Elfleda Russell (nee Wilkinson)           back home & galleries



Elfleda RussellFor 5 decades, my artwork has focused primarily on various aspects of the human condition. That broad topic has been expressed through 3 media: painting, textiles and beading. Each medium brings the opportunity for a fresh take on themes, which has stretched vision and voice as influences bounce back and forth. My work produced in the tactile media of textiles and beading tend more to the fantastical. I always try to speak with a vocabulary unique to each medium, however, no matter which materials or processes are in play, it is a painterly soul that ultimately conducts their orchestration – emphasizing flow, movement, nuance – an organic interplay of elements that drives and dominates all of my work.

A theme my work returns to again and again is mankind’s need to strive for excellence, and the resulting confrontation with and transcendence of barriers that are either self-imposed or imposed by societal expectations. The large oils of the Warrior Series as seen in Warrior I (link) (for all links use your browser's back button to return to this page) depict the heroic nature of this internal and external struggle. The more intimate works of the Rooted Series as seen in Rooted I (link) portray the paralysis that can result from fear of this confrontation. The whimsical beaded Garden of Eden (link) teapot in the collection of the Kamme Foundation suggests mankind might have been spared this dilemma if a soothing cup of tea had replaced the apple. The beaded wall panel Juggler II (link), the first of a planned trilogy, represents modern woman’s need to perform super-human feats of multi-tasking to accomplish her dreams. The gold threads and manipulated patterning of the El Dorado (link) tapestry, in the collection of the nephew of Albert Einstein, speak of the convoluted journey to self-discovery. Whereas, Journey (link), a hand spun, nature-dyed tapestry depicts the boundary between the known and dark unknown which must be negotiated in taking up the challenge to create. Samantha’s Journey (link), inspired by the birth of our first grandchild, expresses the joyfully explosive intake of stimuli and knowledge that can occur before barriers are encountered. Broken Free (link), a machine-stitched appliqué in the permanent collection of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, celebrates the sense of freedom and triumph experienced in overcoming obstacles on the way to creative expression. Flight from Byzantium (link) depicts the willingness to depart from the known and plunge into the unknown that is an essential part of the creative process. The Crowd (link), another machine stitched appliqué, which was honoured with a 1st place award by the Vancouver Art Gallery, expresses the comfort of conforming. Being a woman, mother, and grandmother in this transitional period for the female in North American society has influenced my interest in these themes of societal and personal obstacles to self-fulfillment and creativity.

However, there is a yin and yang in my collective output. Those obstacles to creativity which in various forms have been a focus of a great deal of my work, are balanced by an equal interest in the triumph of the human spirit and a wish to celebrate the uniqueness of each individual shaped in part by their response to the challenges they encounter. Beaded and card woven Memory Mask (link) presents the individual looking inward to synthesize memory and experience for growth. However, It is mainly through portraiture that I address this interest in the individual. The observation, analysis and construction of these works which on the surface appear realistic, but which actually are highly subjective and editorialized, fuel many of the themes of my other works.  In Garth, profile (link), the subject is presented in deep reflection.  This may well have led to Memory Mask (link), where the subject is also presented looking inward,in this case to synthesize memory for growth.  More is said about my portraits presenting the inner person near the end of statement under Paintings and Portraits.

My beading and textiles have been honoured with several awards locally, nationally, and internationally, as described in BIO Information. Works have also been presented in several books and magazines. I authored the book Off-Loom Weaving (link), Little Brown Publishers in 1975. It is discussed in the TEXTILE section.

I have exhibited in North America, Europe, Paris, Mexico and Japan, and I have work in a Canadian Government collection, as well as numerous public and private collections around the world.

My beading is available through Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Beading has been my medium of choice for the last 15 years. As I strive to use beading as an expressive art form, my goal is that my body of work will demonstrate that beading has the potential to be taken beyond the decorative to speak with a power, subtlety, and range equal to any medium.

My work in beading builds on themes, processes, state of mind, and general goals that evolved through my work in textiles and painting that came before. These experiences provide a robust reservoir of ideas and a sub-conscious amorphous motivation which is often recognized in retrospect as a powerful driving force.

I work almost entirely with areas of tiny beads – the cells of my structures – using their different shapes (round, cylindrical, triangular and square) and sizes (small and smaller, to medium small), finishes (matte, shiny, opaque, translucent, transparent) and of course colour (solid, luminescent – ‘oil slick’, lined, marbled, metallic), to create a world of texture and movement in miniature. Who was it said the world can be experienced in a drop of water? I think of that all the time as I work, and realize a lot is asked of viewers to narrow their focus down to a dozen or so inches and take the time needed to travel the pathways and forms it may have taken me 2 years to build.

