Ireland Sketchbook: Dublin

I have been away for a couple of weeks–in Ireland. I took my sketchbook and paints determined to sketch as much as I could. Our first three days were in Dublin, a great walking city. There were so many buildings I wanted to sketch but managed only a few. Sketching while travelling is a balancing act. Sometimes I got the ink drawing done on site and added the colour later. Other times I was a able to finish the full drawing. But always these sketches were started outside on location. I was using a Stillman and Birn beta coil sketchbook–both the paper and the book size worked well.

This was our hotel, the Davenport. Apparently it started off as a church and then became a theatre before its present iteration as a good central hotel. We discovered that the hotel was right next to Oscar Wilde’s home and a great statue of him lounging on a rock was in an adjacent park.davenport

fenian st

davenport window

I saw this puzzle building on the drive in from the airport and loved its whimsey. We walked along the Liffey River past the poignant Famine Statues and then found a spot on a bench with a good view of the puzzle building . The trees, just turning colour, were as bright as the building behind. liffey

Further along the river is the O’Connell Bridge adorned with these marvellous lamps. I sat at the base of the Daniel O’Connell statue  across the road and sketched the lamps and then in an outdoor cafe a little further down to sketch the building below. It is amazing how much of the day you remember just by sketching–the sun, the crowds, the conversations all come back when I look at these sketches.o'connell

o'connell building


matangwe show at gallery 121

The show of the hooking created by the women of Matangwe, Kenya, began on Tuesday at Gallery 121 in Belleville, Ontario. The formal opening is not until tomorrow, but as you can see from the pictures below, many of the pieces are already sold. Chair seats, mats and trivets, all hand-hooked in Kenya from recycled materials, make up a portion of the new show. Everyone who visits the gallery seems captivated by the vibrant colours and designs. If you have been following the blog for a while you will know I have been working with this group of women on learning to design and hook for the last three years. It is simply marvellous to see the products displayed so beautifully and in one place. And if you would like to see some of the photos of the steps in the learning process, simply type in Matangwe in the search box above.

I would like to formally thank the members of Gallery 121 who have been so supportive of this project. This is a cooperative gallery powered solely by the talent and hard work of its members. They were wonderful to work with and, in addition, they have waived the regular gallery fee and commission rate so that all the proceeds will go directly to the women in Kenya. We are so fortunate to have such a gallery in our city. The show will be on until October 21, so please visit if you are in the area.

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a new Keller bag

Meet the latest Keller bag made from same green leather as you saw here and here. As you know, I am a very small design/sewing enterprise and most things are single-run (made from recycled leather like this one) or single hide where I can maybe get two or three bags from the same piece of leather. So this is the last of this green leather and a special order. I know it is not at all clear how to order bags on the blog and I plan to work on that when we are home from Ireland.

This bag is 12″ wide, 13″ tall and 4″ deep with an adjustable cross-body strap, an exterior zipper pocket and three pockets inside. It has a double bottom and reinforced seams for strength. It is lined with green/gold wax print cotton from Kenya. This is a hard colour to capture in a photo; the bottom shot taken last night on the deck is closest to the right shade.bgreen keller1

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city streets

This month I’ve been working in a Moleskine A5. This format used to be my favourite, but I am now feeling hemmed in by it. My towers barely fit on the page. These are two street scenes, the first from my car, the second done as I was perched on my stool on the sidewalk. For the Belleville sketch I wanted to be able to see right down the street and my car was a good spot for that. It is relatively private and luckily the view was unobstructed. In Kingston, a busy tourist spot even in September, I thought my spot on the sidewalk next to a bench where I could set my paints and water was good, but I realized too late that I couldn’t see the bottom of the buildings. I did the sketch anyway as well as most of the paint as I sat there, many people stopping to look and comment. I’m getting used to that–and people are invariably encouraging.

It is perspective that I am concentrating on–translating what is in front of me to the page.  Shari Blaukopf made this look so easy in her class demo in Montebello last June and I am inspired by her street scenes. We are going on a trip to Ireland soon and I plan to sketch as many buildings and street scenes as I can. And I have a new coil sketchbook, 7″ x 10″ ready to go.  This size is compact enough to carry easily, but big enough that I should be able to keep the scene from running off the bottom. Fingers crossed. front st 4

kingston firehall

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a new design feature…side pockets

You will remember this bag, the Sage Delta.  It is over two years old and going strong. However, its owner, a veteran traveller. wanted more outside pockets to hold boarding pass and other necessities. She asked if I could modify the bag by adding a long pocket on each side. Luckily I had some leather left, so I said I’d give it a try. Remember this bag is fully lined with interior pockets as well as a front pocket–so a little tricky. I’ve been thinking about it for a bit too long, wondering how I would do it. Well, today I got down to it–and here it is. I think the addition works and may try it on the next bag…

sage delta pocket

sage delta pock


matangwe show starts next week

I have been writing a profile of each of the 13 rug hookers I worked with in Matangwe, Kenya. We are having a show of their work at a local gallery. The show opens September 15, but the formal opening with reception is September 19th, 2-4 pm. I hope you will come to see the work in person if you are in the eastern Ontario area. I think it’s important that the visitors to the gallery can learn about the world of each of the rug hookers, so I am writing a short description of each rug hooker, just as they told it to me.. This is Everlyne, a veteran of the course, (two years) who hooked five pieces in the three weeks. You can see her here with one of her own designs. All the pieces are hooked with t-shirts and wool — chair seats, mats and coasters–and many will be available for sale. You can see more of the pieces here.DSCN1112


a quick sketch of a historic train station

bv train stationI’ve always been charmed by the train station in Belleville with its jaunty roof and dormers and beautiful stone work. We lived in an 1850 stone house for many years just north of the city and I am still so attracted to stone buildings of that period. This one was built in 1856 for Grand Trunk Railway and it is made of Trenton limestone. Yesterday my train was 20 minutes late so I left the brand new and much less charming replacement station and did a 15 minute sketch of my old love — with only time for a couple of windows. The Montreal train came in as I was sketching so I included it. I finished the sketch up on the jerky journey with some paint added later. My trip to Toronto passes another original station in Cobourg but I’ve always thought that Belleville’s was the best design. I’ve been reading up on these stations today and learned that the Cobourg station along with others in Georgetwon and Napanee are “Type C” while Belleville’s is “Type B” meaning it is larger and has more curved arches. I’ve promised myself that I’ll go back and do a much fuller sketch of the Belleville station, and maybe Cobourg too. Belleville’s is empty now and I do worry about its future. We seem to knock down so many beauties and never learn from our mistakes.


I am a retired educator and recovered administrator. I have always been interested in fibre, first as a weaver, now as a rug hooker and screen printer. Over the last few years I have become passionate about giving a new life to cast-off wool and leather. This is my journal where I muse about my creative life.

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