Wednesday, 30 January 2013

N.S. Fibre Arts Festival Volunteer: Dwight Gallagher

Waterloo Region Museum Volunteer Logo

Featured Festival Volunteer: Dwight Gallagher

By: Joan Beswick

This image from the Waterloo Region Museum says it all – volunteers are indeed a ‘gift to the community’. Like many community organizations, the Nova Scotia Fibre Arts Festival depends almost exclusively on volunteers. Volunteers staff festival committees, contact artists, develop programs, liaise with local businesses, deliver brochures, arrange publicity, prepare exhibits, give demonstrations, serve at festival headquarters ... and do a myriad of other jobs, all of which are crucial to the success of the festival.  We are totally indebted to our festival volunteers, and over the next few months, this blog will feature some of them, people who work behind the scenes or in the forefront, who donate their time and skills and are rarely acknowledged for all that they contribute. Some are fibre artists themselves. For others, fibre is part of the daily diet, a hook is for hanging clothes, and needles are for inoculation. But they can organize, write, make contacts, do the groundwork – everyone has something to offer, and we thank them all. 

One of the volunteers at headquarters during the 2012 Festival was Dwight Gallagher from Springhill.

Like many fibre artists, Dwight got started because of the influence of friends and family. About ten years ago, he took a course for beginning rug hookers with two colleagues from work. Then, inspired by his mother-in-law’s quilting, he used his artistic skills to adapt quilt patterns to make hooked mats.

Dwight now dyes his own wool and has a ‘stash’ in the basement. He can be seen at Frenchie’s searching for hooking materials. Indeed, he shows all the signs of being ‘hooked on hooking’, including being always ready to offer support to others, as can be seen in this whipstitching demonstration at festival headquarters during the 2012 festival. 

Dwight is now the Cumberland County area director for the Nova Scotia Rug Hookers’ Guild and he is a much appreciated festival volunteer. Many thanks to Dwight and all festival volunteers – you are a gift to the community – we could never do it without you!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Arleen Goodwin and 'Some Well-Travelled Quilt Blocks'

Featured Fibre Artist:
Arleen Goodwin and Her Story
of ‘Some Well-travelled Quilt Blocks’
By: Joan Beswick 

Talking with Arleen Goodwin is one of my fondest memories of the 2012 Nova Scotia Fibre Arts Festival.  Arleen did an appliqué demonstration at Dayle’s Department Store, Amherst. An island of serenity - she sat amidst the ribbons, housewares, fabrics, and furniture – quietly and capably appliquéing and explaining the process to visitors on a busy Thursday afternoon in a downtown department store.  

Her mother was a quilter and Arleen is also a versatile fibre artist – she does many types of quilting as well as cross stitch, knitting, rug hooking and crocheting – and she has passed her artistry on to her daughter, Shelley Tanner. Some of their family’s creations were featured in the window of Pugsley’s Pharmacy, a collection that included quilts, mats, and a lovely sepia-toned crocheted curtain for a front door window – this collection was a major attraction during the Fibre Arts Walk.  

Another much appreciated contribution was the quilted wall hanging from Arleen’s church in Lorneville, a quilt that Arleen helped bring to life after a multi-generational journey of ‘some well-travelled quilt blocks’.  

Here is the story as Arleen told it to me. Many years ago, a young woman from Lorneville went to ‘the Boston states’ to find work. As so often happened in those days, she married, had a family, and lived there the rest of her life. The young woman’s name was Bessie, and she was sorely missed. In 1933-34, some women from the Lorneville area decided to get together and make quilt blocks for Bessie. Each woman embroidered her name on the block she created and they sent Bessie a lovingly crafted collection of quilt blocks. However, life being what it was, Bessie was by then a very busy woman with seven children, and she died without putting the quilt together. The blocks went to her sister in Guysborough, Nova Scotia, and after her death, her daughter (Bessie’s niece) brought the twenty-one blocks to Arleen in Lorneville, to the community where they had been created almost eighty years earlier. Arleen took the blocks to her United Church Women’s (UCW) group where many of the women recognized the signatures of their own forbears – aunts, mothers, and grandmothers - the women who so long ago had missed Bessie and wanted her to remember them. With Arleen and her daughter Shelley’s encouragement, the UCW decided to ‘set the blocks together’. This was a labour of love, carried out amongst recurring waves of nostalgia, many chuckles and much chat. The finished product is now a beautiful wall hanging proudly hung in the Lorneville United Church, and generously loaned to the Nova Scotia Fibre Arts Festival for display during the 2012 festival.       

