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Hunting in the deep dark woods and further creative ventures


The Parting

Here it is! The performance piece for my Civil War jacket. The story is about a war widow, coming to terms with losing her husband, a union soldier. I'll post actual photos of the jacket when I can, but for now... Here is the work that I will be performing... Live... Tomorrow. Eep. I've never just sung in front of people before, so I'm a little nervous and terrified. Story of my life regarding every piece I'll be showing for my class and having critiqued. A lot of death related works (i.e. All of them). 

For those curious, the song I'm singing is The Parting Glass. I heard it because of The Walking Dead, and decided to research it. It is a traditional Irish folk song, sung at the parting of ways (for example, the end of a night when friends are going home). I changed the lyrics a little bit, to add more weight. The lyrics are normally as such:

Oh of all the money that e'er I had
I spent it in good company
And of all the harm that e'er I've done
Alas it was to none but me
And I've done for want of wit
To mem'ry now I can't recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy to be to you all

Of all the comrade e'er I had
They are sorry for my going away
And of all the sweethearts e'er I had
They would wish me just one day to stay
So when it came upon my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I'll gently rise and I'll softly call
Good night and joy be to you all

The lyrics vary from place to place, depending on where you find them. In my version that I sang, I changed it to

Of all the comrades e'er you  had
They are sorry for your going away
And of all the sweethearts e'er you had
They would wish you just one day to stay

I figured that a dead soldier would have sad comrades, and even if he only had one sweetheart, that would be all the sweethearts he ever had. Towards the end, I fade off and don't end the last line, so it becomes Good night and joy be to you... 

Fun fact: In this video, I actually did start crying, or at least tearing up. I might cry tomorrow. I just have a lot of weight planted in this piece, and shockingly,  if you place yourself in the boots of a war bride, only imagine that your significant other is the dead soldier... That is a sure way of making yourself tear up. Even without that, I just become really emotional thinking about the dead soldiers of the Civil War. Especially since a great deal would never make it home upon death. I feel like I have this odd connection to the Civil War, and connections constantly crop up, which adds weight to how I feel when I'm directly involved with putting myself in the place of a mourning widow. Or anything or anyone from that time. I'm very likely to cry completely tomorrow. I suppose that I'll see how it goes!


To This Day Project

"Shane Koyczan was bullied a lot when he was a kid. So he took that pain and made this stunning video with the help of some amazingly talented people. It's kind of breathtaking and powerful, just a warning. Also, it has a happy ending." - Adam Mordecai, Upworthy.com

I don't know how many people reading this have been bullied at any point in their life. Many people have never been bullies, or they have been bullies, and those people often have no idea what the victims have been put through, and are still going through. The words and  names you're called as a child stick with you for life. We would like to hope that those words can bounce off, but most are not strong enough. I know that I never was. Words sink in, and grow uglier and uglier the more you think about it. Words echo in your mind, forming a nest of pain and hurt deep inside your heart and soul. It damages you. It wears you down, until you believe it. The people saying those words often have no idea, but they know that it hurts you. It is impossible to defend yourself when you have no other option but to think "Maybe they're right". To anyone who has been bullied, who has been hurt, who still hurts because of it... My heart goes to you. 

When I watched this poignant video and listened to the heart-wrenching spoken word poem, I wept. My heart burst and constricted, as every second of the film I related. Either I related on a personal level, or thought of people I knew, people I care about. Year after year, there are videos and stories and articles about victims. Victims who have killed themselves, teenagers who have brought guns to school, hurt youth who could not take it any longer. It is painful how many stories are brushed aside. How many stories are answered with some excuse or reasoning that blames the teen instead of something else. The last anti-bullying day or month, the main article was of a pretty young girl who went through naked photographs of herself getting spread on the internet, and she responded to cruel words by committing suicide. At the same time, a young boy, who would not be considered handsome by most, had been bullied for years, ended his own life, and no one heard about his story. We respond to the anguish of the beautiful, regardless of what they may have done to others. This is how we respond to bullying. 

Every time anti-bullying is mentioned, I cringe. I think of my own experience as a young child or pre-teen, in a new school. My mother asked the principal about bullying, and what the tolerance or action towards it was. The response was that there was no bullying in that school. Later, I was called freak, implied that I was abnormal because I didn't want to date boys as a 12 year, and more. Why is it that bullying is overlooked? To attempt change on one day of the year... it's hurtful to those who experience pain and doubt every day of the week. 

