* * * Canadian Craft Federation / Citizens of Craft.ca Podcast Series! : ) I'm in Episode #4... but you should listen to them all. : ) LISTEN

Sunday, 28 May 2023

Fieldwork 3 & 4, How Things Change!

How quickly the land changes! I took more photos and notes mid May with still no rain. It was cooling down on this particular day. I knew rain was coming, so I headed out to see how things had transformed.

Crocuses / Pulsatilla post bloom

Yes, those were the fuzzy little purple flowers. They stretch right up and turn into puffs that are prettier than a wishing dandelion. Looking across this patch, I can't imagine how incredible it must have been to see it all in bloom. And then it strikes me, how rare this is. Plough it, and it's gone forever.

I spied Three Flowered Avens, just waking up. Ooooh!  I've never seen these while growing up on the prairie. It's the one plant that I discovered only after moving to Saskatoon. Let me tell you, it was INSTANT adoration. If you haven't seen these before, hold tight. I'm taking more images as they change.

Three Flowered Avens

There are also violets. I headed north about 2 hours for the long weekend to the area where I grew up. Look at the violets in my yard!

The landscape is a little different here. It's right beside a lake. It's rocky and wooded a little more. The Saskatoon bushes are done blooming and the chokecherries are about to start. On the cliff down to the water, I saw a flower I had never seen before. This was taken on my friend's camera.

THESE turn into red berries, and those I have seen

Thanks to the help of the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan, I got a quick identification online from them. Fairybells! (!?!?!?) Well... my goodness. I couldn't think of a better flower's name to find growing along the steps at the future lake studio. I googled more about it and discovered the red velvety berried this plant will produce. Ah yes! Those I recognize. This would make sense because at this time of year, we weren't racing up and down those steps to be swimming like we would be in the summer once the blooms were gone and the berries were out.

At the end of the May long weekend, it finally happened! It rained on the Prairie. It rained and it rained. Then it rained some more. Eventually, on May 27th I went out with my 17 yr old back to the first location in this post to revisit those avens. Here's what we photographed.

Prairie Onion blooming

Early Yellow Locoweed, teenager, dog.

Three Flowered Avens and green prairie grasses

If you look close, a bunch of the tallest ones are standing straight up and have puffy hairdos like those little trolls. They make me laugh. They look like something Jim Henson created. They are tough, strong, have a fabric feel to them, and that wonderful rich colour runs through the flowers and the stems. That's my favourite part.

The last photo here - these were so tiny. They were the size of my little fingernail. I have yet to ID them, but go ahead and leave your comment if you like.

What a difference throughout the month of May. I'm glad I stayed on top of things and kept up with photographing. It's truly incredible how fast things changed.

On our way home through the farmland, we got to see a fox bringing lunch home to her kit. I wonder where she lives?

There's some of my photo expeditions. We have more days of rain coming. I rounded up some art supplies and will be playing around with some new ideas in the next while as I watch my garden grow.

All the best!

Monday, 15 May 2023

Fieldwork 2: Emotional Breakthrough.

Last week, I headed out for pictures. I was prepared with good quality tick repellant (it's bad out there), water, snacks, and two fully charged cameras. My youngest was in school. The dog was fed. (I was heading to conservation areas that don't allow off leash dogs.) It was early enough for me to beat the heat.

We've still had no rain and for early May, it has been HOT. I wondered if there would be much to see. I contemplated a place I KNEW had blooms, but at the last minute, I headed the opposite way and drove to Cranberry Flats. As I headed out of the parking lot and down one of the walking paths, I was second guessing myself pretty quickly. It was SO dry. The negative self talk started...

Come on Monika. What am I doing here? I knew better. There's nothing to see here. Nothing is blooming. I can't believe I did this.  (Bad enough that I had negative self talk, but WORSE that I would fall for that, 'nothing to see here' crap.)

