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Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday Feature: Ellen Pukalo @ elle in da coop

Ellen Pukalo: Creating in the Coop
I’m waving an exuberant hello from the geographical centre of North America! I’ve lived all my life here in Manitoba, specifically in Winnipeg. Visits to my Grandfather’s farm made me think a farmer was a good helpmeet. I got my wish. Michael and I married soon after leaving school and we have been married about 44 years and have 5 children.

We finally settled in Beausejour, which means a good place to stay. We are on the edge of the prairies. There are poplar bushes and the forest and smaller lakes are only an hour to the east. We’ve been here about 40 years. My only claim to fame is that I am a ‘kept’ woman as I have stayed home as a full time homemaker. This is the view from my sewing room window.

Now before you have visions of a cook for threshing crews, a bookkeeper surrounded by shoeboxes of bills, or gardener extraordinaire with a fully stocked pantry and managing to drive the grain truck alongside a moving combine let me pop that bubble.

I am very spoiled. I am totally impractical, excitable, and I’m always dreaming up terrific projects and ideas. I’m a starter and my hubby is a list making finisher. My only non-negotiable job is I must cut the grass, since I had serious farm equipment tear up a good portion of it when I was in landscape luv mode. (That was before I discovered mixed media art.) I have now sufficiently leveled any rocks higher than the cutting blade so I have been upgraded to quasi-qualified driver of a riding lawn mower. As I rotate round and round I plan endless projects for my long-suffering hubby. This happens slowly because fast causes blue smoke emissions from my farmer.

My primary job is to see that he never gets bored. Sometimes I think he would like to try being bored but that isn’t happening any time soon!

I have reached the great age where understanding begins to reveal itself and the creative part of me has tried expressing itself in my home and then in the yard. It certainly wasn’t in my cooking. I think Kraft dinner is wonderful, which is why my hubby began to thumb through recipe books. But table settings, cozy-seating arrangements, long weekend makeovers with paint and wallpaper, ah! The kids never knew where or with whom they’d be sleeping and my dearie’s shins are no longer smooth and flawless. It was only a matter of time before I discovered I could actually make bed quilts, pillows, table runners, and wall hangings. Aaahhhaaa!

I began traditionally. This would have been about 1985.

If I’d stuck with my first instincts I’d never have gotten on the petal strewn path of florals. Solids were my first luv. I’m coming back. This was a class our little quilt group, Country Road Quilters took. We were limited to shop fabrics and traditional methods. I really did try hand quilting. I perfected the stab stitch but this was never going to get finished so I bought a book on machine quilting and got ‘er done! I also sold my big Q snap frame shortly thereafter. I luv machine quilting.

I learned I’m not very traditional and I began to resist borders. I also like square. This was towards the end of my country themed decorating period. I still like this quilt; no florals. I was also moving away from safe and coordinated colour formulas. Colour is probably my favourite aspect of art.

A wedding quilt provided me with the opportunity to move more towards more modern quilts. I loved the endless options for design.

I discovered the World Wide Web in the late nineties and blogging in the summer of 2009. I can’t say enough good things about the Internet connections I’ve made. I am a changed woman. I blog because I like to write and I never thought of it as more than a kind of diary. Who knew anybody would actually want to read my ramblings. But it has served a much bigger purpose. It helped me identify who I am, what I want to do, gave me resources for learning and making, and made me actually try and finish projects. I like to share my process. I see it as paying forward all the things that I myself have learned from generous bloggers.

I joined a group from 3 Creative Studios who were challenged to make something that showed the word ‘puzzle’. This was due early 2010. I had rusted some fabric and I ‘saw’ in the fabric my vision of puzzle. I gnashed my teeth a lot, blogged a bit about it, and then met my commitment. It was all me; no copy, no adapting someone else’s idea. Dare I say original? I was very happy with it as it showed me that I was moving ahead in my art.

I was so thrilled that I just took off running, empowered to tackle a dozen different ideas.

I spread my worktable with every conceivable piece of eye candy that appealed. I became a Jane of all trades but master of none. I luv books; I want to read, make, alter and journal in them. I want to splash colour all around and dye my own fabric. I want to layer images on paper and fabric. I want to use my sewing machine, my Nina, to explore all her functions and abilities. I want to dip my hands in beads, to embellish and to make jewelry. I want to take better photos and learn digital techniques. But most of all, I want to express myself creatively and well, in my home, my hobbies, my clothing, and my relationships.

As the chicks left home I had moved from tabletop to bedroom. When I realized I sewed more than we slept I shoehorned the Rooster and I into a smaller bedroom and spread my sewing stuff in the larger space. As long as I didn’t mess with the kitchen the Rooster didn’t care. ;^) At first I made it all pretty with funky birds and teacups. I felt the word 'studio' was a bit presumptuous so I called it my playroom, The Coop and Saucer Playroom, in fact. But I learned that too much visual stimulation is not the best for me so I simplified my décor and things worked great until I began dyeing, painting, gluing, stamping. I am so messy.

We are simplifying on the farm as well. So the front half of the big barn is available. After a knock down drag’em out kind of coffee break we came to an amicable solution. The Rooster gets the smaller SE corner for a summer kitchen and I get the larger NE corner for a workroom. That’s fair; he gets the whole darn top and the back half after all! I already have a name- The Wonderland workroom. This will be for all the big, wet, and messy projects. I’m already signed up for Wednesday afternoon workshops. How is that for an incentive to finish!

