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Spit'n Image

Sheila Woerdemann creates knitwear from the fleece of Andean alpacas

by Kumari Campbell

Sheila Woerdemann (right) with her daughters and pet alpacas at her Dover Road farm.

What does Prince Edward Island have in common with the Andes Mountains of South America? Beats me. But the question did come to mind at the sight of a pair of amiable alpacas ruminating in the fields at Spit’n Image, just outside Murray River.

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Preserving Memories

Cindy Cousineau creates page for Great Canadian Scrapbook Challenge

by Kumari Campbell

Cindy Cousineau

Earlier this year Cindy Cousineau of Greenvale, PEI, heard about the Great Canadian Scrapbook Challenge sponsored by the 3M Company (the Scotchtape company). The project called for a Canada Scrapbook that would contain a page from each province and territory. Winners would receive a cash prize as well as a selection of 3M scrapbook supplies. “I can do this!” Cindy said to herself, and immediately set about selecting the most representative and beautiful images of her adoptive province that enthralls her. Cindy’s PEI page was selected for the book, which was presented to the federal heritage minister on Canada Day. The citation she received, along with a duplicate page she made for herself hang proudly framed in Cindy’s living room.

“How did I get into Scrapbooking?” muses Cindy, as she tilts her head and repeats the question I’ve just asked her. She’s lost in thought for a moment. Then, returning to the present, she reminisces, “My family would go picnicking every Sunday when I was growing up in Ottawa. We had such wonderful times,” she beams, “but we never took any photos…” her voice trails off. “And memories don’t last forever. As you grow older, and father away from the memories, they become less sharp and harder to hold on to.”

It was this realization that got Cindy interested in scrapbooking eleven years ago. She was determined that this would not happen to her kids’ memories, or to her own adult ones. Hence, family scrapbooks are filled with photos and mementos of her children’s early years, family trips, favourite pets, the kids’ special achievements, birthdays, and graduations. She also has a special Island Scrapbook devoted entirely to the natural treasures and man-made attractions of PEI, for the use of her Bed & Breakfast guests.

Cindy’s choice of scrapbooks over simple photo albums was based on several factors. Foremost is the fact that scrapbooks, by their very design, invite you to include written descriptions and captions alongside photographs, thus significantly enhancing their memory cache. Small souvenirs and mementos can add further enhancement. By using only the significant parts of photographs, and cutting them into various shapes and sizes, unwanted background clutter is eliminated, while providing space on the page for more photos, and improving the aesthetic value of the page. Themed borders, trim, and stickers create pages that are visually far superior to those in the traditional family album.

Even more importantly, Cindy explains, “Most people don’t realize that the glue and tape we usually use in albums, and even the very paper or card that photos are glued to contain acids and lignins that deteriorate with age, and discolour the precious photographs.” Whereas, most of the products manufactured by scrapbook suppliers are acid- and lignin-free. The best products are even guaranteed not to discolour photographs.

But her interest does not end with cataloguing her own memories. Cindy believes fervently that everyone should preserve their memories, both for their own later enjoyment, as well as for the benefit of successive generations. So, last year she began offering scrapbooking classes and workshops, both at her home and at other venues, based on demand. She also offers community school classes at Bluefield and Gulfshore schools, and will be opening a scrapbook supply store in 2005.

Cindy’s next goal is to promote her beloved craft among senior citizens, and in particular early-stage Alzheimer patients. “Memory Books would be such valuable tools for these folks, to prolong their memories and bring joy to their senior years”, she says thoughtfully.

Perserving Memories 2

Sheila Woerdemann creates knitwear from the fleece of Andean alpacas

by Kumari Campbell

Sheila Woerdemann (right) with her daughters and pet alpacas at her Dover Road farm, home of her Spit’n Image knitwear business: (from left) Maple, Kirsten, Carmen and Anja.

What does Prince Edward Island have in common with the Andes Mountains of South America? Beats me. But the question did come to mind at the sight of a pair of amiable alpacas ruminating in the fields at Spit’n Image, just outside Murray River.

Spit’n Image is owned and operated by Sheila Woerdemann, whose specialty is creating knitwear from alpaca yarn. Alpacas are South American cousins of the camel, sans the humps, and are very similar to llamas. They also sport much shorter necks and legs (than camels), and have an abundance of soft but shaggy fleece. And they do spit. Woerdemann explains that, “Alpacas are native to the Andes, and live at an altitude of around 18,000 ft. The cold temperatures of their environment cause them to grow an extremely warm but lightweight fleece.” She adds that, “These animals have been raised in North America for the past twenty years and are now acclimatized to our environment. The two I own were born right here on PEI.”