When I transferred to beading from textiles, I didn’t think I was at first. Memory Mask (link) and Across the Bay, Evening Transformations (link) integrated the two media. However, beading was so seductive in the opportunity to jump right in (no warps to be threaded), and all that wide open untraveled beading terrain beckoned – how could one resist?

To me, making art is part working with what you know, and part playing the game of ‘what if?’. Each piece must take on a new challenge or there is no point in doing it. With beading, I was simply drawn to the vast unexplored, so here we are. However, it was foolishness to be attracted to the illusion of a lack of preparation needed for the medium. It’s one’s own ideas that demand preparation and planning. Huge amounts of time are spent making samples to test bead combinations and techniques most suitable for each element needed for an idea, be it wearable art, sculpture or wall piece. And, when some areas of a piece must be worked from a drafted design, I consciously reserve a large part of the beading to be worked spontaneously in dialogue with the developing work so that painterly sensibilities and the unconscious can come into play.

My approach to beading gives the same prominence to the manipulation of processes and structures that characterize my textiles. This requires constant experimentation and innovation when existing techniques are unable to respond to ever more challenging ideas. This has resulted in the accumulation of a large collection of samples that constitute a growing toolkit of methods that can now be mobilized to carry out evolving concepts. The techniques themselves often generate their own concepts. Numerous wearable art pieces have sprung directly out of these technical experiments.

Many of my innovations have been shared through beading workshops, each of which teaches a wearable art project that embodies a new technique. The careful documentation of innovations for my workshop notes also ensures their continued accessibility to me. I’m frequently pulling out a set of these notes as a reminder of how I did something in the past.

An important tangible step towards my interest in beading, long before beading was even out there as a potential medium, was making the miniature card woven sculpture, Seated Figure (link). The smaller scale of this project (approximately 14” square) was the first time my expression was condensed down to a miniature scale, and the first time I thought of a work as an object. This foreshadowed my sculptural beading.

As mentioned already, two of my beaded wall pieces incorporate card weaving demonstrating yet again the link with textiles. In Across the Bay, Evening Transformations (link), which received a 1st place award in its category at Convergence 2002, a band of card weaving through the center of the horizontal piece suggests water. The beading above it represents the land that the water is reflecting. The ‘land’ was beaded after the ‘water’ was woven. It was a fun game to imagine in beading what designs would convincingly generate the ‘reflections’ seen in the woven band, and to do it so that it was difficult to tell where one medium ends and the other begins. Relief was achieved in some areas of the beading by aggressive manipulation of the multi-drop peyote technique chosen for its flexibility and boldness. This was one of my first pieces undertaken following 9/11. The double sunset references that watershed moment for western society.

In the life-sized Memory Mask (link) and Memory Mask detail (link) card weaving and beading are integrated in the intricate headdress, meant to evoke accessing memory, as well as in the talking stick below, that suggests the empowerment that comes from the assimilation of experiences. The small points of light seen in the card weaving of those two areas are created by tiny beads, the same as those used in the mask, that were pre-threaded onto fine warps, pulled forward and caught in place on the surface as weaving progressed. Eyes of the mask look down to suggest reflection. My portraiture greatly impacted this mask, as well as the Janus for the Toucans Mask (link), where the two-faced God is invoked to save the habitat of my favorite bird.

The two works that have challenged all my expressive skills to their limit and beyond, are my two beaded faux teapots. A walk through each of these can give a sense of how my beaded sculptures are worked. The Garden of Eden Teapot (link) in the collection of the Kamme Foundation, required invention in engineering as well as imagery, at every turn. After a year of rising to one new challenge after another, it remained unclear at the 11th hour whether a final problem would defy solution and render it all for naught. After figuring out how to construct the foundation teapot so that beaded tea and tea bag could be inserted prior to assembly; after figuring out how to make the snake undulate and take a sly turn of its head just so; after giving it a deliciously treacherous smile; after making the apple appear irresistibly voluptuous, exploding with pointalist dots of rich arbitrary colour; after designing Adam and Eve to possess just the right degree of whimsy and innocence; after realizing the best way to produce them was oddly enough by working their images on the diagonal on a bead weaving loom; after designing the band of text for the base which reads ‘If only they had just chosen tea instead’ , after designing the tropical flowers, leaves, sky, clouds worthy of Eden; after orchestrating all these elements into a cohesive whole; after solving each of those problems one by one – closing the deal all came down to begging my needles not to break long enough to complete the beading of the convoluted sculpture below the spout. The beading Gods acquiesced, the final beads were stitched in place and the teapot at that moment became a living entity.

