Featured Artist: Jennifer Trefiak

Hi, I’m Jennifer! I’m both a musician and an artist and I’m going to tell you some of my story.

I have always been drawing, painting, and creating. I first painted with real paint when I took art class in high school and I loved the feel of the paint on the surface and the meditative process. I was hooked, but I was not an outstanding artist. I was a band geek and so I concentrated on becoming a musician. Fast forward to me moving home to Alderville after realizing my music program in college wasn’t the right fit for me (and my mother was very sick). While continuing to perform music and work various jobs, I decided to buy some paint. These paintings were made just for me and my family. They were a way to be creative without the pressure and stress of performance. I haven’t stopped painting since.

Today, I paint landscapes of water, sky and land in an intuitive way. When I am in a place that is right, the land tells me. It’s something that I know deep inside and there is a spiritual quality to my process. When I return home with a camera full of photographs (to remember the feeling of that place) I begin a new series. As I paint, deeper themes come through to me. I listen to those art muse voices and allow them to be heard. That is why I call my paintings ‘intuitive landscapes’.

My themes have included topics such as water protection, the sacred femine, the meaning of place to First Nations people, Me Too and MMIWG. These themes occur indirectly within the landscape by either colour, mood, symbolism or title.

My current series in progress is about Community – what it means, who our community is, how we contribute, what we get back in return, and how we will reshape our community after the pandemic. To represent the Self and Community I am using trees in each landscape. Trees are known to communicate with one another through their roots and using pheromones so I felt they were the perfect natural symbol to use in this series.

Presently, I am honoured to be one of the artists featured in the Art Gallery of Northumberland’s upcoming Spotlight Series 3, which will come out this summer. Because of pandemic restrictions, the normally live event will be presented in a video format and will be screened in locations across Northumberland with safe measures in place. For more information on Spotlight Series 3, you may visit the AGN’s website: Spotlight Series 3.

I’d like to take a minute to thank Jenni for featuring me on her blog. She has been a wonderful friend and lifeline to me during the pandemic and our art chats and laughter are cherished moments. She is a brave, wise and solid tree in my community.

To learn more about me and my artwork, you may visit my website, www.jennifertrefiak.com, follow me on Facebook (@JenniferTrefiakArt) or Instagram (@jennifertrefiakart).

Featured Artist: Lindsey Woodward

Written by Lindsey Woodward

Hi! I’m Lindsey. While writing poetry is my default when it comes to creative expression, it sometimes manifests through other forms. It happens organically, on impulse, which often shifts to (healthy) compulsion and hyperfixation and is often linked to the status of my mercurial mood. My most recent means of creative exploration is through the craft of hand embroidery. 

I found embroidery mid November 2019 during an episode of hypomania which is a recurrent symptom of bipolar disorder, a diagnosis I’ve been navigating for 20 years now. A major component of my experiences with hypomania is a sense of vibrating with a surplus of frenzied energy and a subsequent inability to remain still. Imagine a hive of angry wasps in your skull who spill out to reverberate through every cell in your body if you don’t keep moving. That’s not even close to explaining it, but I’ve been writer’s blocked for months now and that’s the best I can do to assign words to an experience beyond language. 

Anyway!  I’d always meant to pick up embroidery since my late Grams gifted me her needles & threads a decade prior (and I desperately needed a way to busy my hands ‘cause they are at times prone to becoming a proverbial devil’s playground if left unoccupied). 

My 3rd project was an xmas gift for Grams & she passed suddenly less than a week after I hung it on her wall. So I continued stitching, partly as a way to honour her memory because she was the absolute shit.

So since then, whenever words evade me (which is often), I channel the bulk of my creative energy into this art form. Mind you, it started as more of a hobby than art, but somewhere along the way there was a shift and it became something more for me, it’s been a neat process.

Over the past few months, my leftist politics have seamlessly merged with the craft and this is where I’m currently at with it, although I expect that too to shift at a moment’s notice and I’m totally down for that. 

