Folding Books: A Spark into Imagination

The creative process is a call into the world of awakening and embarking on a journey into the imagination. When we let go of prescribed ideas and formats we encourage a freedom of expression that is not necessarily linked to the concrete workings of the mind and to the world around us. Book making is a venue in which we can enter into this imagined state of awareness.

As I  explore the vast arena of making books I am  continually surprised at the possibilities open to experiment with different structures. One such form is in the category of Folding Books. In a conversation with artist and educator Joan Turecki, I was  further inspired at the depths in which she explores this art.


                                                                          The Accordion Book is one of the many styles of folding books which Joan T. creates. Within this format she shares the opportunities that are presented when ‘there is no beginning middle or end to the structure. There is a lyrical quality that allows ideas to flow outside the parameters of a standard book format.

Folding books have a sensory, sculptured quality to them – as the book unfolds stories are created that can change as they are viewed from different perspectives.

Folding books encourage surprises as they move back and forth, opening some sections while closing others to form new combinations or juxtaposition.



Folding books are playful where words transform into pictures and pictures become words.

When random words work seamlessly with strong imagery they become a form of poetry.’



As I consider all of these possibilities I am struck with the metaphors contained within these books, art like life does not often happen in a linear arrangement. Usually we circle back, come at, or face our edges in ever expanding potentialities. Occasionally we happen upon a  clear resolution but more often then not, change allows us to revisit all of the big questions in life. ‘Who am I, What is my place, and How am I to be now’ are universal explorations in being human. Through our imagination we can play with an art form that lends itself so beautifully to this exploration. Folding books offers this.





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January Journaling: Bring in the Light

As I begin the New Year with setting intentions of how to be more fully engaged with my life, I appreciate more and more how the practice of keeping a journal has supported me. It has been a constant thread, starting in my teen years when I referred to my writing as ‘keeping a diary.’ My journal helped me then to unravel the angst of hormones and identity. It sustained me throughout more than a decade of isolation, living in the bush while raising children and learning to be in kinship with the land around me. This practice accompanied me in understanding relationships, revealing truths that I was unable to see with just my thinking self. Journal writing supported me with my emotionally challenging work at the alternate school while being my friend in all of the in between points of my life.

It is therefore fitting, in this time of clarifying how to be attuned to the world around me, that I acknowledge my lifelong practice and so have decided to combine this love with my interest in book making. This month I am offering a few workshops to encourage your own practice with writing. The first workshop will be in the creation of the journal, which in itself is a wonderful thing to learn. It is using the coptic stitch method, one of the oldest book binding techniques, which allows the pages to open flat when writing. The second workshop will be, I am hoping, an inspiration to ignite or to rekindle your own desire or interest in keeping a journal. I would like to share some of my resources that have strengthened my process, when I wanted more than to simply spill my heart on the page and watch where it would go.

As an explorer into the inner realms, this is the perfect time of year which I cannot pass by. With the growing light, even if in the subtlest of ways, let it brighten a darkened corner or reveal a hidden truth for you. If not through a journal, may you come to your own process of whatever you use as a way in, shining light on what is most important for your deeper self. All the best for you in this New Year.

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Snow Feathers – poetry celebrating winter

On this Winter Solstice, I recall how I fell in love with the north. It wasn’t the local joke that captures many people to this area; that particular summer where we have an Okanagan experience when it rarely rains and the mountains, lakes, and rivers open to us unimpeded by days of grey or cold. No, I was entranced by a different season. My first winter I moved in with my sister who was renting a house on the lake. That year the winter was one of perfection, at least in my mind it plays itself out that way. After arriving from several years of living in Vancouver, a place where I felt unconnected and could not truly find my place in the business, that first winter with its brilliant clear skies, abundance of snow, and a lake that offered herself to me was a truly magical bond.  I was hooked!