The Homage to Chagall Teapot (link) depicts the artist sharing tea in my garden. Some of his favorite subjects have come along to be reinterpreted in my beading. This teapot benefitted from all the relevant solutions worked out in ‘Eden’. However, the army of sculptural elements and images contained in this ambitious plan each demanded their own specific techniques which significantly heightened the challenges. Moreover, what is unique to this work to a degree not attempted before outside of my paintings, is that many elements and areas of beading must convey a particular feeling in order to accomplish their roles in the work. Although Eden took steps in this direction, the degree to which it impacts this work required taking my beading to a new level. One example is the ‘man-cat’ on the lid. It was inspired by the cat seen in Chagall’s painting of his Paris studio which expresses Chagall’s melancholy mood upon leaving his beloved Russian village of Vitebsk for the greater opportunities of Paris. Through Chagall’s own life it demonstrated the idea expressed decades earlier in my Flight from Byzantium (link) which is that in order to continue moving forward one must sometimes depart from the safe and familiar, but it can come at a cost. Chagall’s cat is a flat image painted in profile. My reinterpretation is a 3 dimensional sculpture beaded in the round – a totally different mode of expression which also required inventing 3 nonexistent views of the subject. I repeated the pose and facial expression of Chagall’s cat in my beaded one – the hunched shoulders and upward tilt of the head, the anguished open mouth and fearful eyes – only to realize that my female figure in the Byzantium (link) piece used the identical pose for the same purpose decades earlier. When designing my cat, I kept thinking of west coast First Nations art, so inspiring and surrealistic. Some of that quality has crept into my cat’s sculpture and surface design.

The head of a rooster, present throughout Chagall’s paintings, forms the spout of the teapot. This prominent position, like the figurehead on the prow of a ship, means that the rooster is being given an important role to play. This in itself gave me a smile all the while it was being worked. The role it was given was to ignite the flowing movement that floods across the upper sculpture to represent the passionate expressionistic quality of Chagall’s later work. To accomplish this I beaded startling transfixing eyes for the rooster to demand attention, then beaded the rooster’s dramatic plumage in bright bold flowing colour areas that meld into the swirling yellow sky behind it which in turn continues its energy back across the top of the teapot.

The cubist treatment of the text that wraps around the teapot base and that reads ‘Chagall and friends come to tea’, represents Chagall’s early work. Around the middle of the pot where many main characters are arranged, the background areas are a blend of Chagall’s two painterly modes that provide a transition for the upper and lower sections.  Pacing and composing the interplay of the curved and angular shapes through the negative spaces of this section was as challenging as any of the more prominent elements of the project.

The portrait of Chagall shown enjoying a cup of tea had to dominate not only the front of the teapot but be strong enough to hold sway over all its elements. The goal in designing him was to portray a quiet relaxed power as he gazes directly at the viewer to form a connection. His pose and the subtle shading of the beads of his face took two attempts to reach the balance needed. His portrait was beaded on a loom, as was his companion, a very loose self-portrait. They were done in separate pieces to be small enough not to pucker as they conform to the curving walls of the teapot as they were captured within the ongoing beading of the background. The leaves were worked in right angle weave which repeats the bead alignment of loom woven beading. Most of the other main elements such as the fiddler and flowers, were beaded in peyote while background areas are beaded in Brick Stitch which can easily be increased or decreased as it is beaded in place to conform to the sculpture. Main elements are tacked in place until beading the background holds them all together. This collage process was first developed for Samantha’s Journey (link), which was awarded a 2nd prize in Bead and Button’s BeadDreams 2005.