For me, embroidery is both meditative and grounding (save for those moments I’m overcome with frustration and hack the piece to shreds, but that in itself is cathartic and sometimes you just need to destroy something so you can start over). 

Creative expression has always been integral to my personal healing and is one of my greatest assets when it comes to caring for my mental health. I definitely lose touch with it at times, especially when I’m going through a depressive episode, but I constantly return to it. It’s always there, even if it feels like I’m punching through a brick wall to reach it. I’m super grateful for the ability to channel much of my energy and emotions in constructive ways, as long as I’m willing to allow them to take different forms and not confine myself by labeling myself a writer or an embroidery artist or what have you. I just make things.

I’ve included images of a few of my favourite embroidery pieces as well as a pic of Grams and her kitty Bella whom I inherited and has since been caring for me.

I’d like to thank Jenni for the kind opportunity to be featured on her blog!

You can follow me on Instagram if you’d like: @thethreadmenace 

For writerly stuff email me at lindseynwoodward@gmail.com

As for writing…I’ve been poetically bankrupt for a while now, but below is a poem that was published earlier this year in The Fiddlehead. Its ostensible themes are poverty and addiction and it necessitates a content warning: eviction, poverty, addiction, overdose, death.

Eviction Notice

the notice taped to the door beaten bloody with the guts of flies& angry  wasps confused by their  

stunted flight paths/ they pound to get inside as reminders as omens as  remainders of the many passed  

days& youve still found nothing/your pockets&wallets&bank accounts  barren as menopausal  

wombs&the cheque in the mail cant afford the fear youve been  delivered the uncertainty and who can  

deliver you from this poverty you never asked for you tried you tried 4  different jobs in 3 months& you  

couldnt slog through 8 hours without crying in the back or dipping out  for cigarettes on unpaid  

breaks& you smoke instead of eat unless you sneak abandoned  sandwiches left melting on the heater or  

you dive dumpsters after work when the stores have forgotten to lock  them to keep out your hungry  

hands when the stores have tossed out tomatoes unfit to sell yet barely  bruised you sift through without  

gloves so putrid after broiling in late july’s boil but you dont notice  until later when you fall onto  

your mattress fully clothed& the smell reminds you of your  grandmother baking cabbage rolls& 

ghoulash before she died alone in her armchair//you skipped out on the  funeral you were afraid youd  

yell at your family for grieving when their grief was undeserved/ unwarranted because where the fuck  

were they when she forgot who she was? She helped you get by bought  your meds to keep you alive  

you have no insurance nobody else would have//she left& you had to  forget so you could walk 3 km to  

the job you hate in the pouring rain at 5 am in the pissing rain sopping  in your only uniform when you  

got there because the wind flipped your umbrella inside out&you  needed a loaf of bread to  

eat slopped with peanut butter scrapings salvaged with a  tablespoon&you dont have time to search for a  

new home not a home but a place you can stay thats safer than than the  streets cause youve kept the  

needles away for 8 months but youre weaker now& thinner shakier// the classifieds: $1450+ monthly for  

a 1 bedroom. You make $1307.54 after tax on a great month/save the  paper use it for asswipe/go to  

library where internet is free&scour kijiji&facebook&random google  searches etc etc scour bluelit 

screen like the counters at work where you spray disinfectant but the  rag is days old&they wont give  

you a new one/theres nothing you can afford you have less than a  month to find somewhere/you read  

somewhere that the previously incarcerated are 10 times more likely to  be homeless&living rough makes the needles choiceless no contest(it  didnt say that last part wasnt part of the study)the only way to forget the  only way to feel alright feel nothing&sleep more soundly than you ever  have&you dont tell anyone but you wouldnt mind if you cooked up a  grain too much&banged too hard&your breathing stopped in a Narcan less alley but you dont say nothing because everyone feels thesame 

you dont say nothing cause everyone feels the same.