“They are just here for show,” says their owner, “so my customers can see what the fleece looks like in its natural state.” Woerdemann imports all her yarn from the Andes. She stresses the fact that the animals the yarn comes from are allowed to roam free (with no fences) on land that is certified organic. They are sheared annually by the natives of the region, who are then able to sell the fleece for a fair price.

It was this organic aspect of the yarn that first attracted Woerdemann to alpaca fleece. But she also points out that alpaca fleece is much finer and softer (it has an almost silky feel) than sheep’s wool, and yet it produces a stronger yarn, which of course gives more durability to the knitwear. Another advantage is that alpaca fleece has no lanolin, which enables people with allergies to that substance to be able to tolerate alpaca knitwear.

Woerdemann has lived on the Island for four years, and has been producing her line of knitwear for almost as long. All the yarns she uses are the natural colours of the alpacas—creams and browns, with some black—with no interference from dyes or chemicals. Hence the double entendre of the name Spit’n Image.

Partly because of the limited range of natural colours, and partly because of the high cost of importing this uncommon yarn, Woerdemann ensures that her garments (sweaters, cardigans, shawls, hats, and scarves) are designed with classic lines. Unlike trendy items that may go out-of-style by the next season, she wants her knitwear to afford their owners durability and -serviceability for many years to come. Spit’n Image knitwear is available at Woerdemann’s shop on her farm. She exhibited for her first time at the PEI Craft Council’s Christmas Craft Show at the Confederation Centre in November.

Lemon Glass

Mallory Lemon follows in the family footsteps with original designs

by Kumari CampbellMallory Lemon

Mallory Lemon is a Charlottetown teen who has never experienced the common teenage affliction of boredom. You could say she is fortunate to have a hobby that has turned into a part-time job, which in turn has opened a door to a vast new world for Mallory.

The daughter of stained glass artist Debra Lemon, Mallory began experimenting with the art form as a little girl. She was allowed to make simple designs, piece together the requisite glass, and apply foil edging to it. But the potentially dangerous tasks of cutting glass and applying solder were Mom’s territory. Then four years ago she became more seriously interested in the craft and decided she would apprentice with her mother. For the past two years Mallory has been working at her mother’s shop, Lemon Peel, in the University Plaza, whenever she’s not at school.

Surrounded by a variety of beautifully-crafted stained glass pieces in the shop, Mallory’s smile radiates joie de vivre. “I feel so lucky,” she says, “My friends all tell me how lucky I am that I can come to work here every day after school and make all these wonderful pieces, when they have to go to boring jobs.” Apparently these sentiments aren’t hers alone. Says Debra, “I am so grateful and feel so fortunate to have Mallory working with me. It is great working here with her, and so much fun to do projects together.” She explains that their first major collaboration was a window for the luxury house in Stratford that was the prize in a recent lottery. Then she helplessly slips into her ‘Proud Mom’ voice, and announces with obvious excitement, “Mallory recently had some thrilling news. She was juried by the PEI Crafts Council and just found out that she has been accepted to attend the Christmas Craft Show.”

That’s when you realize that luck has little to do with Mallory’s success. In fact, it is all about diligence, perseverance, commitment, talent and endless hard work. While Mallory smiles bashfully, Debra recalls that, “She almost turned herself inside out during the summer, working on her jury pieces, trying to make them as perfect as she could.” All of Mallory’s stained glass pieces are executed from her own original designs. Many of them are quite intricate, requiring deft workmanship and precision when soldering the pieces together.

Mallory beams when she recalls the summer day in 2003 when actor Beau Bridges (on PEI to film The Ballad of Jack and Rose) “…just walked into the store and bought this piece that I had just finished and put out on display.” Perhaps some day Beau Bridges will be showing off the piece on his wall that was a fortuitous early find of celebrated stained glass artist Mallory Lemon.

Autumn Colours

Opening program of the Symphony season offers a variety of works

by Kumari CampbellPEI Symphony Orchestra conductor James Mark

It is always with heavy hearts that Prince Edward Islanders bid “Adieu” to their all-too-short summers. Yet, the long fall and winter months are not without their own particular joys—one being the performance season of the Prince Edward Island Symphony Orchestra. Few occasions in winter are more delightful and invigorating than the signature Sunday afternoon performances of the PEISO. And the upcoming season promises to be no different than its predecessors.

I recently spoke with PEISO conductor, James Mark, who outlined his plans for the 2004­/2005 season. As is the case each year, he and the Symphony’s programming committee try to design a program that includes a wide variety of music, genres and styles, in an effort to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. This season’s opening concert is entitled “Fall Fanfares” because it begins with three fanfare pieces from St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice. On a recent visit to Italy, Mark was able to visit the cathedral and envision how the composition by Giovanni Gabrieli for antiphonal brass instruments should sound.