This experience is one of the poems I wrote about in our chapbook ‘Snow Feathers,’ which our writers group launched earlier in December. I especially love this little collection. As expressed in the preface, ‘Winter, of all the seasons, captures the northern experience. Its rugged spirit is, at times, on the edge of the untamed. Northerners require and insist upon a spaciousness that is born from our attempts to befriend the unpredictable nature of our environment. The weather, the sense of isolation, and the increasing darkness are intense and so in turn we are challenged to invent creative ways where we are not just enduring but are in accompaniment with the powerful forces that surround us.’

Winter as well offers us the opportunity to journey inward, to slow our steps down and attune to our deeper stories. This is an invitation that I offer to you as well. Take the time to appreciate all of the magic this time of year provides.  Let it be as a frosted window into your own inner landscape, filled with marvel and depth. Let it bring to you a deepening appreciation of your own light as well as a richer connection to place. Happy Solstice!



 That first winter Lakelse lake froze
A glistening sheath encasing her black body
in secret realms where reeds and trout dream below
and I in my worn skates scritch scratch
across the surface
with cold biting my cheeks in dusky light.
Sky, a cape of pinks and mauves
gathers me in an icy embrace
pushing me forward.

It was then she moaned
a prehistoric choir song
as though reciting an ancient language
encrypted in the black ink below.
A wildness that threw me to my knees
with bloodless lips I could not answer,
instead search with trembling hands
for the thin white line of my tracks
as though I could ever leave this place

as though there was another
I could call home.


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Aging’s Fragile Quilt

I just brought home my Paper Quilt that hung in The Terrace Art Gallery’s Member’s Show for the month of August. This project began in the spring during a workshop I led on paper making. It was inspired by a discussion with friends on Aging. This piece is the size of a baby quilt, somehow an appropriate metaphor. Just as we enter the world and need comfort and nurturance, this follows suit as our time diminishes and we become more brittle and fragile. It is a tender time often fraught with ambiguity of what’s to come. How do we traverse this next passage with some measure of dignity when our bodies and brains are continually changing?  As we and our loved ones navigate this terrain, my wish is that all have the support to feel safe, warm and loved.

Front of Quilt: pressed leaves in homemade paper squares glued and sewn together

Paper quilt front outsidepaper quilt back









Back of Quilt
Burlap and lace
with poem attached


Paper Making

in a water bath shredded memories
former letters   discarded envelopes
to do lists half completed

pressed into liquid pulp
skeletal leaves reveal
transparent veins

only yesterday thin filaments
picked beside a well trodden path
misguided steps could disintegrate into ash

do they remember the moment
released from Maple limbs fiery blaze
scarlet skirt circling gnarled trunk

creaking bones scrubbed clean
with winters white attire
trembling fingers still wanting to hold on

paper quilt 1









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Visit to an “Intimate Garden” : Photos by Leslie Barnwell

There is a hush that enters the body when we respond to beauty. It quiets the noise of everyday life, we can set aside some of the troubling realities of being human and arrive at a place where we feel totally present. The magic of beauty offers the gifts of opening to what is before us with a sense of celebration and delight.
That is what I experienced when I visited Leslie Barnwell during her exhibition at the Smithers Art Gallery. It is evident that Leslie’s life as a professional artist shows itself with her sharp eye for contrasting shapes and rich colours, whether it be the hidden circuitry of veins on petals, the fuzz of surrounding stamens, or water droplets cupped in the curves of a leaf, her sensitivity for detail emerges. But there is much more.leslie alone

leslies signLeslie’s offerings ask us to “come face to face with the heart of a flower – its essence.” In order to do this we must stop and truly look beyond how they appear in mass groupings of colour or how they combine with other flowers. This takes paying attention.

Leslie does not take our ease within the techno savvy world lightly. She writes that “the ability to easily enlarge things in an act of exposure. As we draw closer to bring their beauty, their strength and vulnerability in detail, this is an act of opening to the intimate.” leslies art 5As she speaks of respecting the secret life of flowers, I am left with the depth of her offering. She is inviting us to look deeply into the heart of all things. The art of seeing is possible and relevant to how we witness not just the natural world but our own relationship within that. How we respond to life that continually opens itself, where we must slow down to appreciate the depth of what is before us is the deeper truth. In doing so we allow a space where beauty can emerge and shine forward in increasingly surprising and unsuspecting ways. Thank-you Leslie for these beauties.