Having examined the link between my beading and textiles, and the challenges presented by some of my beaded sculptures, to fully understand my beading goals  it is necessary to see how my work is impacted by structures. Following the metamorphosis of a few key structures as they appear throughout my beading is a good way to appreciate how profoundly structures do impact my work. The wedge is an excellent example to begin with. It is a simple triangular shape that first appeared as extensions in my early amulets, as seen in Black Orchid (link). Since then the wedge has become a favorite building block, repurposed again and again in almost every work I’ve done. The Silver Shield (link) neckpiece is one large wedge, (actually 3, 2 large and 1 narrow), layered and laced together to form a firm pendant. In the Jugglers I (link) the figures and background are built almost entirely of interconnected wedges. Wedges appear throughout the features and design of the two masks, including in the sun above Janus. Its circular shape is composed of 5 wedges. Circles and half circles play throughout the swirling sky of the Chagall teapot, and tend to pop up frequently in my work. Three wedges produce the fan shapes of the Pendulum Necklace (link) and Toucan Pendulum (link), whereas 2 wedges produced each of the flowers in Eden. My Butterfly Wings (link) are also composed of 2 wedges, one larger than the other. Butterfly Choker (link) and Butterfly Pin (link), a large pin, are two of many butterfly variations done over time. The eyes of the Rooster in Chagall’s teapot (link) used wedges in a very tricky way as did the Rooster’s vertical standing crest and wattle. But how can one be speaking of circles and fans and butterfly wings in relation to a triangular shape? It’s because the longer rows of beading toward the wide base of the triangle actually form into a slight curve by themselves, belying their straight triangular structure. Any beading process that offers a curve free of charge is pure gold, since one generally has to make an extra effort to depart from the normal static straight lines beading techniques naturally provide. To someone who wants the flow in the actual lines of their beading to energize movement, and to enhance the colour changes of imagery, this little bit of curve the wedge offers is a precious tool to be exploited.

The wings of Angel Ornament (link) are a slight variation on butterfly wings. But the bigger story in that little piece is that the two folded over wedges that form the simple angel’s gown directly led to the realization that folding forward the sides of a large wedge could produce the container-like pod needed for the Rebirth (link) neckpiece. This significant work is the first piece for a planned Pod series that will continue to express the rebirth theme.

Another favorite structure is my ruffle, the undulating structure seen in Santa Fe (link) of the Ruffle Chokers series and in the skirts and flaps of purses made to match Ruffle Chokers, as can be seen in Santa Fe Purse (link), as well as Waterfall Ruffle Choker (link), and Waterfall Purse (link). These two series were well along when other ruffle variations began appearing in magazines, using the same descriptive name. It’s fun to think of other beaders tripping over this obvious potential for the Herringbone Stitch. Ruffles are created by increasing very rapidly at intervals within subsequent rows – so rapidly that ripples are formed. After these 2 series, my ruffle next appears in the Anemone series where it is worked into a spiral to form a textured ball. Magenta Anemone (link) is one of several anemone examples shown here. The spiral was then elongated and opened up to emphasize its texture in Coral (link). A large ruffle explodes out of the dark folded pod in Rebirth (link), where it suggests new life force. In Africa (link), and Evening (link), flat beading is incorporated into the ruffle as a way of opening up and expanding its statement. A deep and dense ruffle wraps the neck of the Juggler II (link). In the Caged Pendant (link), a dancing ruffle suggests freedom.

Beaded beads worked over large wooden foundation beads of various shapes and sizes have been explored extensively as seen at Beaded Beads (link). The beading begins at the equator and is carefully decreased to tightly hug its foundation, while never allowing it to show. Designs can be worked anywhere or can take form in the decreases. In Starburst Neckpiece II (link), the second generation of the award winning Starburst Neckpiece I (link), which was exhibited in BeadDreams 2006 and toured Japan, the beaded stars are variations of the beaded beads of the Teardrop Pendants I (link) and II (link), and the daisy and poppy beaded beads I presented in 'The Art of Beaded Beads,' Lark Books, seen here in Beaded Beads (link). Here, the stars are beaded over large 25 mm wooden beads first cut in half. Decreases occur at 5 points to set up the star design. The curving lines of beading that radiate outward from the stars are a main feature of the design. Working these curves in Brick Stitch allows absolute control of each curve through size and spacing of beads.

A whole collection of chain variations have been invented for my wearable art pieces. Some of these variations, such as the triangular chain, have become design elements that build sculptural pendants. Many of these are variations made on the basic square Herringbone chain. By introducing beaded cores, chains of any thickness can be made. The thick chain of Silver Shield (link) is actually a double chain, made by working a second 10 bead chain over the common 4-bead Herringbone chain of its core. The double chain of Oh So Green (link) shows a few variations, including the textural ridged chain. The straight and twisting patterns of the ‘baroque’ chain of Teardrop Pendant I (link) was worked around a center cord. It demonstrates straight and twisting striped pattern variations that can be produced in an 8-bead chain and is a student favorite. The chain in Sunburst Neckpiece (link) twists and expands at the same time. The box chain of Caged (link) is an attractive square chain that can feature different types of bead spacers for a very ornamental effect. This chain can run straight or twist, as seen in the green and gold necklace Butterfly, Flower, Sun (link) with its long drop pendant.