The fanfares will be followed by a suite from Holberg’s Time for Strings by Edvard Grieg. Also on the program will be a composition by the award-winning young Canadian composer, Kelly-Marie Murphy. Mark explains that, “Not all of our music is by classic composers. We try very hard to include contemporary music as well, and most of [that] is Canadian.”

The featured music of the concert will be a composition by Anton Dvorak, in honour of the centennial of his death this year. Says Mark, “Dvorak’s Symphony No.5 in F, opus 76 is not heard often but is a very pleasant piece of music. I’m sure our audience will not be disappointed.”

James Mark, who has been conducting the PEISO since 2000, lives in Sackville, New Brunswick, where he teaches music at Mount Allison University. Prior to assuming the position of conductor, Mark played principal clarinet with the PEISO, and also the Charlottetown Festival Orchestra. As only fifty percent of the PEISO consists of Islanders, and the remaining members travel from the other Maritime provinces, rehearsals for the four annual concerts only take place on the weekends of the concerts. “These are very intense rehearsals,” says Mark, “and I get the music out to the members a month in advance, so that they can get familiar with it prior to the concert weekend.” He adds, “The symphony really enjoys coming together and playing concerts.”

Hopefully they will continue to do so—if only for the sake of Islanders who enjoy attending their concerts on those cool Sunday afternoons in the fall, winter and spring.

When the Sky Slips…

Libby Oughton presents an exhibition of her woven rugs at the Arts Guild

by Kumari Campbell

Libby Oughton at home with some of her woven rugs

When I drove into her yard I could see Libby sitting at a picnic table beneath an old apple tree. She seemed to be ripping up something. I was there to interview Libby Oughton about her upcoming one-woman exhibition at the Arts Guild, and was expecting to see an array of paintings. But when I stepped out of my car, spread out before me on Libby’s back deck, was a riot of colour represented by eighteen woven rag rugs. And under her apple tree, Libby was indeed ripping up a pair of denim jeans—the makings of another of her signature rugs that lends its name to her exhibition.

When the sky slips into the sea slips into the sky is the title of the exhibition, and also Libby’s unique signature pattern that weaves together various shades of blue denim to mimic the patterns of sea and sky. But only one of her signature rugs is among the eighteen. In it, a sky of light blue descends to an ocean of darker blues.

The other rugs are as varied in hue as they are in subject. Yet, they speak with one voice of Libby’s enduring love affair with Prince Edward Island. “Red Island Road at Dusk,” “Hooray! the potatoes are up,” “Last Snow on Potato Field,” “Swimming in a sea of Lupins” and “Sunrise” are unmistakable evidence that “The Island’s unique and astounding colours, the clay reds and the florescent green of spring, the ever-changing sea, the full moon sparkling on the sea started working their way onto my canvas—my loom.”

Libby also admits to have “always had a deep interest in traditional art/craft forms, learning them and engaging in seeing how far I can stretch and expand their edges beyond the tradition.” This is clearly the case, as she uses her loom as a canvas, painting it with strips of various materials manipulated to achieve her design goals. In “Hooray! the potatoes are up,” she actually forms rust-red ridges to denote the potato drills, and then “plants” bits of green fabric in the drills. “First Snowstorm” has tufts of white wool woven into it, while “Last Snowstorm” has subtle browns swirled among the white, making it instantly recognizable to anyone who has experienced snow in April. In “Lighthouse in Fog” she has ingeniously created a 3-D “fog” around the lighthouse with wisps of white wool. Her most challenging rug so far has been “Common cow” paying homage to local literary hero, in honour of her late friend Marc Gallant, using his design for the Cows tee-shirt by the same name.

The artist explains that her fascination with fabric began when, “As a child I watched my grandma and her quilting circle busy stitching together traditional quilts, [and] I played with a basket of scrap material, cutting strange shapes to fit together.” As a teen she designed and stitched her own clothes, then went on to design leather clothes and sandals. Over the years Libby has explored many, mediums for her creative expression, including clay sculpting, wood carving and furniture building, driftwood sculpting, woodblock printing, and turnip printing. Libby’s art in all its glorious manifestations has been the subject of several exhibitions, from PEI to Nova Scotia to Greece, over the past dozen years.

To those familiar with this gifted artist, Libby’s latest exhibition is but another manifestation of her varied talents. To others who only associate her with the literary arts, as a poet and the owner/publisher of the former Ragweed Press, this is a revelation of the many facets of Libby.