I spied some faded crocuses. I knew they were going to be there. I knew they'd be at the end of their blooming phase. They had hardly any colour left. Where was everything else? We need rain.

I took some pictures of last year's sage, last year's roses, last year's juniper... What about this year?

Rolling my eyes at myself, I decided to walk back to the parking lot and head to another location on the other side of the city. Just then, I saw them. It must have been the direction the light was hitting the land, but all of a sudden I noticed a sprinkling of white. And JUST LIKE THAT more and more appeared, as if a veil had lifted and it was suddenly being revealed to me. AH IT WAS MAGNIFICENT! Moss phlox was all over this little hill top! It was just so tiny that I must have missed it the first time I passed it.

I mean, OF COURSE the prairie was alive. I just wasn't looking close enough.

Moss Phlox (white), Threaded Sedge (yellow)

As I knelt down to take pictures, I noticed other plants.

And more,

And more still.

Eventually I stood up. I felt like a Giant, surveying a microscopic-scale ancient forest. I can't explain it better than that. And I began to cry.

I cried for how beautiful this all is. I cried for how potentially powerful we are. I cried for how truly ignorant we are. I cried for how much gratitude I have for this opportunity.

I'll let you in on this: It's becoming clearer how I would like to translate this information and beauty into a body of artwork. I have not yet began artworks. Back at home I'm reading and writing and organizing and learning. I'm enjoying contemplating science/ecosystems with art/storytelling. It's all so amazing!

Thank you again to the Canada Council for bringing the Arts to Life!

: ) Monika Kinner

Saturday, 6 May 2023


Yesterday was my birthday, the Full Flower Moon, and the date I chose as the start date for IMMERSION. IMMERSION is the name I gave to a Research and Creation project I pitched to the Canada Council for the Arts last fall. One week before International Women's Day this year, I got the email. I didn't believe it. I made my youngest teenager read it. "Mom. You got the grant!" I don't remember inhaling. I do remember exhaling. It was the end of a long day. I walked over to my bed, flopped down and sobbed. Not gonna lie. The rest of the week, I 'happy danced'. I am excited. This is a goal that's long been wished for. I have since collected my thoughts and organized my plans. It's time to get to work.

So, what is going to happen?

First, Research. I'm documenting everything I see and learn and ponder over the course of the growing season. I've started a big dated diary-style scrapbook of notes, sketches and conversations to keep record. I'm also photographing a lot throughout the Meewasin Valley (my go-to for my art) and being very disciplined at keeping those images organized. 

I'm also taking you with me. I'm going to blog at least weekly to share what I learn and what I love.

There will be roses.
There will be roses.

On managing time: I'm keeping my hours at the Modern Art Museum to a minimum (but never giving it up because I love it SO much) in order to focus on this work. After all, it is called IMMERSION for a reason. Over 6 months, you could live off this if you are frugal. Over 10 months, this funding can cover rent and supplies, so keeping part time work is necessary if you want to eat and pay utilities. That might have been different a decade ago when it was possible to cover a year without any other employment. The grant stipulations are to reduce employment and other activities as much as possible in order to focus on the project. Fortunately, I love my job and its flexibility, so this works perfectly. I've budgeted for art supplies and research materials as well. This will go May 2023 to March 2024.

What's this all about? Well, I explain to people that after nearly 15 years of artmaking based on the wide open prairie, I'm sharpening my focus. My textile art is generally horizontal, packing great amounts of spacious land into a small space. Based on many photo collecting trips throughout the Meewasin Valley, I am continually distracted by the little things: flora, colours, shapes, and all that grows underfoot. At it turns out, the big, empty prairie is in fact NOT empty. People drive through or fly over this open space often joking that there's nothing to look at. Wrong. You have to slow down, spend time, immerse yourself.

Winter is gone.

After this summer's research / collection phase, I'll spend fall, winter and spring bringing this prairie 'nothing' to larger than life art in the form of gorgeous (hopefully show stopping) work, possible in vertical format. To do a great job at this, I need time away from entrepreneur life to really concentrate on it and make it happen; make it SHINE. 

