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The question that led to a series of aha moments

What’s my favorite piece?

A couple of weeks ago someone asked me which of my sculptures is my favorite. It didn’t’ take me long to answer “Whatever I’m currently working on”. I answered quickly and with certainty, but oddly enough the question continues to echo in my thoughts.  So I began to wonder if maybe I answered too soon.

I think the whole situation of enquiry and response sticks in my memory because I found the question curious. I’d never really thought about a ‘favorite’ before and my consequent lack of hesitation in answering seemed even more curious. Particularly when I asked myself ‘Why?’

“Why is the current project my favorite?”

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The early stage of a new project is always exciting, it’s messy and possibility abounds.

After deliberating for some time I’ve come to the conclusion that my prompt reply explains a few things. At first glance a decisive reply makes perfect sense; I have to be 100% engaged in my current project. continue reading

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What’s Next?

Where do I go from here?  Creatively speaking I mean. I have been working on my Life Marker series for almost four years, tucking in other sculptural ideas and styles here and there, but now what?

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‘The Game’, ‘Frog and Self’, ‘Mentor’ photograph by Prairie Ranger Photography

I could continue to focus on Life Markers; goodness knows life is giving me enough inspiration to draw from.  The sculptures are beautiful, moving, and an extremely effective method for me to work through some of the hiccups of life.  I could probably make them well in to the future, but is that what I really want?  To find myself thirty years from now having only experienced creativity through a single totemic style?

These are good questions, serious questions and difficult ones to answer.  Logically, from a career perspective, continuing to build on a body of work is a sound approach.  But my gut is telling me something different.  It is directing me to create based on a visceral response to being alive.  It is telling me that my style is the body of the work, regardless of the subject.

The inspiration for my work is life, and how I respond to what it offers.  Thinking about it though, it seems to me that my usual role is that of the observer.  Only upon rumination am I able to see the connection to myself in an event.  More specifically how an event acts as a lesson, offers direction, or provides the opportunity to better understand myself.

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The Best Laid Plans

Well, we missed the ferry this morning.  Not missed exactly, because we were there and the ferry was there, but we were four vehicles (and one trailer) short of fitting.  So, rather than spend an hour waiting for the next ferry and knowing we would miss our connector to Vancouver (which would mean another two-hour wait), we decided to leave the ferry line up, return ‘home’ and try again tomorrow.  It actually worked to my advantage, missing the boat (so to speak), because rather than doing computer work during the drive home I can work from the cottage.   Every glance out the window shows soaring fir trees, lacy cedar trees, robins, orioles, woodpeckers, tiny nuthatches, a single hummingbird and the ever present vultures riding the wind currents overhead.  Not too shabby as far as office spaces go.

I’m busy preparing for my show next week, so that means double checking my list(s), adding items, checking off others, and looking at what needs to be done over the next ten days.  Today I get to to be a graphic designer, creating the layout on information cards available for the duration of the show.  Souvenirs, after a fashion, for those who love what they’ve seen and would like to take a small piece of it home with them.

Sanderson-Introduction-BAC show cards

One of three cards I designed for my upcoming show. This one includes an image of ‘Introduction’.

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‘Stay Busy’, Solid Advice

My husband always says ‘Stay busy, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, just stay busy’.  He usually pulls this advice out when I’m obsessing over something that I either have no control over or to which I can’t find a solution.  Sometimes he says it before I even know I’ve begun to obsess.  He also likes to tell me ‘When Candace is busy working on a project, any project, she isn’t worrying about all her projects.’

So while my physical body is back in the studio, my brain is in a million different places.  Somehow getting back to the project I left on my workbench has slipped from its previous top priority level.  This is part of the reason why I don’t have multiple projects on the go, I can be easily distracted (another thing my husband likes to say).  Typically, I work on one thing…obsessively, until it’s completed.  If I bounce to something new, I struggle to get back to the ‘other’ project, and so it sits unfinished until a looming deadline pushes it back onto my workbench.

Rather than obsess about not working on ‘the one I left behind’ I am choosing to act on my husband’s suggestion.  Stay busy.  A new project idea is coming to life on my bench with the cue for additional projects of a similar vein getting steadily longer.

What’s on my bench now is a personal farewell to the old, out of use, dock at the Gabriola ferry terminal.  Last summer it was being demolished, this spring…it’s gone.  Along with it, the Cormorants that used to sun themselves and dry their wings have also disappeared.  Now when I want to see them I’ll need to take our little (really little) dinghy around the island to the cliff face that acts as their home.  Until I get that chance, I’ll stay busy focusing my thoughts on the project in front of me and listing additional ideas in my trusty, ever present journal.

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A tribute to the Ferry Terminal Cormorants has lead me to the start of a mixed media project.

 

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Living in two worlds

As we head home I can’t help but feel divided.  I’m excited to get back into the studio.  Eager to finish the project that sits on my work table and begin a new one with the driftwood we packed back from the beach.  Yet, at the same time, my chest has this hollow ache of melancholy that casts a shadow on the coming road trip.

It may not look like much now, but give me a week!

It may not look like much now, but give me a week!

It’s always like this when leaving Gabriola, the mixed emotions and struggle for balance as I try to exist in two places.  There is this huge gulf between living in Alberta and living in British Columbia, beyond the obvious land and water masses that separate my two homes.  Symbolised by the two-hour ferry ride across the Salish Sea, it becomes something more complex than simple distance between two locations. The journey between Vancouver Island and the mainland is when time seems to pause as the sky melts and becomes the sea.  While my physical body is transported across the open expanse of water I experience a multitude of emotions, specific to if I am arriving or if I am leaving Gabriola.