In the Empire Pendant (link), pieces of triangular chain compose the architectural sculpture of the pendant, as well as beads of the chain. The triangular chain was an accidental eureka discovery that has been useful for making beaded beads in long chains such as Blue Chain (link) and Black and White Chain (link), and for toggles in customized loop and toggle closures. 

The tour de force of my chains is the thick arching chain seen in Rebirth (link). The controlled built-in arch is formed by using smaller beads on the inside curve of the chain, through medium to large beads on the outside of the curve. This important innovation avoids the puckering that results from trying to pull a straight piece of beading into a tight curve at the neck or in a sculpture. The beaded horns of the goat in Chagall’s Teapot (link) are curved this same way without the need for wire. They cannot be straightened. Blue Butterfly (link) shows the perfectly rounded tight curves of a choker that can be achieved with this technique. The arched chain of Rebirth is mitred at the bottom corners to make sharp turns to the horizontal where it becomes the bar supporting the pod.

Expanding-in-the-centre is the shaping technique used to form the diamond shapes running down the lariat neckpiece Zig-Zag (link). That technique was altered very slightly to produce the cupped shape of Cobra (link), and the similar petal-like shapes of Lily (link). The Bud Pendant (link) pendant was formed by joining together the two cupped petal shapes seen with it. The full rounded, somewhat diamond shaped pendant was stuffed with large clear plastic beads as the petal shapes were stitched together.  The Bud pendant layers well with the fine silver station chain seen with it, plus the Baroque chain of crystal, silver, and hematite.

The angled flat chains seen in Zig-Zag (link), Cobra (link) and Dragonfly (link) are formed by the mitring of flat beaded chain and eventually directed the method needed to mitre the arched round chain of Rebirth at its base.

From these few examples it can be seen that exploring structures and following their lead has been a fruitful source of ideas. It also shows how moving back and forth between sculptures and wearable art keeps ideas moving forward, because the structures that were first invented for wearable art went on to be invaluable for sculptures.


In my textiles, manipulation of the fabric that composes a work is usually fundamental to the design. The image is the structure itself not a picture applied to the surface of a benign structure as seen in Tiamat’s Wings (link). The journey that took my textiles a step at a time from early pictorial works to my structure-based organic later works is revealing to follow. In retrospect the path seems remarkably clear. Each work was moving inexorably towards a goal, which was unclear at the time, but which was immediately recognised when it was found. By continually following an inner urge and not getting sidetracked by momentary fads, I kept trying to give life to unseen qualities that were asking to be given form. When I finally found them, there was the strangest sense of déjà vu, of finding an old friend.

My work in textiles began with expressionistic hand stitchery reminiscent of what was happening in my painting at the time. Singer (link) and Man Holding the Sun, Woman Reaching for the Moon (link), are a pair of stitcheries from this early period. Appliqué was soon added to bring broad sweeps of colour to the mix, and to add flexibility to the process, as the introduction of the fabric collage allowed testing, trial and error. Apples x 12 (link) and Battle (link) represent this phase. Machine stitchery replaced hand stitchery, still paired with appliqué, chosen for its ability to draw fluid lines of movement which was becoming more and more important. Flight from Byzantium (link), selected to be exhibited at the National Gallery during Expo 67, Broken Free (link), which was purchased from that same exhibition by Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs for its permanent collection, and to travel abroad, and The Crowd (link) which was awarded a 1st prize in its category by the Vancouver Art Gallery are examples from that period. Increasingly there was a desire to manipulate the fabric itself to put my mark on the basic components and make movement more prominent - real as opposed to pictorial. In Faces (link), fabric was deconstructed by meticulously removing sections of wefts before machine stitching was applied, which pulled exposed warps into curves that responded to the stitching. Work was breaking into the surface and there was an organic sense of cause and effect in the relationship between elements. These were significant steps toward my structure based work. In Figures (link), one of two works purchased by the University of British Columbia for the lounge of a grand new student residence, fabric was puckered and gathered, breaking out and away from the surface for the first time. This manipulation of surfaces fuelled further the desire to celebrate organic movement in my work and to look into methods of construction with threads, beyond the 2 dimensional.

An experimental period followed where various off-loom and on-loom methods were explored and combined. The search was on for processes that were fluid, flexible and powerful. Simultaneously I was spinning various fibres, as seen in Spinning (link) and conducting extensive experiments with natural dyes. Cocoons (link), Inuit Dancer (link), Spinnaker (link), Om (link), and Joker’s Wild (link) are examples of off-loom works from this time. Techniques included knotting, shaped finger weaving and plaiting, crochet, and coil construction. When Joker’s Wild was finished I felt I’d found an old friend.