I have personal studies of herbs, plants and natural healing dating back to the 90's. Because my knowledge is based on Pagan / European folklore, I have so much to learn here. I acknowledge that I am living and working on Treaty 6 Land and the Homeland of the Metis. As the daughter of an immigrant, in the spirit of Reconciliation, I will seek permission and guidance from Indigenous Knowledge Keepers as required and provide compensation and proper thanks. I otherwise won't be sharing or teaching local Indigenous culture within my work as I don't feel it's mine to share.

As a visual artist, I come at it purely with OOH! Look! PRETTY! and not a lot much more intention than to share the joy I feel. When it comes to why this landscape is important, (beyond beauty, migration, and bees) I know not much.

My formal educational background is in Human Justice and Social Work. To move into Science and Ecology is something entirely new. The first thing I did was buy books. I'm learning about our precious Grasslands and reading the deeply insightful literature by Trevor Herriot, starting with Islands of Grass. He was kind enough, along with the Saskatoon Native Plant Society, to write a letter of support for this project. 

One of the most incredible things I've uncovered is the value of the Grasslands on a global scale. How did I not know this?? I was not looking for this information. It found me. While running errands, this interview was playing on the radio in my van, and I had to stay and listen to the end. I'm going to link the article here if you are interested. (Spoiler alert: we are an important ecosystem.) It really nails down that, "we are here! we are here!" scene from the Lorax. Since the Prairie cannot speak for itself, it's important that people do. 

Grasslands Store Tons of Carbon (Reference to Saskatoon Swale)

Article by Trevor Herriot (Reference to Saskatchewan / Long grass Prairies)

and another here

Grassland: The Unsung Carbon Hero (13 min listen) (US based shortgrass prairie)

And now I simply must work this information into my art. I have no idea how yet. It will come.

I was simply captivated by the beauty of my homeland. I honestly had no idea how scientifically important this place is. I feel so humbled to be plopped down into the middle of all this ecoactivism and essentially contracted to make a series of great big physical, beautiful works, with no doubt, another voice among many. WE ARE HERE said the plants. This feels deeply good.

For your information, I will include a link to the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan. A warm thank you to Chet Neufeld for all his generous information & support.

Earth has given us so much. It's humbling for me to be able to give something back in a way I feel skilled at.


Monday, 1 May 2023


This is why my art is important to me, and why I am driven to elevate the beauty of this place.

Waking up at Cranberry Flats

I was born and raised in Saskatchewan by a landscape artist. That's a solid start! Mom spent her life barefoot on the land, between the acrage and lake, always with her pastels and paper. Through the 70's, 80's, 90's, mom was successful with her own business, always had her own vehicle, and her own way of doing things. I remember dad complaining one summer that he didn't approve of her hanging out with those hippies so much. Mom was a free spirit. Mom was a creative soul. If we needed something, she'd find it, make it, barter for it. I learned everything I know from her. In fact, I was born on her birthday. We enjoyed reading horoscopes together through my young adult life.

As her child, I was born in North Battleford, then moved out to Baljennie, spent my formative years on an acreage in Hamlin. After she left her husband, we lived in a cabin at the Provincial Park where I went to school in Vawn, and then back to North Battleford through my teen years.

As a treat, we would make the trip to Saskatoon now and then. Sometimes we did this in her baby blue Valiant. Later, the trips happened in her purple 'Heavy Chevy' truck. That was fun because she got a cab on the back and put a red braided oval rug in there, so we could hang out and read books, play, colour. Just us kids and mom. We never had air conditioning and I remember it would be swealtering and loud with the windows down. I'd count bird houses along the ditches to stay awake. Watching the wires in the air dip and crest on the post tops along the way was too relaxing.

