Building up again?

Mouth House_Akkermans

Here are some photos of things I’ve been playing with in the studio, stuff I’ve been making.  I’m not really sure what it is yet.

Merry Go round_Akkermans

– Merry Go Round (Please excuse the bad photo.)

Windmill in progress_Akkermans

– Windmill (in progress- will move hopefully, as I’m interested in making it kinetic.)


And this barn I’ve built….


… which I’ve been playing with projecting inside of, with a pico projector.

Since starting my MFA here at Waterloo, I’ve blown everything up, and am currently in the process of building things up again.   I’m not sure how things will come together, but that is the point of doing my MFA, to figure that out and hopefully come up with an interesting body of work.  These are just the first few steps in that direction (hopefully).  I think that the “trying to capture a real moment” that I’ve been doing as well might end up colliding with these, but at this point, I have no idea how.  We’ll see.  🙂

Laying Track.

Woody allen

Lately I’ve been thinking about some things, talking about them with friends.  Friends ask where I find the time, motivation, and inspiration to continue to do what I do and maintain a sustainable practice without losing steam or burning out.  As I’ve been out of school for three years now (where did the time go?), I’ve proven to myself that I can do this, and as tough as it is sometimes, I am able to maintain it and keep it up over time.  I am committed.  

It is all too easy to let life get in the way, taking care of day-to-day business.  It is tough to prioritize my practice, when it would be so easy to commit to a full time job somewhere and just forget about it.  Or worse, feel guilty about not having the time to devote to it, or the energy, or just “not feeling inspired” to work on it.  I know sometimes it seems I have it easy, in not having a constant gig – temping allows me to take the time I need off, but it is unreliable – so I am able to commit to my work.  It is a sacrifice, however, in that money is often tight, and that can be quite stressful. You have to be resourceful.  (But if art school taught me nothing else, it’s how to be resourceful.)  You have to say no to things that aren’t going to be valuable to you.  I try to set really specific boundaries and say no to those things that take me away from my work.

I’ve committed to my life as an artist, because, although I do think I could do another career, I don’t think I would be happy.  Tough as it is sometimes, being an artist is a constant adventure, and can be really rewarding.  In terms of my practice, I am my own boss, which definitely comes with it’s own challenges.  I have to keep myself motivated, working, and committed, managing my own moods and problems (such as the 36+ rejections last year), as well as wearing the many hats that are required as a professional artist.  I have to not only conceive of and make the work, but source the parts and materials, manage expenses and income, keep track of everything for tax time, keep up my website and newsletter, some marketing and promotion, applications for exhibitions and residencies, write about and photograph my work, organize exhibitions (making sure I am prepared- the work is done as it should be, that I have everything I might possibly need to install, including tools and volunteers if necessary, transporting work, and dealing with the gallery, contracts, providing images, etc.), etc.  It’s not an easy gig.

Sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes it’s really not.  When I was at the Gushul in March, pretty much all I did was work, and happily, too.  It didn’t take me long to develop a really good and natural rhythym – up at 8, early, to take advantage of the daylight), work until 2 or 3, with a short lunch in there somewhere, take a break- a nap or read/rest/whatever for an hour or so, and then back at it, until bedtime, most days.  I was putting in 12-14 hour work days most of the time.  Sometimes I would go to the cafe to write/draw/think if I wanted to, but it wasn’t to escape my work at all.  Since I’ve been back, however, it’s been a little tough to get into a routine, but I’m working on it. I realize that my own productivity goes in cycles and is impossible to maintain that way in the long run, but the more I can set myself up for success, the better. The routine made it easy to be productive, less resistance.

I’ve also learned that I need to keep my emotions out of it, as much as possible- to not take those 36+ rejections personally- I could have been rejected for any number of reasons, only a small portion of which likely have anything to do with me.  I also need to keep my emotions out of it when it comes down to working- it’s not an “if I feel like it” thing, or an “I need to be inspired to work” thing, it’s a showing up thing.  A commitment to doing the work, whether I feel like it or not.  A job. Laying track.

What makes it look like a lot is a commitment to doing some every day, or almost every day.  To keeping my eye open for opportunities, and being organized enough that I can act on them if they are appropriate.  To writing an excellent application, sending it in on time, and then forgetting about it (so that it’s either a nice surprise when the good news shows up or so that the rejection doesn’t sting so much).  A little over a long period of time adds up to a lot.

So, today, like every day, I’m “laying track.”


Week 1 - 3693

I want to make a change in my life.  A big change.

A friend of mine from school is getting rid of everything she owns and leaving on a big travel adventure.  I find myself so jealous.  And not even for the adventure- well, maybe a little.  In thinking about leaving to go to school in the fall, I realize how much stuff I have, most of which means little or nothing to me.  It’s weighing me down, even just thinking about getting rid of all these things.  Some things I’ve been holding on to for years, and I couldn’t even tell you why.  Is it precious to me in some way? No.  Is it unique? No.  Would it be expensive or difficult to replace? No.  And scarier- have I used it lately? No.  Scarier still- Have I ever used it? No.  Why do I have these things?

I think it’s a feeling of security.  My parents (and their parents before them) worked hard for what they have- they still do.  And there is value in that, earning something.  Saving for something of quality.  But my generation, we have everything we need, and too much more.  Things are so plentiful and so easy to attain that we all own way more than we need. Sure, most things I own are really cheap, or hand-me-downs – there’s nothing wrong with that, but I rarely say no when someone offers to give me something.  And I take it home, put it on a shelf somewhere, and there it stays.  Of all the things I own (excluding artwork/things I’ve made), very few are things that I feel I’ve worked hard for, earned, or value in a real way.  It’s been about accumulating, or getting a leg up, so to speak.  Or saving broken umbrellas for a rainy day.