Featured Artist: Elayne Linn

Written by Elayne

So, let me introduce myself.  I am Elayne Linn, the Hopeful Caterpillar.  While I hope to remain hopeful every day, life is sometimes darn depressing, anxiety-ridden and tumultuous.  There are ups and downs and challenges that can stomp on the caterpillar, on us as humans.  Part of my life journey has been working in crisis, sharing my lived experience with people with mental health issues, addictions, housing and many other human issues. Helping people find hope and discover their own path on their journey through wellness has been a passion and mutual gift for myself for many years. It’s my life’s purpose, my reason for being.  My desire is to continue supporting people with their wellness, inspiring hope through my Instagram page @hopeful_capterpillar and through my Facebook page and connecting with people in “real life”, providing wellness guidance.  It’s been a hard, long, tedious, stressful, rollercoaster of a year for so many of us (all of us) in different ways.  For the first time in my existence and in the history of our recent modern world, the whole of the planet, every human, can relate in some way to life in a pandemic and there is some beauty in that.  Connection, care, kindness…hope can be found if we take a moment to step back and see ourselves in the family of things, as poet Mary Oliver would say. 

Speaking of the family of things, I find connection in Nature, being in the woods and near the water in my little corner of the world in Northumberland County, Ontario.  One of my favourite places on earth is Monk’s Cove on Lake Ontario, and I enjoy spending time at a little spot that I call “Woods and Water” which I discovered in the winter of 2020, just before the pandemic hit.  Walking slowly through Nature brings me peace, solitude, grounding and mindfulness, taking photographs of fungi and lichens, and little things that we rarely take the time to see.  Icicles from a fallen log at the beach, driftwood, sunsets, the golden hour, Canada geese taking flight…capturing these sights bring me joy and put me into the moment.  Recently I decided to have a few of my images printed on greeting cards and they are available for sale through the Northumberland Arts Gallery and Shop, as well as through me directly. You can also enjoy my images on my social media pages.    

Creativity also brings me joy, peace of mind and focus.  The making of something out of nothing is blissful and exhilarating, even if it doesn’t work (admittedly a bit stressful until we move out of our own way).  Even if it’s not pretty.  Even if it’s just mud and getting our hands dirty.  Learning to accept ourselves, where we are and the process…there is value in the process. In 2019, after wanting to try pottery for years, I finally quieted my inner critic and took a class at Kawartha Potters Guild in Peterborough.  And then another.  And, in the middle of that class, the pandemic hit half-way through the session.  I was able to complete the classes in the Fall of 2020, and something clicked in me.  I felt inspired and capable, as I started hand-building pottery at home.    My friend and artist Jenni Burke suggested I apply to the Northumberland Arts Gallery and Shop to have a few of my pieces showcased along with other artists in March 2021.  I took a chance, and passionately spoke to the value of creating and being a beginner.  Excitement, anxiety and imposter syndrome set in as they welcomed me and showcased my work as a beginner and have encouraged me to continue.  And continue I’m trying…the pandemic is making it very challenging, as I work out of the Guild for glazing and firing, and they have been shut due to public health precautions since the end of December, all but one week.  I hope to get there soon and dip and fire more pieces…this is an exercise in patience!  Being a part of the Gallery show has been the highlight of a very difficult and trying year, and I am so glad I took a chance! If you are interested in viewing my pottery, pieces are listed on my Hopeful Caterpillar Facebook page.  Send me a message if you would like to bring a piece home with you!            

Featured Artist: Brandon W. Hahn

Brandon is a writer, and an advocate for mental health. These two worlds collide in his more current work, writing articles for our local newspaper (NorthumberlandNews.com). He has a wonderful way of bringing heart and humour into our every day lives, and addressing very serious topics with his very real life experience.

Schizophrenia, suicide, and recovery are topics he will discuss in this feature; as well as his large realm of creative endeavors!

These are a few of my favourite poems, written by him:

In His Words:

Being a burnt-out writer is probably the best thing that has ever happened to me. It constantly lets me know that I haven’t done enough and that my life isn’t finished yet.

I’ve considered myself a poet for nineteen years (I will be celebrating next year)! I still consider myself a novice as any type of writer. I’ve had four chapbooks of poetry self published. The first two are out of print. I have a few copies of the last two left. They are, “The Love Marble” and “Bleeding Heart Fist Fight”.