At the same time my on-loom work progressed to large sculptural upright loom pieces that had supplementary warps introduced to build forms out from the foundation tapestry using my off-loom techniques. Tiamat’s Wings (link), Forest (link), Golden Fleece (link), and Untitled (link) in the Graham Gund collection of Cambridge, Massachusetts, are examples of these sculptural tapestries. Alan and I designed and built upright looms for my own work, as seen in Tiamat’s Wings on loom (link), where supplementary warps are proliferating to commence the intense sculpture at the centre. ` shows sculpting with off-loom techniques just beginning, Forest in progress (link) shows coiling, wrapping and knotting working within a white on white tapestry to express the theme. Two Classroom Upright Looms (link) were also built for my classes at Concordia University and The Visual Arts Centre in Montreal. Student work is seen in progress on one of those looms, each of which could accommodate 16 weavers at a time.

A number of upright loom and floor loom pieces were produced using my hand spun yarns. Untitled (link) used natural contrasting shades of thick spun wool. Journey (link) combines dark hand spun alpaca with subtle nature dyed shades of hand spun wool. Tundra (link) also combines hand spun alpaca and wool in natural animal shades, worked into large gently undulating mounds of stuffed double weave. The paths of red and blue warps suggest tracks across the snow-patched earthen hills.

Pattern manipulation was another focus of experimentation during this period. El Dorado (link) expresses through pattern the convoluted journey to self-discovery. The patterns of the central jewel-like golden motif as well as the golden pathway, are worked in pick-up. Stuffed double-weave mounds of hand spun alpaca reminiscent of Tundra, guard the centre. This work is in the private collection of the nephew of Albert Einstein. In Medallion (link), a central diamond area of pattern is guarded by the columns of pile on either side. In Tapestry with Card Weaving in progress (link), 3 bands of black and white card woven patterns climb the center and sides of an all-white tapestry acting as a counterpoint to it. The tapestry is the prominent feature. That was about to change as demonstrated by Celebration (link), a large sculptural tapestry constructed entirely of cardweaving.

Inspired by the potential for card weaving discovered in my early experiments, I suspected rightly that it could provide the fluidity and flexibility I wanted in a textile process and had already found in off-loom techniques, but card-weaving would have all that with speed, complexity, strength as well. I began a quest to explore the structural potential of card weaving.

In my experimentations with card weaving, the commonly used threaded in patterns held no interest for me. However, I came across a book by Mary Atwater where in a brief section she analyzed and showed how to weave some specific patterns of card weaving found still attached to leather cards in a Viking ship discovered remarkably well preserved in a bog in the early 1900’s. That card weaving she showed had all the cards threaded the same, holding two contrasting colours. The patterns explained, showed aligning the cards for a pattern and weaving it throughout the band. Through extensive experimentation I developed a card weaving method called ‘The 2 Colour Manipulated Weave’ that built on what she presented. The process is presented in my book ‘Off-Loom Weaving’ (link) published by Little Brown Publishers in 1975. The book also presents the off-loom methods used in Joker’s Wild and the other off-loom pieces mentioned earlier. Samplers I through IV (link) show some basic patterns and structural manipulations from my card weaving method. Instructions are also given for interweaving bands as they are woven, by having their threads act as warps at one moment, and as wefts at another. It shows that not only is there unlimited pattern motif and image possibilities with this process made by smoothly realigning and rearranging cards as you weave, the structures and forms that can be worked by grouping and separating cards, and interweaving, adding and subtracting on an ongoing basis, is limited only by the imagination. Through an accident, I also figured out how to card weave a choice of smooth or jagged diagonal lines and patterns. In Across the Bay, Evening Transformations (link), these changing diagonal patterns flow across the central horizontal band to suggest rippling water.

All of my card woven pieces included here were produced after my book was completed. They build further on that information and make use of where cards sit within their warps as weaving begins and proceeds to accomplish different goals.

Courants I (link) is shown in progress on the pegged frame loom my husband and I devised for producing large card woven structures. Since cards hold warps, separate them, and create sheds for the warps, the frame loom only needs to provide tension points and support. The frame stands in vertical mode for the smaller piece Courants I, which is testing out the idea for Courants II (link). That much larger work (8’ x 8’), was worked on the same frame, turned to Horizontal Mode (link), being demonstrated outside. These pieces were inspired by standing behind a waterfall and seeing sunlight break the vertical streams of water into colours of the spectrum. The separate bands of Courants II and I were pre woven in shades of the rainbow on long warps sewn together and set into the same frame for lower interweaving meant to suggest pooling. New cards could be added as wefts any time in this section.