In Saskatoon, we would do the same thing each time: stop at Army & Navy Department Store, ride the elevator and then eat in the 2nd floor Ship cafeteria. This was fantastic when we were little. We would go to the Mendel Art Gallery, and then cross the river into Nutana to visit Great Uncle Fritz. He was my mom's mother's brother, and also an artist. He kept 2 pet turtles in his bath tub, and would bring them out on the lawn for us to see. Sometimes mom would make her uncle sketch me. He was a good portrait artist and often worked in oil.

I was surrounded with a lot of nature growing up, and a lot of art. Our neighbor at the lake and mom's closest friend was Anne, a gallery owner in North Battleford. She came to our house every day to get her hair done before she went to work. Mom was a hair stylist working out of the house when she could (we were homeless at times or lived at a cabin without water so she would rent a chair at a commercial salon). Mom would sculpt flowers or butterflies into her bleached, roller-set hair. It was a work of art. Anne loved it. Anne was magical, always wore shiny, draped clothing and teeny, tiny, sparkly high heels with high, arched drawn on eyebrows. She would read tea leaves for people, but never mine because I was still to young. That's what she told me.

Allen was friends with mom too. He used to come over for coffee now and then. He has since passed away, and is well known as a Canadian Indigenous painter. My mom was so chatty and he was so quiet. He was the tall man with the big car and the big hat. "Here comes Allen." We would see his car first. It was very long. And he was very tall. I think, with his hat, he would duck to enter in through the doorway. That's mostly what I remember. We always noticed him because the salon was rarely visited by men. Allen would bring Margaret to get her hair done but always stay and talk about art. 

Our home was a very social place with people coming and going all the time, but the lake was entirely different. The cabin was her private space. This was her down time where she would create and just be and find herself and connect with the elements and O MY GOSH, I GET IT. I get it. As an artist, I NEED to be alone. I need to hear my thoughts and feel my feelings and no one else's. Mom never wanted anyone out there, and not everyone understood why. When I'm there, it's me and the earth, me and the wind, me and the water, me and the fire of the sun on my skin. It's so important.

Fast Forward: I'm an adult. 

I moved away from the Prairie to pursue a career (Social Work, Advocacy for Trauma Survivors). I was so homesick. You know how they say you never know what you had until it's gone? Oh my. I lost my sunsets. I lost my 4 seasons. I lost my spring thunderstorms. I cried a lot. I needed my prairie back for my health. It was that overwhelming. I had not realized how misplanted I was.

After becoming a mother to 3 children, the stars aligned and I was moving back! I was so happy. I told all my friends I was going back home! They matched my excitement and asked, "where's home!?" "Saskatchewan!" I replied while hopping up and down, flapping my hands like little wings, ready to take off.

The responses ranged from surprise to confusion and disbelief, to outright laughter and then shaming. "WHY would you ever want to go there???" or "The most BORING place on Earth," to, "I'm so sorry for you. My sincere condolences." 

When I speak to groups about my art, I describe this moment as the same feeling as being told, "wow, your baby is SO UGLY!" It really hurt. I was not prepared to hear those reactions, especially in my state of ecstatic flutter. I was SO unhappy in that place for ten years, it was unbelievable. Moving back was like getting my spirit back. And so, it became my mission to prove that my baby is not ugly. Quite literally, my art began out of spite. I'm a Taurus, like my mom. I couldn't help it. "How dare you. I'll prove you are wrong." Off I went, photographing and stitching once settled back in Saskatoon. This morphed into my new fulltime career while home raising children.

Honestly, I sat down and wept tears of joy and inner peace the first time I saw a comment under one of my blog posts which read, "I had no idea the prairies were so beautiful! Next time I drive through, I'll have to stop to take a look." I did. I cried. I wept. Someone sees what I see. The Prairie is loveable. The part of me that stomped, "you take that back!" was vindicated.