I often worry that bullying will never be solved. I worry that if I ever have children, that bullying will be the same issue for them as it was for me. That they will grow up to have depression and anxiety, and not know what to do because they believe that no one will listen. I was fortunate to be able to talk to my mum, but the fact that the rest of the world will not listen is terrifying. I worry that the issue of bullying will not end. However, I worry less when I see artistic creations like this video, the To This Day Project. If bullying ends, it will not be because of one story. It will be because of artists like Shane, who were once victims, and have chosen to rise up, but not hate the world because of it, but rather attempt to change the world. This video made me weep, and not many things do. Change needs to occur, and I believe that it could start with To This Day.


Further Steampunk

Colour photographs of my outfit! It is all mostly creams and browns, other than my boots, stockings, corset, and jacket. Photos by Grant Zelych and Kevin Jepson, some mighty fine steampunks!

Treasures and Treats

Ah, the treasures that can be discovered while wearing a pair of kid boots and a bustle! While adventuring with a group of fellow steampunks, we went to an antique store called 'Shoulder to Shoulder'. They had so many things. About half of everything were military antiques. Some toys, a few odds and ends, and several curious pieces. I found two objects that I took home. These are the objects in the photo above. The straight-razor looking object is a straight style trimmer. I thought that it was really interested, and it's probably from the 1950s or so. I have to do some research to see if I can learn anything about it, but for the being, it is sitting on my shelf next to my 1940s straight razor. The smaller object next to it is a Civil War bullet. Pretty cool! It is pretty aged and dusty, and absolutely adore having an object from my favourite time period. 

Down the road, we checked out an army surplus store. I got my hands on a nice canteen! Good to have, and way better than just having a water bottle. Being able to sling something over your back instead of carrying by hand is always a better way to go. Just in case.

Last of all, I made cinnamon buns! I've made biscuit style cinnamon buns before, but these are actual yeast bread style. They turned out wonderfully, all light and fluffy, and not too sweet. Tasty tasty tasty!


Afternoon Tea

Out of curiosity, I decided to look up whether or not there are any places in Calgary that offer afternoon or high tea. I was delighted to learn that the Fairmont Palliser does! 

The Fairmont Palliser
Just going to throw it out there and say that I would love if someone took me to this,  or if I had a reason and money, I would love to take several friends to such a place. It is not inexpensive per person, but it also afternoon tea, with all  of the splendour. When I was in London I really wanted to go to high tea, but you can't really go alone, and I didn't know where to go. However, I saw this couple in a window eating dainties and having tea. That image is affixed to my skull, and I think of it every time I think about high tea. Oh, fair sophistication in a tea cup, how I desire thee. 


Guess what I made! Indeed, a Ouija board! I'm so proud of it. I came up with an idea for my final mixed media project, and I was so keen to get it done that I just made it. Boy,  it feels good. This way, even if my mind changes for my final, I have still made an incredibly legitimate Ouija board.

For those of you who are somehow unfamiliar with Ouija, it is a board game type situation. There's a lot of speculation and argument to whether or not it's real. I personally believe that it isn't. Originally, Ouija was marketed and sold as 'talking boards', and you asked questions that you needed answered. Kind of like a psychic. It has also been akin to the seance, only less dangerous because you are not summoning a spirit into our realm. Or something. I'm fuzzy on the details. I would be interested in attending a seance, but other than the Exorcist, there has never been anything that insane attached to using Ouija. My siblings, cousins, friends, and myself used to play Ouija, usually by making our own with scrabble pieces and using an overturned glass. Always a good time, especially with the excitement of wondering if it's real or not. I don't believe in ghosts, even though I have every reason to, but I'm overly fascinated with the paranormal. I'm just too skeptical. Nonetheless, I can appreciate the need to believe strongly in ghosts and the like. That's what inspired this soon-to-be installation.

I made it from a piece of thick plywood, that I had cut at Home Depot (helpful people!). All of it is hand carved, hand-written, hand-painted, hand-stained. A lot of handwork. It took me way less work than I anticipated, which is nice. I'm so happy with it, and I'd like to say a general thank you to all of the sources on the internet with helpful references that I utilized (especially in the lettering and how the words and characters are arranged). I kept this board quite simple. I decided that I didn't want to have any superfluous decorative carving, especially since I wanted it to look aged. I'm thinking about giving it a test spin, to make get some nice movement scratches in it. I'll need company for that, though.

After the critique for this, I don't know what I'll do with it. I guess making my own is a nice way to move into collecting ouija boards, but at the same time I might just offer it for sale. I'm not making a planchette for it, so if I do sell it, the person will have to go without. but then again, using a glass is cooler. I'm planning to hunt down a small jigger or undecorated shot glass, and that would work quite nicely.



Today, I visited one of the cemeteries in Calgary. Part of myself has been nagging me to go, and today was a lovely day to go. I've never been to a cemetery when there is ice and snow on the ground, and I kept slipping as I walked up the hill. 