Seated Figure front view, side view, back view & displayed (4 links) inspired by quilted and felted Samurai armor, and Moonlight (link), are both pyramid structures that began the same way. When warping up the cards, 2 sets of cards were dropped off, one at each end of their long warps. Weaving began in the centre of the warps where each band produced a stuffed tube. A series of graduated tubes roughly 2” to 8” was produced for each sculpture, then sewn together into a triangle for the back of the pyramidal sculptures. Threaded cards were then interwoven symmetrically down the front and at each side working back to front, to end at the lower centre front. The firm sculptures are self-supporting. One sits on its own pedestal, the other hangs on the wall with its ends worked into a cascade of falling bands and threads.

The Couple (link), and Just Friends (link), began the same way, dropping a pack of cards at each end of warps, then weaving in the centre first. In these 2 works, long flat bands were woven, then folded down at their centre and plaited, sewn together, then interwoven below.

For the card woven bands of the Woven Jacket (link) and the headdress of Memory Mask (link) and Memory Mask detail (link), symmetrical mirror image bands were needed. To achieve this, cards were dropped at the centre of each band’s warp, and with each turn of the cards, weaving began at each end and worked toward the centre. For the Memory Mask bands, tiny beads were threaded onto fine warps and caught into the weaving as described in the beading text.

For Celebration (link) and Celebration detail (link), over 1000 cards were needed to produce the large interwoven piece. New warped cards were introduced throughout the work, grouped and separated at will. Sometimes, hundreds of cards were woven at once to produce large areas. When new cards were introduced their warps acted as wefts for threads of existing cards.


In my teenage years I became fascinated with portraiture, and that fascination persists today. Although portraits make up the majority of my painted works, seascapes and landscapes are often seen in the background. I experimented with abstract expressionism in my early works. Two of these, an abstracted figurative painting and an abstracted still life were purchased for the Vincent Price collection. Occasionally, landscape becomes the main subject of a work, although even then I seldom resist including figures. English Bay, Vancouver (link) shows the city and its people at the edge of nature. Windy Day at Jericho (link) and Preparing to Sail (link) show figures engaging in the day. Landscape (link) is a bold abstract expressionist interpretation of the landscape theme from my early period. Warrior I (link), Mounted Warrior (link) and Genesis (link) are further examples of early abstracted figurative themes. Rooted (link) and Hillside (link) are intimate whimsical somewhat surrealistic works from the Rooted Series that depict in a lighthearted way the serious theme of becoming rooted in place by the self-paralysis of fear of change. The whimsy and intimate scale of these works are a very early foreshadowing of my beading that came to life decades later.

The main goal of my portraits is to express the inner unseen person along with the outer shell presented to the world. Thus they tend to be informal, showing people going about living their lives, or in settings that reveal something of them. Because likeness is a relative non-issue for me, I am freer to focus on the elements that reveal character. Each element in my portraits is generally a clue to character, so that the paintings can be read on different levels. These clues include technique itself – whether bold and raw or refined and delicate, along with the colour combination selected; even the degree of contrast is significant, as I use it to express strength; the pose selected, particularly of the hands, which are extremely important; lighting, setting, wardrobe; where the eyes are looking; slackness versus clenching of the jaw which can suggest innocence versus tension; whether the subject is just there, or observing me observing them; the degree of self-awareness I want to show, and how background is treated, whether it is abstract, an interior, or a landscape.