leslies art revised 7


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A Conversation: exploring in relationship

Magnetic poetry was the warming up exercise. ‘Think of it as getting the imagination flowing, just like stretching before a run or throwing the ball around close to a game,” I explained to the group of Grade 9 students, newly arrived in the studio for a creativity workshop I was leading. “Explore putting words together that surprise you, there is no right or wrong. Add to your friends lines, and let go of wondering if it makes sense.”
This group from Nisga Secondary was a part of Martha Swinn‘s Creative Writing group so it didn’t take long before they were leaving their chairs to post words onto the metal bed frame I had resting against the wall. Some  giggled as they leaned over each other, others were quietly intent as they added their lines; everyone was thoroughly engaged in the process.

We moved outside for an exercise called, ‘Inside a Moment: being specific’ where the youth found a spot to engage all of their senses. ‘Write details; the smell of the lilacs, the touch of the cottonwood bark, look up at the patch of sky above the alder trees,” I invited before we moved back into the studio to take some of the words and create a collage on canvas from a wide range of  materials I had available. Three hours disappeared and when the bus driver arrived to take the students back to Aiyansh we were all reluctant to end the afternoon. Martha asked me to put the frame in the garden and send a picture so I am now, several weeks later, responding to her request and revisiting that precious time with her students.

magnetic poetry 1

The bedframe holding their words is still speaking to me, inviting me in for a further conversation.  magnetic poetry 2

And so I chose one of the lines from this collection of evocative expressions to inspire my own response; after all we are all students in relationship with each other, continually  learning and expanding.

magnetic poetry 4

Wild boy explore the translucent ocean and linger there
spread apart with reptilian instincts the tender openings
deep crevices dissolving scripts written for you
invite instead those liquid invitations you already know
speak deep words, change life.





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Poem for Callie, “Naming”

callie 2 Today is Mother’s Day, a day to acknowledge what is already so closely knit into my heart through the thread of generations. My own Mother’s loving soul, the birth of my children and the astonishment of them now, such lovely young men, older than myself at that time when they entered this earth. To complete the cycle, my son and his wife are gifted with their second child, a baby girl,  whom I recently held in my arms.  This poem came in the interlude of no time, waiting at the airport, Callie’s precious little body still imprinted in me, my heart wide open to the calliemysterious nature of rhythms. One cannot foresee the potential always for new life, healing, and the ultimate power of love.


Yesterday your name was Dream Whisperer.
Breathed through rustling aspen leaves
announcing your arrival.
Did you hear the soft blow of your calling
echoed in robins caroling before the first light?
Did you see it reflected in new blades of grass
anchored by the garden path,
glimmering in a spider’s web shiny with dew?

Today your name is Callie,
Gaelic for ‘of the forest’
(even though your mother remembers a different story.)
Network of birch groves and cedar stands,
roots growing towards each other.
When you press your body against my heart
I am not sure where you begin and I end,
knees tucked in, the fuzz of your hair line.

Perhaps your name is ‘Opening Fern.’
A perfect frond loosening your grip
from the land of imagination
where we wonder how you will unfurl
hinted by the frown of an eyebrow, the twitch of a smile
eyes flutter open like bluebells, confirmed in morning sky.
Your outstretched fingers reaching up,
they have not forgotten the pathway
through firmament.

Then I will call you ‘Winged Traveller.’
A name punctuated by plucky crows
their sharp beaks breaking lilac twigs to rebuild nests,
a community to watch over you,
ready to rally together in a moments notice.
Your name thrummed by wings of a hummingbird
phosphorescent glow exotic as batik saris,
thatched huts, white sand beaches capturing the curl of surf
lithe bodies riding waves that meld into atmosphere.

I will name you ‘Azure Skylight.’
A container spilling upward punctuated by soft clouds
at times breaking with restless cries,
a container holding the company of stars, points of light
like invisible rays knowing your place.
Perhaps you will find Polaris, true north
the guiding one anchored in your heart
filled with intention, a flag of celebration
announcing your home!




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