ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Little Vacation

I spent last week on a vacation with my sister. We decided to go to Newfoundland. Newfoundland is Canada's most easternly province, and is actually an island. The official name of the province is "Newfoundland and Labrador". We flew into the capital, St. John's and spent a couple of days there. Here we are having a bad hair day :-).  Newfoundland can be a very windy, and sometimes damp, province.

We drove around the city the first day and viewed some of the jellybean row houses that St. John's is famous for. 

Met a Newfoundland cat as well. Like the people, he was friendly. Newfoundlanders are some of the friendliest, warmest, and most helpful people you will ever have the pleasure of meeting. This was my third trip to Newfoundland.

We drove up to Signal Hill, where you have a great view of the St. John's Harbour and behind it the city. 

There's also a view of Cape Spear, the most easterly point in Canada.

Signal Hill was the site of St. John's harbour defenses between the 17th century and WW2.

It is also famous because Guglielmo Marconi received the world's first transatlantic wireless signal in 1901.

We really lucked out on weather. We arrived at the cottage we had booked for four nights to find this view. The cottage was in a very tiny town named Burnt Harbour, about 50-60 minutes south of St. John's on the South Shore. I was torn between going out touring each day and staying home to enjoy the view. The colours changed every day. In fact, they also changed every hour throughout the day. From very blue,

to completely grey,

to something in between.

Apparently this summer has seen the best whale season in 34 years, and that was evident! We could often see whales, or pods of whales, cavorting out in the cove. One night we even heard one breathing near our cottage.

We spent some time exploring nearby Tors Cove. Loved this artful little scene, with the ropes drawing your eye into the composition of boats.

We visited the Five Island Art Gallery, which contained a great selection of all kinds of local art.

We spent some time in Petty Harbour, a real fishing village, photographing boats, crab traps, and reflections.


We ate cod (lots and lots of cod!), lobster and scallops. It was a really restful vacation. I am back home and when I finish dealing with 50 lbs of tomatoes, I'll be cleaning up my studio and getting to work. However, I do have a vacation with my husband coming up in September.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Art Quilt at Haliburton School of Art & Design

Last week I spent teaching "The Art Quilt" at the Haliburton School of Art and Design. As in previous years, I had the pleasure of experiencing many deer sightings. Most of them were near the instructor cabins, or on the road to the instructor cabins.

In this class we talk about creativity, I give a presentation about Composition and Design, and students are given two different design exercises. The first exercise involves Seat of the Pants Construction, while the second involves designing with a plan (creating your own pattern). I encourage students to work small so they won't be so precious about their work and willing be willing to take risks. But before we do the design exercises, we spend a day dyeing fabric.

Here are Gail and Virginia mixing up dyes in the dye box we are required to use. The dye box completely contains any stray airborne dye particles. It might seem awkward at first, but once a system is worked out, things go pretty smoothly. On the bright side, it means not needing to sweat behind a particulate respirator.

It is always exciting to see the fabric after it is washed out.

Carol and Janice look pretty happy with the results.

All of the "Seat of the Pants" exercises were posted to our design wall and we discussed them as a group.

Really love that green squiggly line along Janice's composition.

Here are results from the Planned Design (creating your own pattern).








After many years of this class filling (sometimes with a waiting list) I had only seven students this year. It was a small and intimate group. However, I will be retiring the class for a few years and teaching a different topic next year.

It seems that more and more I am relying on the camera in my smart phone when I travel. However, I did have my DSLR camera in my car, knowing there would be opportunities to photograph deer. Having a zoom lens sure helps. Here's one of those photos.

I have no teaching now until the end of October. The time between now and then will be spent in the studio, taking vacation (which includes some pleasure travel), and probably dyeing more kits. I can hardly believe that we are so far along in the summer season, but it went by very quickly during my many weeks of travel.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia

I've been to Vancouver several times and have known about the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia for a long time. I had never visited until this trip. Why not? I find myself unable to focus in museums when I'm travelling because I keep thinking I should be outside. Especially so when I am enjoying the beautiful summer weather on the west coast. At the same time, I think it is shocking that a person whose Honour's Degree was in Anthropology and Religion had never taken the time to view this Museum. The visit was long overdue.

I have one thing to say. Why did I wait so long?? This may very well be the best museum I've ever visited. The Museum of Anthropology is a treasure trove of First Nations art and culture.

Let's start with Haida artist Bill Reid (1920-1998). I've been aware of his work for at least a decade, due in part to a trip to Haida Gwaii in 2006, and also due to seeing his amazing sculpture called Spirit of Haida Gwaii (photo below) in the Canadian Museum of History in my own city. Haida Gwaii is an island on the Northwest coast of British Columbia, and the ancestral home of the Haida people.

You will find Bill Reid's work on our Canadian $20 bill:

Seeing Reid's carving, The Raven and the First Men (1980), was the highlight of my visit to this Museum. There is an entire section of the museum devoted to him, with a beautiful spherical shaped sky light shining over the sculpture that represents his interpretation of the Haida creation story. 

You can read about the story here, but in a nutshell (or perhaps I should say a clamshell ;-) it involves Raven coaxing the first humans from out of a clam shell. Just click on the image and a larger one will open up.

Here's a bit more information, and an explanation of how Reid changed the nature of Haida Art.

OK, I think I took photos from every angle. I find this piece very powerful. If all I had seen at the Museum was this carving, it would have been worth the price of admission. But I saw so much more!

I've tried as best I could to also photograph the text and explanations for each piece. Photography is allowed at the Museum as long as one does not use a flash.

The great hall is enclosed with glass, and the good lighting makes it easier to photograph the works without flash.

Cedar Man is a carved welcome figure found on Meares Island. This one by Joe David, of the Tla-o-qui-aht tribe, 1984.
You can read here about how it was used in logging protests.

In the 1950's the British Columbia Totem Pole Preservation Committee took what was left of totem poles in danger of being damaged and lost due to the elements and relocated them to museums. Many of these came from Haida Gwaii, although some remain there.


When the Europeans settlers arrived at Haida Gwaii, the Haida people had already been carving totem poles since the 1700's. After European contact, there seems to have been an increase. The totem pole below is believed to be about 160 years old

It may have been an interior home post.

After European contact, indigenous peoples expressed the experience of colonization in their art. In this piece, the winged angel, shotgun and american eagle represent the conflict and violence, as well as the resistance to the imposition of European ideas.

Ceremonial figure from Kwakwaka'wakw culture.


Kwakwaka'wakw heirlooms, including blanket boxes, and a wooden dish in foreground.

This is just a small sampling of what is on display at the Museum of Anthropology. I hope you will have a chance to visit and that you will find it as moving and fascinating as I did.