In my first oil portrait, Granddad (link), done at age 20, I attempted to feature the strong working hands of a small but spirited man with an ever present twinkle in his eyes, signalling the approach of his next humerous tale.  In Garth, profile (link), painted that same year, the pained eyes of a dreamer were portrayed.  From more recent work in the portrait of the 4 year old Yaworsky Twins (link), although they look alike, Katrina is more outgoing and direct, whereas Alessia is more introspective and contemplative. I leave it to the viewer to decide which is which. The arrangement of the hands is as important as their facial expressions in understanding who is who. They picked the wildflowers while I was setting up. I felt that showed strong creative personalities taking control. The near landscape was painted in extreme contrast to help express this. Holding their wild flowers made their hand positions natural, utterly personal and in the moment, perfect. In the portrait Sophie and Her Lion (link), our incredibly imaginative 7 year old granddaughter directed her own fantasy by asking me to paint her with either a lion or a crocodile. Unconsciously but appropriately I feel she has revealed a powerful yet gentle inner being with this request. I tried to combine those qualities in her lion as well as in the painting of Sophie herself. In the small head and shoulders portrait of my brother Tom (link), innocence and humour coexist with a childlike bit of the devil in his eyes. The bold technique expresses his raw nature. In Jumping Off the Wall (link), the crisp clean athleticism of our older granddaughter Samantha is carried through from the articulated form taken in her jump, into the crisp portrayal of the seascape. With her face turned almost away from us, it became even more important to portray her disciplined enthusiastic nature in the other elements of her painting. In Alan (link), a portrait of my husband, his humble character is seen as he steers our unpretentious boat around a point of land where compositionally the rocks and trees lead directly to him. In the distant background lies the University of British Columbia, where as a professor he continues to give so much of himself. The light sweeps right to left across his face to energize the direction in which we move through the water. He looks ahead - as always, anticipating what comes next. In Spiral (link), Nerida Mandel gazes off into space, reflecting on favorite people, places, and elements from her life shown arranged around her. The spiral theme, which suggests a return to the source, repeats round and round the painting from the arrangement of her thoughts, to the necklace at her throat to the hat she made to the pattern of the fabric she wears. The Byrne Family Portrait (link) is one of my more successful group portraits for the simplicity of its colour and composition, as the four brightly coloured figures are spaced across the broad layers of horizontal bands and neutral colours of the sailboat and landscape stacked behind them. The sailboat brings the family together and it is where they have been captured just before life took the boys to the far corners of the world. The colour scheme for the Sir Cecil Green Portrait (link), commissioned by the University of British Columbia is very similar to the Byrne painting. By rendering all the requested secondary figures and background elements in a limited range of neutral colours, the complex composition could be expressed in a serene uncluttered manner that showcases the vibrant spirit of the accomplished principal subject. For the portrait of Penny Siller (link), it was evident from the moment we met that it was the fluid graceful poise of the talented figure skater that I would strive to feature. After her wardrobe was found wanting and I described how I could see her in the painting, she acquired the perfect outfit, and provided the perfect setting – a favorite spot from her childhood that we visited together for the painting. The play of light on her delicate flowing gown and in the lapping waves of the water behind her, along with her natural relaxed pose gave me full opportunity to emphasize the lyrical quality of this delightful subject. This simpatico alignment of input from subject and painter brings out the best the artist has to give.

The portrait of Maude Carlyle (link), the granddaughter of Premier Fox of Newfoundland, was truly enjoyable for the challenge of capturing the complexity of this beautiful woman. It was the interesting way she held her hands that gave the perfect counterpoint to her gracious ladylike nature that said watch out world, this lady is no pushover. To me, the portrait shows how much I enjoyed painting it, which is probably more than the subject herself would say, considering the number of sittings she endured. In order to feature her magnificent hair (repeated in her pearls), her face and hands, the remaining painting was kept simple and worked in deep rich tones.

Each portrait has its own story to tell that goes far beyond applying paint to canvas. The intricate gamesmanship, both conscious and unconscious of picking up on and expressing respectfully yet truthfully the whole person that is given into your hands for this intensely intimate 2-way experience, is the most challenging art experience I know of. It goes without saying that certain drawing and observational skills are essential. But one must balance the criterion presented by the subject while not compromising the integrity of the goals and qualities you strive for in your own work, for yourself alone. In short, you must satisfy a client plus yourself, unlike in any other commissioned work. Generally I focus on expressing the strengths of the individual without flattering or erasing elements that celebrate the life that has been lived.  More portraits are presented with Early Paintings and Recent Paintings.

Caricature provides an opportunity to inject whimsy and light-hearted humour into commentary on an individual. Exaggeration is the most challenging aspect of good caricature. For me this has always worked best when I knew the subject well, or had at least met them, so that I could exaggerate in a meaningful way. John Trepp (link), Beryl Todd (link), Gwen Chu (link), Dennis Tupman (link), Peter Minichiello (Iink), Michael Isaacson (link), Liam Finn (link) astride the world, Fred Dabiri (link) and Frank Bacon (link) are among my more expressive caricatures included here. The Dabiri work contains 23 individual miniature caricatures in addition to the main subject himself. Frank Bacon’s work contains all the highlights and principal actors from his rich life story, and depicts the man himself at all stages of his life. The passage of time is suggested by presenting early vignettes in sepia and introducing full colour gradually to the present.

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