the country, you should go.  I attended last year, and found it exciting, interesting and full of information and opportunities for practice. Each year it's been offered, it's been sold out...

Full information here:

Michelle Laurie's Blog

A little update about life on the home front...

WHOA - I mean Whoa!  Things have been very busy here over the past few weeks.

Had the opportunity to travel with Ike and the Nelson Speed Skating Club team to Vernon for the winter games...hard to believe that's already a month ago! Ike did beautifully well, and we had tons of fun and many tales to tell when we came home.  Honestly, it was the best skating I've seen live in my life...with the added thrill of being in the coach's box and feeling the wind as the skaters flashed by.  It was inspiring and exciting!

We came home from the games to finish out our own club skating season.  Every year it's a bittersweet thing...the time we gain back from the arena each week is much appreciated and enjoyed, but it means that we can't skate for another 6 months.  Sigh.

The ShelterGuides pilot finished and was a great success.  I'm grateful every day for that project, the opportunities and people it has brought into my life.  What an absolute joy.

Since the last post here I've been working and playing, and often both at the same time.  Work for the school district continues to be a joy - I'm so grateful for the school community that I get to be a part of, for the students and staff alike. As the Teachers' job action escalates, I'm hoping for a good outcome.  I know that the teachers have our schools' and students' best interests at heart, and wish them all well in their continuing negotiations.

I've finally launched a new site to promote the other business that's been marching alongside my regular job for the past year+, at .

Please take a peek over there to see what has been happening lately.  You'll find that some of the work on the 'Fine Art' page looks familiar if you've been reading this blog for any length of time.  Please bear with me as I get the pages fleshed out and play with the layout a little.  It will all settle into something useful and easy to navigate before TOO long, I promise.

I had the great fortune of joining a team last weekend for the CBT's Columbia River Treaty Young Leaders' Conference.  The recording was exciting and interesting, and I came away with a much greater understanding of just what is happening with the CRT, and a passionate belief that all residents of BC should be aware of it and the future ramifications of possible changes in the Treaty.  I loved the 'good neighbour' we really do scratch each other's backs (BC and the USA) in so many ways.  We are shared stewards of this water, of this land, of the industry and resources that spring from it.  We need to continue to work together, for certain, for the future.

I guess that sort of sums it up right now!I'd like to have more eye candy for you, but most of what I'm working on hasn't gone public yet.


Friday, February 10, 2012

I've been home for a week now with the kind of flu that reminds a person how amazing it is that we have modern medicine...I'm sure that 200 years ago I would have coughed myself to death, or at least into some secondary infection that would take ages to recover from.  Thanks to a trip to my doc yesterday and a mittful of modern meds, I had my first full night's sleep in several days.

It's weird to have been away from work this long while classes are in session.  School board work often means chunks of time off, but it's pretty much always the same chunks of time for staff and students alike.

The last few days have left me in long stretches of low-energy consciousness...not so energetic that I could, say, do the laundry, but with enough percolation to sit and fiddle.

Of course, the foremost thing in my mind right now is the Sketchbook Project.

With a couple of drawings/paintings already ready to go for the Project, it was time to experiment with a bit of binding to see what is going to be useful and long-term functional for something that will be moved, opened, closed, shelved, packed, moved, flipped through again, etc.  I used a modified (mostly due to the size of my paper) version of Teesha Moore's Journal. My final book is pretty small, and the fold-flap pages are a bit abbreviated compared to Teesha's, but it was more about experimenting with the ideas than perfection.  Also wanted to answer some questions I had about how this particular paper would react to being heavily water coloured on both sides, and whether or not the markers would bleed (or if paint would want to creep through the stitching holes).

I used 3 pieces of paper, torn to approximate what Teesha did with her one large sheet.  My book has deckled edges on the top and bottom of each page, cover included.  The deckled edge allows for the handmade feel of the book, and those torn edges react to the paint differently, creating a natural border when the work runs all the way to the edges.

I used a waxed Egyptian cotton (not linen) thread to do the stitching, and found that I couldn't get it as tight as I wanted. It's because of this that I glued the pieces of mulberry paper to both the outside spine (as shown on the photos of the outside cover) and on the inmost signature.  They were fun, too, to play against with the paint, seeing how/if they would absorb the pigments in the same way as the rag papers, or not.  I was really quite happy with the way that the two papers complement each other.

Also, to play and experiment, I pre-painted all of the pages in random colours - just quick glazes, motley and spontaneous.  Having not painted in layers in quite this way before, it was interesting to see how the paint colour would suggest different subject matter.  The first page, with the portrait face, was pretty tricky, really.  It was my first time drawing on a surface that had nothing to do with the subject matter, and it took a lot of concentration.  All in all, I'm pretty happy with the outcome.  