When I arrive on Gabriola I feel like I am shedding a layer of myself, that outside bit of restriction, it’s like I am a round peg finally able to step out of a square hole. The parts of me that have been compressed into that square box of expectation can finally breathe.  The air is lighter, cleaner somehow, nature is closer and I’m a part of it all.  As much as I love Alberta, fitting myself back into that square hole upon returning, is always difficult.  Every.  Single.  Time.

I love northern Alberta, I love its landscape, the climate, the sky, the soil, it’s plants and animals. It has been my home for my entire life, but Gabriola has shown me there is another way to live.  On Gabriola I discover a part of myself that Alberta has never revealed.  Only in the heart of the Rocky Mountains do I catch a hint of the other me, where the earth reaches to the sky and I am the connection point between the two.

How I feel about Gabriola goes beyond the concept of love.  It’s more visceral somehow, a connection that I can feel deep within my chest. If my hearing were more acute I’m sure that I would hear an audible ‘click’ as all the parts fit together.  Gabriola, the sea and its smells, the trees, the rain, the birds, it speaks to something within me and tells me I am home. More than just the landscape and environment is different between Alberta and the Gulf Islands, I am different.

hunting for driftwood- may 2016

Hunting for driftwood never looses it’s appeal. With the tide way out, the smell is so very different from Alberta.

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NON-NEGOTIABLE

Studio time is the most sacred part of my routine.  It carries the highest priority and is non-negotiable.  Yet time away from my studio is equally non-negotiable.  It feeds my creativity, provides inspiration and reaffirms my connection to a world beyond the isolation of the studio.  Even so, I can’t help but feel the pressure of leaving a project mid-stream, abandoned, as I head to Gabriola Island.

Temporarily on ‘pause’, the studio awaits my return.

While it may be the non-negotiable part of the equation that has me stepping out of the studio, I still protest at the interruption. When I close the door I purposefully leave a bit of a mess behind.  Sawdust on the floor and work bench.  Tools left where I last set them down.  A silent promise to myself and the project that I’ll be back.

I convince myself there are good reasons to take time away:

  • A renewed sense of purpose upon return.
  • Affirmation that the path I’ve chosen is the correct one.
  • New ideas and exciting project possibilities.

The list is endless and the logical part of my brain whole heartedly supports a trip to Gabriola.  Yet I still have to remind myself, a balanced life means occasionally giving the day-in, day-out part of creating a bit of a rest.  Easier said than done when I seem so well suited to the routine.  What will actually occur remains to be seen and the impact it will have on my art, well, only time will tell.  But what the past has proven, time and again, is that when stepping out of the studio something is always discovered.  Amazingly, it’s exactly what I’m searching for, even if I don’t yet know it.

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Happy Anniversary!

Four years ago this month I made the choice to pursue a lifelong dream.  To sculpt full time, all day, every day.

Since then I have exchanged high heels and designer clothes for work boots and carhartt overalls. Instead of an office I have a studio that smells of cedar.  I used to spend my days with paperwork, emails and official documents.  Now I work with my hands, loud noisy tools or quiet meditative ones like a chisel and mallet.  I’ve left the office life behind and each day I eagerly reach for my face mask and ear protection.  My focus is now on the project that sits on my workbench.

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‘Reflection’ having the tenon shaped. Once fitted into a pine base it will never be seen again.

Over the years I have filled multiple journals.   Long hand, messy, poor grammar and with total disregard for spelling I scratch down my thoughts.  Sometimes it’s an idea for a new project or maybe a story about my current sculpture that fills the pages.  Other times it’s line after line of introspection about my journey.  Worries put on paper and doubts purged with black ink.  Where self discovery is made on page three.

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‘IN-PROGRESS’

What does it mean, to be in-progress?  Isn’t that the Coles Notes of life?  At its most basic aren’t we all ‘in-progress’?  The human condition is one of being eternally in-progress.

So, if we’re always in-progress, do we get to say we’re done?  As an Artist if progression equates to being ‘in-progress’, to then identify a project as finished and uttering those words ‘I’m done’ is a bit of a misnomer.  I have yet to finish a project that has turned out exactly as planned, as envisioned.  The project isn’t done; the project-maker is.

So, does that mean I haven’t been successful and by extension does that make me, or the project, a failure?  Maybe, at some level.  However, I choose to say that I experience successful-failures because I am, after all, ‘in-progress’.  I evaluate what worked, what didn’t and why.  Determine if I want to try again (in part/as a whole) or go on to the next inspiration.  All the while momentum pushes me along to the next project.

I would hope that my skills progress.  I would hope that my understanding of myself progresses.  But the beauty of being ‘in-progress’ is that there is always tomorrow to take things a little further, to dig a little deeper, or push a little harder.

For me progression isn’t about completion and and all the stuff related to being done.  It’s about the physical act of being ‘in-progress’.

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“Thoughts of a Full-Time Sculptor”

My latest Life Marker - in progress

My latest Life Marker in progress

The life of a full-time Sculptor means being in the studio, always, every day, all day.  Which is great because, well, that’s all I want to do with my time!  Oddly enough (or maybe not) there is an added bonus; when my hands are busy, random (or maybe not) thoughts are free to run through my mind.  The really good ones have me reaching for my ever-present notebook.  Desperate to document the latest epiphany before it’s lost to me forever!

Until I am able to draft these awesome (or maybe not) thoughts into something worth sharing “Thoughts of a Full-Time Sculptor” is a work-in-progress.  In the mean time, enjoy my website and visit me on Facebook to see what I’m up to in the studio!