Cemeteries are something that I really care about. They are peaceful places, a strong connection between ourselves and the natural world. Epitaphs are fascinating, and offer insight. Some markers are biographies, others are elusive mysteries. 

While I was wandering through one of the older parts of the cemetery, I came across one plot, of a young woman. I believe her name was Emily... or something close to that. I was shocked to discover that there was rubbish and filth everywhere. I don't know if people maintain any connection to their body after death, or keep an eye on their grave, or what any aspect of the after life is. I can't speak, and I don't really have an opinion. However, I do believe that symbols are to be respected. Especially the symbol of a person that was. They may just be a pile of bones, but that tombstone represents who that person was. It marks how long they were on this earth, and how much they meant to others, and all of these other aspects. To disrespect that... To deface such things, even just by leaving garbage... I don't understand it. It deeply upsets me. I cleaned up the garbage, and put it in one of the waste receptacles. It made me feel so sad. After I cleaned up several empty pill bottles, some abandoned earphones, some plastic alcohol bottles, a sock, and a glove, I wandered the cemetery until I found this small stone Church, tucked into shrubs and trees. It was such an idyllic scene, in the context of what a cemetery often instils. Or, rather, what the idea of a 'Churchyard' looks like. I'm not explaining it very well, but it reminded me of a poem by Walter De La Mare.  I can't quite remember the title, but it is about a cemetery in a churchyard. It is so tranquil and haunting, and comforting in the calmness of the poem. That is what I thought of when I came upon this small Church. 

A few minutes later, I made my way back down the hill. I hadn't realized it, but I had been in the cemetery for almost an hour. 

At the bottom of the hill, I saw something that saddened me. Several beer cans, and dozens of cigarette butts. A few bits of rubbish, like chip bag. This was away from the grave plots, but it should still be a sacred spot. It's part of a rock garden, with all of these trees, whispering away. I gathered up the garbage, but there wasn't a rubbish bin in sight. I couldn't carry all of it. Not to mention that I didn't want to just throw away that many cans. I placed them by the road, in hope that someone would see them and gather them. I have no idea how often the cemetery is maintained during the winter. Must not be often because of all of the ice. Still, I'm a hopeful person.

I left a note for the caretaker, just in case. The whole situation just saddens me. Perhaps I'll go back more regularly... With a small garbage bag and gloves. Littering is bad enough as it is... but why in a cemetery. 


The House Doctor

This is a project that I did for my mixed media class at school. It was an installation, with audio in the background. I got really good response to it, despite a lot of people feeling rather queasy towards the blood and the implications of the entire piece. 

I would like to begin by saying that the 'blood' in the bowl is not blood. It is incredibly believable blood, and the longer you leave it out, the more it looks crusted and like blood. However, it is not. It is a mixture of black tea and red food colouring. Watered down a tad because it was too dark. I thought that it would work, and it definitely did. 

This whole piece is a small vignette, suggesting an event that occurred under the care of a house doctor. What occurred, we don't know. We just know that it didn't end well, as is a situation that many country doctors making house calls would have had to deal with. Not everything can be fixed or helped, and this is a moment in time that testifies to the gravity of that reality. 

I was inspired by a song called 'O Death', and this image flashed to mind. 1930s-50s era country doctor, not visible, but elsewhere in the room or in the house. The residue of a death is on the table. Pocket watch stopped, crucifix laying on the table, covered with the wax that has dripped from the last flickering candle. It struck me as the kind of moment that occurs, and leads to the necessity of having morticians and undertakers. The reality of this humbled me, and so began my need to knit together my present vocation as an artist with the future path of an embalmer. It is a dark situation, and something that we don't want to discuss or think about. Never before did I really think about the fact that a death would have to occur before an embalmer doing their job. Of course, I did. I'm not wording it very well. I suppose that it's more that I didn't think of the history of this gravity, and how focused that sadness is. In this vignette I created, the house is the only place in the world that is witnessing that death. It expands beyond that place, but for a moment, it is in one place, affecting one group of people. Tragedy, but the rest of the world moves on. 

These are the kinds of things that I often think about. How tragedy affects pockets at a time, but it is how we respond to it that makes the difference. 

Every day I think about these things, the part of me that was likely once an embalmer and will be again (I hope), grows and I am more certain that this is important to me. It is overwhelming in its importance, and how it affects my world. 

That is the best way I can describe how I felt when I thought of this installation, and the themes that came along with. I felt overwhelmed. Overwhelmed, but certain that it something I need to accept, and something that I need to be involved with. I don't know if I could comfort the grievous family and friends, but ensuring that they know that their loved one has been treated with dignity and respect is important, and that is something I could do.

I am rambling. I don't even know if I'm making sense. Regardless... 

That is what triggered this art work.