The page that I did this morning shows two handmade things that are precious gifts given me by friends over the Christmas holidays.  The page colour suggested this as topic, as the plate and the background colour have the same rare yellow/green hue to them.  It was painted so that the yellow/green could glow through the  over painting and give some cohesiveness to the whole picture.

The paper held up well, and you can plainly see in the pictures the bit of bleed-through at the stitch holes on the signature, but all in all it was more successful than expected.  I'll probably bind a couple more little wee books like this to get the stitching tension ironed out better, then jump in and do the actual book for submission.

The whole thing leaves me wondering...if I weren't me, what would I do with all this time on my hands?  What do other people do when they're at home sick for long stretches? I caught up on all of my website work, wrote the rough draft of my proposal for a work thing, hammered through a bunch of email that was waiting to be dealt with, read 3 books and watched 4 movies (oh, find time to watch 'Mary and Max', especially if you have Netflix). That, and managed to sleep long chunks of time away here and there, including all of last weekend. 

Oh, and for the people in the audience who love that technical stuff, the paper is some bottom rung 100 lb rag paper, the paint is Koi, the markers are Pitt and Staedtler, and the pencil is one of those ones made of recycled Chinese newspapers.  

In better health,


Friday, January 27, 2012

The sketchbook project

In a few moments of decision over the Christmas Holiday, I signed up for the Sketchbook Project.  I went for it, the whole enchilada...and am so glad that I did.

When the sketchbook itself arrived, I was a bit disappointed.  It's a rather small and slim Moleskine with very light paper (suitable for drawing, but not for too much more).  The paper is a nice quality, and there are only 8 leaves in the (single) signature, making for about 15 double page spreads in total.  The cover is plain, recycled cardboard brown, and it has a little bar code on the back with my name and my theme, 'The Science Of Story'.

The plainness, the thinness of the sketchbook is part of the genius.  It really does represent the 'blank canvas', the emptiness on which we participants can improvise and riff our way to a completed book.  The 'rules' of the project allow for all kinds of shenanigans.  We can alter and replace, unbind and rebind, fold, cut and burn our books into almost anything we long as the final closed/storage size is the same width and length, and no thicker than 1".

Once I started playing around with actual images, doing paint sketches for the parts that were already clear in my mind, I realized that the best course of action for me is going to be to make the book as individual pages, then to assemble and bind them into the existing (or a modified) cover, replacing the existing paper.

I've rediscovered watercolour.  The existing book pages are too light to take the water and paint, and I have a block of bright white 100lb watercolour paper here to play, naturally I'll be making my book from the paper I have on hand.

I could probably fill over a hundred blog posts with all the things that I've forgotten about watercolour as a medium; the how-to's and all the little terminology items like, 'grisaille' and 'impasto'.  Been operating mostly on instinct, feeling my way around the medium again, relearning all the little things (like that I should have taped the dang paper down - fundamental, Lisa!!).

 I ended up doing two parallel paintings, both from the same base image/reference photo.  I wanted to try something that used a lot of heavy black, that let it run all over, that took multiple glazes of colour to bring to life, and something completely controlled, almost 'comic book' style for the actual title page.

The photo of the black and white self above and the one above left are two stages of the same painting.  The one above right is the grisaille, the one at left is after multiple washes were applied and let run around, doing their wonderful damage to the base image.  The final painting is very gestural and warm, with a lot of dimension.  It was a good way to play and loosen up so that I didn't get to tight doing the other image, the one that will probably end up being the title page of the book.

 This one had more steps and stages, and many, many more washes.  Using a totally different approach (but one I'm far more comfortable with), this one began with dropping in the shadow areas of the sketch.  Each layer applied overlaps and deepens the colour of the existing layers, while is translucent on the paper and other exposed areas.

If you've been reading this blog for a few years, you will remember that this is the same method used for 'Bacchanalia' and 'Blossom Lady' quilts.

I love the under painting stages every bit as much as the finishing, when it comes to this method.

The second picture is an intermediate stage that shows a few more layers dropped in.

The last photo here, at right, is the finished image.  Once the painting was all done, I went in with some fine tipped markers (black and brown) and tightened up here and there, creating greater definition and doing the lettering. This one will get a little work yet, as I need to balance the composition a bit more.  I'll probably do some nice lettering borrowing from what the project has already established, dropping 'the sketchbook project' into the upper left hand corner.

Next, I need to make some real decisions about how this is all going to go.  I have a loose idea, but am at the 'rubber hitting the road' stage, and need to just get working on the more difficult stuff.  Can't wait.