I have no problem with the word 'creative', as I believe we are creative beings, just like our Creator. But the word artist implies mastery of one’s chosen craft. There I have a lack. Now it also says it is one who practices their craft and I’m doing that for sure.

But I am now a wiser woman. I’m learning. My appetites are far bigger than I can actually bite into. I’m learning the wisdom of a healthy artistic diet. Bloggers often pick a word for the year. I’ve learned to Focus and not continue my scattered pecking all over the place. I’m learning to find my style, my best ways of working; my most favourite things to fiddle with and then to fine tune them, and gain the mastery of them. Then I want to Finish what I start. I’m a Triple F kind of gal. Focus Fiddle Finish is my mantra.

This year I’ve learned that it is in the samples, the experiments, the trials, even the mistakes, and the sheer body of work that the budding artist finally has the aha! Moment, when the process and the idea comes together. The creative click, so to speak. I’ve found this to be true with the journal pages. I now understand loosing track of time to make one more page! The joy of creative expression! I’ve stayed in the process of making kid’s key chains, building skills and progressing up to making some adult jewelry. Now I’m anticipating that kind of consistent growth as I push the boundaries of my fibre art.

I want to learn how to be an artist, proficient in my chosen crafts. I want to encourage and share what I learn with others. I have done some teaching in a quilt store, for quilt groups and retreats. I enjoy that. I have also worked one on one with young girls who have no background in sewing or other crafts. I would like to continue that and I see the bigger workroom becoming an integral part of that. My biggest goal is to continue to get up each morning, anticipating a blank white piece of fabric, page or canvas, and making a mark that positively affects my family, my friends and myself. And when anyone steps through my door I’m anticipating friendship. I want to share the wonder of it all!

Please drop in. You can find me over at elle in da coop.


  1. thank you so much for sharing so much of your enthusiasm and energy! It is just fun reading about what you are doing! Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Hi Elle, you really have a way with words. I feel like i just sat down and had a visit with you. You express very well what a lot of us seem to strive for. thanks for sharing, michelle

  3. Your post made me laugh! My background was farming (grew up on a fruit farm in Ontario) and my love of sewing and crafts was lovingly taught to me by my mom...
    But never in a million years would my practical mom take over part of the barn! She thinks that I waste time in my "art". So mostly I don't tell her alot about it!
    I really enjoyed your post and wish I could come for a cup of tea. But it is a long drive from Southern Ontario.... hmmm cross Canada trip some day! lol

  4. What a terrific post , so interesting and gives me more insight into how you think and I love it. Did you ever consider writing a book , I think it could be a best seller , you definitely have a way with words , you captivate the reader right from the get go , the true mark of a great writer .Thank you for sharing a bit of your life with us.

  5. Miss Elle I truly understand your love of writing with this post and your blog post today. I have always enjoyed your prose. This is a wonderful insight into you and your style. I have watched you grow so much in your pursuit of art and I have enjoyed your journey so much. You are funny, clever, witty and wise! Your enthusiasm is contagious my dear...

  6. Oh, my! (blush) You are all so very kind. Thank you

  7. thank you so much for this wonderful insight into who you are. You are a fabulous writer and crafter extraordinaire, and I always enjoy visiting your blog to see your latest creative endeavors.

  8. That was wonderful! : ) YOU are wonderful.

    I agree with the house reorganization - we moved our ginormous bed into the smallest room of the house. You opened the door and jumped in - literally! : ) The biggest bedroom became a huge useable living space. Brilliant.

    I really hope to meet you next spring when I'm in Winnipeg. Thank you so much for posting. I am glad you started blogging. What a growing experience!
    : )

    ~Monika K.
    sewing in Saskatoon

  9. I am so happy to have The Needle and Thread network so I can meet new Canadian Quilters. Wonderful to meet you today Ellen. You put a smile on my face and I look forward to following your blog.

  10. Wow, Elle! What a wonderfully interesting and captivating piece to read. You definitely have writing talent! It sure helps to get to know you better.
    We have a small house with 2 bedrooms up. I took over the 2nd one which really is too small. Now when my kids visit they have to use the hide-abed in the rec room. I have to have some priorities!

  11. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story. Blogging opened up things for me too.

  12. Wonderful piece Elle. As a follower of your blog I have had the delight in reading all about your processes and your self discovery and your art. I'm looking forward to reading more about your journey:)

  13. Elle, your enthusiasm is so infectious. It's a real treat to get to know you here and on your blog.

  14. Thank you for sharing some of wonderful you, Elle in da coop!

  15. You had me laughing out loud and nodding in agreement! Will be happily following your blog going forward! Thanks!

  16. I think it was one of your Wednesday links here that led me to your blog in the first place. I liked it and put it in my Google reader. I always enjoy your posts. After reading this, I'm even happier to have you on my list. We are on the same page right from the "spoiled. I am totally impractical, excitable, and I’m always dreaming up terrific projects and ideas" to the "Focus Fiddle Finish" (although I hadn't quite put the 3 F's together until I read here). I enjoyed reading this and will continue to enjoy your blog.

  17. What a great profile, Ellen! It's so fun to get to know you a bit better.

  18. What a wonderful post, Ele! <3

  19. I missed this post Elle (it was around the time I was recovering from my mother's death) and was delighted to read this lovely post.

    I was in the 3 Creative Studios art group too - I made my 3rd art quilt was for the "puzzle" challenge! :) So neat that we have that in common.

    Thanks for sharing...


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