And today, after almost 15 years of my life as a mother, a woman and an artist, I understand this deeper now. Shaming a landform for not being enough? WHY would we do that? How similar is that to body shaming? And what of comparing the flowers to each other. Is a tropical Bird of Paradise more significant to this planet than a Hawkweed growing on the side of a slough by a dirt road in 'the middle of nowhere'? That's like comparing a woman's value in one country to a woman's value in another country. Let's not. Let's not do that.

My point to prove has clarified into, "How can you insult living things that have done nothing to hurt you?" I live that. I live that with people, and now I see that connection to plants. Plants serve us with their very existence. I hope my art helps you to see them, and then also honour them. Regardless of where they come from. Regardless of age. Regardless of form. (ie: the charlie brown christmas tree)

Maybe we'll learn a valuable lesson with people too, like my work with art... slow down and look. Slow down and listen. Take some time. Pay attention. Don't assume. So many times I start stitching from a source photo and discover more in there than I noticed the first time. It's the same way when you spend time finding out about people. There's so much beneath the surface.

I'm so grateful for my connection and acceptance of plants because it's like osmosis for connecting and accepting my own physical form. I would never shame a plant. I have a long hard history of shaming my own body. (READ THAT AGAIN. Same for you?) This is changing quite easily now. I thank the prairie and my art practice for this.

I'll wrap this up here. I need to find some lunch now, and the last dribble of my coffee is cold. If you read this far, thank you. This isn't what I planned to write. Oh well. (I was going to tell you all about my Canada Council for the Arts Research portion of the grant that will be starting on May 5th / My birthday, Mom's birthday too, and also Red Dress Day xo). 

I'll save it for next post.

Take good care, 


Sunday, 9 April 2023

Needing This In My Life

Well hello there! I've missed blogging so much. After all these years of posting over at Instagram, I find I really miss writing. I love posting beautiful images, but Instagram is becoming more of a fast paced video channel. That doesn't work for me. I am much more of a spectator over there now. When I blogged, I was a blogger, not a blog reader. So I'm popping back here to get shit done.

I still journal nearly every day. I still take a zillion pictures. Writing through my thoughts is some of the most productive work I do. However, it has really become clear that I've had some fantastic discoveries, breakthoughs, and those simple yet profound conversations that no one will ever enjoy because they sit in piles of unread books. 

My babies are now becoming 17, 20, 23. When I have really great things to share, I BOUND into the youngest child's room and shoot off like fireworks! Fortunately, he loves it. His birthday is the same as mine and my mothers, and there's this uncanny bond we share with enjoying stories of personal growth and discovery. We feed off each other so well.

My point in bring this up? These damn kids can't read cursive. lol. So what the hell am I keeping all these journals for? I might as well be leaving scrolls of hieroglyphs from another universe.

Another reason I am ready to blog is because I am going on a journey and I want to document it all. Here is the place to do it! Want to join me?

I still have to figure out how to load images better. My computer is soooooooo slowwwww. Instagram with my phone is lightening fast. We shall see. That's a minor hiccup.

'Wait - Monika! WHAT JOURNEY?'

Well. After my husband of two decades left, after we lost the family home, after losing my newly built studio, after rehoming with my kids, after the pandemic with 2 years of most of my work/income cancelled, after my mother died, (yeah, well, maybe this is all why I have journaled non-stop and not publicly blogged about it) ... after feeling like I keep missing the boat with opportunities to establish myself further as an artist... a SHIP came in with my name on it

That's exactly how I describe it. That's exactly what it feels like.

I received a Research and Creation Grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. It's something I've been dreaming of for years. It's like a contract to follow you dream for a year. Dig deep. Research your topic and create your art. It's like full support from the universe for what I'm most passionate about: showcasing the beauty of this land.

I named my project IMMERSION and it begins on my birthday, May 5. I have so much more to tell you about the depth and breadth of this project. I hope you will come back to read more.

Thank you so much to the Canada Council for the Arts, and to all the people who have said along the way, "I never knew the Prairies were so beautiful! I'll have to look again next time I'm there."

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