Cob building with Elizabeth May at the Saanich Adult Education Centre.

Recently it has been a very exciting time!

Today I attended day three of a natural building workshop at the Saanich Adult Education Centre. SAEC students and staff are learning how to make a building out of natural materials using the cob method. Cob is a mixture of clay, earth, sand and straw. We built a rock foundation last week and today we were mixing cob for the first time and applying it to the foundations to build actual walls! Our teacher is Elke Cole, one of the leading experts on cob building in our region.

This workshop is exciting by itself but today we had a special guest – Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada! She is running in the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding this federal election and has a good chance of winning! She came to our workshop for an hour in the afternoon, completely prepared to work in the mud with us. We had a great time! She spoke to us for a short time because many people had gathered from the community to hear for themselves who she is and what she stands for. But our focus today was on building cob walls and building community. So we got back to work again and made lots of progress. There was no political mudslinging either! ha ha!

I was so thrilled to meet her, and very excited that I was able to organize this event for the school. In the spirit of the event I used mud to write all over my Volkswagen! I have never felt so strongly about a political candidate before. I only wish I was in Elizabeth May’s riding so I could vote for her. Those of you who do live in Saanich-Gulf Islands have a unique opportunity to make Canadian history and put Elizabeth’s amazing voice into Ottawa. Go Elizabeth Go!

Caroline and Elizabeth May pose in front of Caroline’s VW van.

On the topic of art…

I have been learning a lot about relief printmaking for the last six months or so and I’m loving it! Most recently I finished an edition of two colour, two plate linocut prints. The image is a portrait of Sarah’s cat. Previous to that I made a single plate reduction print of a bumblebee on a crocus, another edition of a fawn lily and one of a Pacific tree frog. Reduction prints are a fun challenge. I really have to think hard about colour and contrast as I plan each step! I will upload some photos of these to my galleries soon.

2011 – 8×10 inches. Two plate linocut print, edition of 8. This is a portrait of our old cat Loke (pronounced Low-kee) sleeping on a handmade quilt. Loke was an affectionate cat named after the Viking god of mischief.
2011 – 4×5 inches. Reduction linocut printmaking, edition of 5. Reduction linocut printmaking uses a single plate for multiple colours. The plate is carved in stages for each colour. Each colour is printed over top of the last one until the final image is created. Because each stage involves further carving down the surface of the plate you can only produce a limited edition of prints.
2011 – 3×4 inches. Reduction linocut, 1 of an edition of 22. The plate is carved for each layer of colour, printed, then carved again. The process of carving each layer destroys the previous layer, meaning you can’t produce any more than one edition.

Recently I attended the Island Illustrators Society 25th anniversary celebration. We launched a new book, Coastal Moments, published by Oolichan Books. It is a writing and drawing journal featuring artwork by 44 members of the Island Illustrators Society combined with chosen quotes from some of BC’s finest poets. One of my paintings, “Midnight Oak”, is featured inside the book.

2008 – 8×10 inches. Acrylic on canvas.

Introducing a new topic that has become prominent in my life…Music!

Since last spring I have been joyfully obsessed with learning to play the mandolin. For many years I tried to learn guitar but found the fretboard was too painful for my hands to reach across. I didn’t realize until last year that there are other similar instruments with much smaller fretboards. Mandolin makes a beautiful ringing sound that I just love. I have an octave mandolin also, but it is hard to play for the same reason guitar is difficult. Mandolin is perfect for me.

In just one year I have made tremendous progress which is so exciting for me because making music, accompanying my singing voice myself, and writing songs – making MUSIC! – has been a big dream of mine since I was a child! Music fills my heart like nothing else does. I have joined several groups that jam together. I go to a pub jam on Sundays at Ma Millers Pub (formerly at the Waterwheel Pub). I go to the Highlands folk music night in the Caleb Pike Cabin. I started going to the Victoria Folk Music Society. Recently I was invited to join a Celtic music jam group. I have also been playing music with my friend Wyatt and anyone else I can get to jam on the spot! I play almost every day and practice until my hands can’t take it anymore. Then I rest, then practice some more! When I’m not playing mandolin I’m listening to recordings of it or watching videos of musicians. When I’m not listening to music I’m thinking about it. When I’m asleep I even dream about mandolins!

I am having a custom mandolin built for me. Wyatt Wilkie is an amazing luthier who lives in the Comox Valley. See his website here:


Wyatt apprenticed with one of the best luthiers in North America, Bob Benedetto. Wyatt has spent many years and much dedicated effort to refine his craft to a masterful level. His guitars and mandolins are played by professional musicians around the world. He designed a gorgeous unique mandolin model called the Northern Flyer. My mandolin will be a Flyer made with a redwood top, a quilted maple back and sides, and a curly maple neck. We are working on a feather design for an inlay on the headstock, as well as some other unique features. It is going to be an amazing instrument with incredible sound. The best thing about it is my instrument will age with me as I become a more seasoned player (and more seasoned person!). The wood will mellow and the sound will get better and better as the years go by. This mandolin will be with me for a lifetime of music. I can hardly wait to have it in my hands and play it for the first time!

Photo credit: Beth Doman

Finally I want to talk about another favourite topic of mine…my garden. It is the second year for this garden, my very first garden I’ve ever made. The front garden is looking gorgeous with many bulbs blooming and lots of hummingbird and bee attracting plants such as red flowering currant, chives, rosemary, cat nip, and of course plenty of wildflowers. I have big plans for the back garden. Veggies galore! The native plant section is doing extremely well. My camas bulbs are producing flowers this year! The red flowering current and roses are all flowering! The herb garden wintered very well and is already heartily producing lots of fresh herbs to help flavour my cooking. Sarah bought some hanging baskets for the carport fence area. They look really pretty. With all the plants coming up again, magnolia and plum blossoms, green green grass and hummingbirds constantly buzzing by our yard is a total paradise. I love it!

That’s all for now. I wish everyone a happy spring!