After telling me this story, Arleen mentioned that she’d recently celebrated her 60th wedding anniversary and on that special occasion, her family had presented her and her husband with a new computer.  So, I’ll be e-mailing Arleen to let her know about this blog post. Although she cherishes traditional fibre arts, Arleen is very much tuned in to the present. She is a busy woman with a large family who continues to create fibre art and who embodies a true appreciation of its history and heritage, as well as its contribution to our lives, both past and present.


Saturday, 12 January 2013

Diane Shink's Apron Exhibit

Fads and Styles of Aprons: An Exhibit by Diane MacLeod Shink
By: Joan Beswick
The Oxford English Dictionary defines an apron as ‘a protective garment covering the front of one’s clothes’. This is a utilitarian but very limited description of a functional but funky garment – one which Diane Shink sees as both a chronicle of the varied roles of women in society and an echo of “changes in fashion, fabric and popular colours”.

During the 2012 Nova Scotia Fibre Arts Festival, Shink’s apron exhibit at the Four Fathers Memorial Library in Amherst offered vibrant testimony to the role of aprons in the lives of women across many generations. And while technically speaking, these aprons did cover the front of clothes as the dictionary suggests, they came in multiple styles and hues - with and without embellishment. They ranged from recycled flour sacks to fine fabrics with embroidery and ruffles – a reflection of both the diversity of their makers and the changing times in which they lived. 

Diane’s collection of almost nine hundred aprons began as a way to find donor fabric for her real passion, quilting.  Thankfully, her ‘apron hobby’ took on a life of its own and evolved over time into this wonderful collection. Reactions to her exhibit ranged from a middle-aged woman’s nostalgia for the aprons worn long ago by her grandmother to the delighted smile of a high school student who deemed it ‘just awesome’. Visitors to the library stood under the Graphic Novels sign or beside the circle of computers with users busily perusing Facebook and Twitter –they gazed upward, some smiling, others reflecting, some whispering comments to friends -  all enjoying in different ways this vintage assembly. 

Diane's exhibit has moved on but all is not lost – for ‘everything old is new again’ – and aprons are making a comeback. A recent article about Diane’s collection, written by Susan Schwartz last February in the National Post, notes that McCall’s now has at least fifteen apron patterns, there is now an apron website called “Tie One On”, and an apron magazine called “Apronology” with the mission of crafting ‘aprons with attitude’.
Diane’s recent book, “Aprons – My Grandmother Always Wore One”, is an agenda that includes pictures of some of her aprons with descriptive commentary. Copies were available at both the library and at festival headquarters (and according to Schwartz’s article in the National Post, this book/agenda can also be purchased directly from Diane at 514-605-7845 or by contacting her at 
Diane's exhibit inspired me to make an apron for myself and some for others as well. The nice thing about aprons is they are a simple garment - even the most creatively-challenged can make a reasonable facsimile. So this year, several friends and family members got aprons and agendas for Christmas. The aprons varied in style and the fabrics ranged from denim to chintz, sporting everything from footballs to flowers. Like Diane's vintage collection, they reflected their intended owners - what they enjoy and where they are in their lives. 
Inspired by Diane Shink's apron exhibit, we started 2013 with fresh aprons and new agendas, pleased that everything old is indeed 'new again'.  Thanks, Diane!