In my writing life, I have done a few things I’m proud of but am still hoping to truly break in. I would like the big time but I still don’t know what that means. I’ve tried my hand at screenwriting and know it to be the most labour-intensive work I have ever endured. I have also written an 80-page novella called “A Poet’s Attempt” that I submitted to the 3 Day Novel contest a few years ago. I would love that piece to end up on some kind of screen someday.

I find the solution to anything that is blocking me, is to read more and perform free associative journaling. This leads to a breaker switch in my brain that accesses the stockpiles of poetic synergy. It’s kinda like flatulence.  Positive Brain Farts?

One note to keep you abreast is that I was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1993, so it is a condition I am quite familiar with now.  “My Story” was featured twice in SZ Magazine in 2003, it’s a small circular that has now ceased publication. I have also had a poem featured at the International Artist’s with Disabilities Day at Variety Village called “One Way”. In my speech at the event, I did state that I have an invisible disability and I thanked everyone involved for making my writing something visible.

My first forays into getting noticed were being selected as an Opinion Shaper for a contest with the local paper as well as finding work with a circular called Northumberland Life Magazine as their official Humour Columnist.

In 2004, I created a mental health movement called Finding Your Marbles. I performed paid mental health talks, speeches and forums around Toronto, and western-eastern Ontario. I was working with Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Schizophrenia Society of Ontario.

In early 2005, I had a meltdown that led to a suicide attempt and had to shut down Finding Your Marbles to regroup my life in its entirety. Years later, and many experiences later, I felt I was ready to tackle the mental health landscape again and just recently started Red Tape Lab. This company will be involved in advocating for the voiceless and aiding in navigating the system for people that either can’t or don’t have the time for things like paperwork and the day-to-day grind. Basically, consultant work.

Finding Your Marbles is still in existence but is now under the brand FYM2004. I have T-shirts, stickers and patches made up for those that want to support the mental health industry in a small way. I will also be branding RedTapeLab2020 when the company completely gets off the ground.

Back to writing. In 2014, I made the front page of the local paper for a “Breaking the Stigma” article. With my Mum by my side, we smiled our way into a small job writing a mental health column for the www.northumberlandnews.com as well as the hard copy. Since then, I have appeared every year on the local radio station 89.7FM for Let’s Talk Day and have also anchored myself on the board of directors for a local counselling centre. My column has since garnished me nearly 150 separate articles and can be found on the website if you search Brandon Hahn/articles.

In the not-so-distant future I will be doing a lot more speaking, advocacy and writing and have found that the condition of schizophrenia is both a hard lesson and a super power. It is also not all that I am and I have truly grown to separate myself from my diagnosis.

After finding the last love of my life and working quite hard to stay “normal” I will constantly continue to help, to aid, write and to learn more about the human experience because, “there is no finish line.”

Brandon is currently living in Cobourg, Ontario. If you are interested in his books, merch, or services please email him at brandonwehahn@gmail.com.

NEW! Artist Notes

At the beginning of March I opened up registration for a new business e-letter “Artist Notes.” Over the last few years, I have been mashing up my two business passions (yoga and art) into one monthly newsletter, and as both businesses change and grow, the monthly updates have started to get messy.

I have decided that I will continue to send out 12 newsletters a year; but now they will alternate between yoga one month, and art one month (so six of each). I sent out my first “Artist Note” in March, so if you would like to receive the next one in May please register here: Jennifer Anne Burke, Canadian Landscape Painter.

By signing up for my monthly artist newsletter, you will receive regular updates on my work, projects, new paintings, and upcoming events and shows. I do hope you will join me on this artistic journey, with a monthly art-note delivered right to your inbox!

If you want more regular updates on my artistic journey you can follow me on Facebook (Jennifer Anne Burke), or Instagram as @Burke_Untitled or @2021_The_Creative_Year. Unsure what to follow? Check out my previous blog “Why So Much Social Media?!”

Thank you, so very much, for your interest in my work.

Always in Gratitude,

Jennifer Anne Burke.