And I think it’s costing me something.  How much more money would we have, if we didn’t feel the need to go shopping for more clothes, or my biggest weakness, books?  How much more freedom would we have? How much more would we value and take care of the things we do own? As I think about leaving to go back to school, I am amazed at how much crap I own.

I’ve realized that I do it with things like art supplies and groceries too. I buy more material than I anticipate needing to build a certain project, even taking into account the possibilities of mis-measurement and errors.  For instance, I bought four yards of burlap a few months ago, and for what?  I don’t know.  I still haven’t used it, and don’t know if I will.

B and I always buy certain things at the grocery store that we never seem to eat at home.  I don’t know how many bags of dry noodles and spaghetti sauce are in our cupboards, or cans of soup. Or frozen vegetables, perogies, or burritos. How much food do we throw out of the fridge because there’s been too many “better choices” to eat, or even that we’ve forgotten it’s there?  I think on some level I am afraid that at some point in time, there won’t be enough, or we will run out, and so I have got to collect and hoard as much as I can while I’m here.  Do you see how much of a problem this is?  How fear, even unarticulated, could cause so many problems which, if I could just change my point of view, might be fairly easily avoided?  And the reality is, I’ve never been in need of anything that wasn’t somehow attainable to me.

Wow.  We are priviledged, to be able to afford to be so spoiled.

So, it’s time to make a change, for me, at least.   I want to be more conscious of what I spend my money on, what I actually need and use, versus what I think I need and use.  I want to clean the “garbage” and unused supplies out of my studio and my life, the things I’ve been saving for God-knows-what reason.  The clothes that I don’t like, or that don’t fit. The ratty towels that never get used.  I want to start to buy groceries so much more consciously, keeping in mind what I can and will eat before food goes rotten or gets forgotten about.  I want to spend my money that much more consciously, not doing what is convenient all the time, but what might have the most value in it for me.  I want to have enough – enough food, enough things, enough money, enough experiences, and enough freedom – to enjoy my life and what it could be, but not so much that I am limiting myself with too many possessions (which could be related to bills), too many responsibilities (working to pay for the things), too much food, etc, etc. etc.

Time to make a change.


So here’s my experiment.  The photo at the top of the post is $36.93 worth of groceries (yes, Cracker Barrel was on sale).  You can see that I was trying to eat healthy, although there are a few treats in there.  I am planning to track how I eat this week, where exactly this $36.93 goes and how far it lasts, with one exception- I had some hamburger meat and taco shells set out for dinner before I went to the store, so they’ll be part of that too.  B will not be included in this, as 1) He and I don’t have similar eating habits- he won’t eat most of this anyway, and 2) his schedule is so busy with running his Taekwondo club that he’s not home for meals anyway.


PS> As the next few months pass, up until August, I will be giving away/ selling a lot of things, those of you in Calgary stay tuned if there’s anything of interest.

Videos by Puppet Camp Friends

I thought I would share some of the video work available online from some of the other Puppet Intensive participants.  One night we had a bit of a video show and tell/ heckling night, looking at video work from anyone who brought work to share.  These are just a few.

Maybe I’ll start with a clip by the Old Trout Puppet Workshop– this is the music video to Feist’s Honey Honey.


Feast, by Rob Leveroos. See more at Lone Feather Studio.

Feast from RLeveroos on Vimeo.


Brian Fidler’s Ramshackle Theatre, with a trailer for their Sci-Fi Double Feature.

Sci-Fi Double Feature – Trailer from Edward Westerhuis on Vimeo.


And finally, a short video by Shelby Lyn Lowe.

There is quite the contrast among all the work- I enjoyed that everyone came from such different backgrounds.  Some ideas of performance, such as Rob’s visual poetry, are such an interesting contrast to my idea of performance, such as my work, A Bacteriophage Dissection, below.


(Ok, I’ll shut up about Puppet Camp now. Maybe.)

Contemporary Automata Artists

Here are some artists who are using automata and mechanical principles in their artwork.  I like that these draw from traditional techniques, but each artist has added their own unique twist, to make their own things.

Dug North

Dave Johnson

Gary Schott

Mihai Bonciu

Juan Pablo Cambariere


I’ve given myself permission to take a bit of a break.  A break from working, anyway.  I need some time to let some things that are in my brain percolate, and possibly manifest into something.  They are both directly related to my practice, and not directly, but I feel like I need to take a step back and re-evalate what I want to spend my energy on at this point in time.  Strategize.  Listen to my gut, as your gut always knows what you should do.

It’s not a crisis, but a quiet introspection.  A gathering and arranging of thoughts and ideas, a re-ordering.  I may come out of it with something tangible, and I may not, but that’s okay.  It will clear things up in my head, and hopefully, I’ll have a renewed sense of direction.  Direction is related to purpose, and both are formed by reconnecting with your core.

Vague, I know.  Percolation time is always vague.  Percolation is not actively thinking about something, but letting sit in your subconscious (not forgetting about it, just not thinking about it), and allowing it time.  My subconscious mulls it over, like a rock in a river, and things usually come out much more resolved than when they go in.  I let it happen by the natural process, instead of interfering and complicating things.

I’ve always liked that term for this, percolation.  You smell the coffee, anticipate it’s deliciousness, and slow down.  It’s a time out.  It also gets better if you just leave it alone, and timing is everything.

Anyway, see you on the other side.


Ok, maybe it’s an experimentation and research phase (as it applies to material and technique).

This is Nitinol. Nitinol is a shape memory alloy, which reacts to heat. Let’s start at the beginning.

It works like magic.

Well, no, not really.

(And this one is trying to be dramatic…)

So…. how might this be useful?

See the possibilities?

This is interesting, although probably not very relevant to what I’m doing…