Village Theatre

The Washing Machine

Review by Kumari Campbell

Garden variety village theatre is alive and well in St. Peters Bay this summer. The original village courthouse, built in 1874 and in use for local court proceedings until the late 1960s, has been beautifully restored as a community theatre and museum. In its second year of operation, the theatre is concentrating on promoting local entertainment. To that end, the 2004 season is showcasing a wide assortment of acts, both musical and theatrical, produced by local residents.

One such production is The Washing Machine, a short, two-act play written by Mike Pendergast, more familiar to Island audiences as an accordion player. But Pendergast has several play-writing credits, one of which, The Fiddle Case was written for the opening season of the St. Peters Court House Theatre last year.

Using typically rural themes such as moonshine, gossipy neighbours, and party-line phones, The Washing Machine presents a droll, if predictable, sequence of events triggered by repeated misunderstandings among the play’s four characters. In the end, all is cleared up, everyone gets what they want and lives happily ever after.

A group of young community actors, appropriately named the Court Jesters, present the play once a week, over a six-week period in July and August. Reminiscent of the country school play of an era long past, complete with the sluggish curtain that doesn’t always quite meet in the centre, the play is a big hit with local audiences. Professional or world-class theatre this is not. Neither does it pretend to be. More importantly, it provides an evening of affordable entertainment for local residents and vacationers, in their own community. The themes that The Washing Machine deals with are familiar motifs of rural life that every man and woman in the audience can all too easily identify with. Their comfort level with the material is abundantly clear as they howl with laughter at the antics on stage, and chuckle uncontrollably in anticipation of the next scene.

To this critical viewer, the funniest line of the evening was delivered by the slow-talking (and thinking) village “handy”-man (a.k.a. village fool, the play would have us believe), when he poked his head through the curtain midway through the performance, to announce, “What’re y’all sitting here waiting fer? Didn’t y’know it’s intermission?” Never mind. If you’re in the mood for a few belly laughs, and would like to get a taste of an old time country play, go down to the St. Peters Courthouse Theatre. Don’t be too critical. And, remember, you will be helping support a very valuable community initiative in eastern Kings County.

Life of an Angel

Wingin’ It!

by Kumari Campbell

Review This summer, Pamela Campbell is reprising her role as Abigail the apprentice angel, that she created back in 1995. Wingin’ It! was written by Campbell and her collaborator, Nancy Beck, almost a decade ago, as a quasi-comical look at the phenomenon of guardian angels. The script and lyrics were written by Beck, while Campbell provided the music. Since then, the show has enjoyed a measure of success unknown to most made-on-the-Island community theatre productions. The play’s 200-plus performances have included venues across Canada and the United States, notably off-Broadway in New York City where it ran for several weeks.

By writing a play about an angel-in-the-making, Campbell and Beck have created the opportunity to infuse their trademark humour into a subject that is looked upon more seriously by segments of society with religious sensibilities. Thus, Abigail’s foibles as she goes through her period of apprenticeship, and her lighthearted musings (such as not wanting to be an angel-of-death because she doesn’t look good in black) are not perceived as disrespectful, but rather, innocuous preoccupations of youth. Campbell’s exaggerated facial expressions, coupled with her youthful appearance, imbue her character with a puckish personality that endears her to the audience and puts a smile on its face.

As the one-woman story opens, Abigail is found conversing with and confiding in her imaginary mortal (the one she hopes to be assigned to once she attains full-fledged angelhood), whom she has taken the liberty to name Chris ­ due to the name’s cross-gender usability. As the play unfolds, she is put through her paces by the Angel Advisory Council, who is evaluating her performance during a mid-term consultation. The evaluation will determine whether or not Abigail receives her wings.

Recounting her many assignments, the novice angel relives a number of situations ranging from the humorous to the dramatic. While these situations are rather mundane, and not terribly exciting, they do underscore status quo values and standards of behaviour. The musical numbers, on the other hand, are crisp and fresh, and help lift the play from its clay-sodden boots to a more ethereal plane. Despite some trite lyrics, the songs do a remarkable job of furthering the plot, while providing Pamela Campbell with a fitting vehicle for her multi-layered, angelic voice. The music offers a nice variety from a sweet lullaby to some resonant jazzy numbers; one highlight being a catchy little tune about the four archangels. A beautiful arrangement in the second act juxtaposes Campbell’s on-stage voice with a recording of her singing the same song, sometimes with a few different lyrics, in and out of sync, to great effect. Campbell brings the performance full circle, ending by reprising her opening song “I wanna be a guardian angel” (with appropriately modified lyrics, to denote her new status), and the title song “Wingin’ It!”. As usual, Pamela Campbell carries the evening.

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