Video Series: Life's Works: Six Conversations with Makers


Life Matters. Live it.

"My name's Gordon Kennedy and I'm a metal sculptor... although sculpture is a funny word. I don't sculpt, I build." With these words Rust introduces us to Gordon Kennedy from Baddeck, NS. Rust is the sixth and final short documentary film to be released in the series Life's Work: Six Conversations with Makers produced by Craft Alliance and the Nova Scotia Designer Crafts Council, in partnership with Breakwater Studios International Limited.

A graduate of the Vancouver Art School (now called the Emily Carr College of Art), Gordon studied painting and metal sculpture, although as a blacksmith he is self-taught. He met his wife Carol, an award-winning photographer, when they were living and working in Toronto, and together they moved to Cape Breton in 1982 where they raised their family. In addition to exploring the creative spark behind Gordon's work, Rust is also a poignant and touching tribute to Carol who passed away in 2012 from cancer. "She had more energy than anybody I've ever known," says Gordon. "She was a bright, bright star and she burned bright. And then she went out." Yet Gordon's life and work continues. "Carol, of all people, would not want me to not do things. She would want me to keep going. So I have to do it. I have to live."

Living, for Gordon, means creating. "There's something that turns me on about the fact that, at the end of the day, here's something that I think is very cool. It didn't exist in the morning. It wasn't there last week. It didn't exist last year, and here it is. I need the rust, oxidation, nature's patina, whatever you like. It's not so much a fascination, it's just I like it when the steel realizes itself." And for Gordon, creating means living. "What matters is life. Life matters. Live it."

Lady Bug

To Bugs With Love

"I love her, just love her. I think I'll have to make her." Beginning with a close-up shot of a dead fly clinging to a branch, Lady Bug opens a door into the amazing world of Elizabeth Goluch's meticulously crafted, larger-than-life insect sculptures. "It's just been something that's been an innate part of my entire life," says Elizabeth, "Everybody would be like 'Ew! Bugs!' and I'd be 'Yes! Bugs!'"

Craft Alliance and the Nova Scotia Designer Crafts Council are thrilled to release Lady Bug, the fifth in a series of six short documentary films about some of Nova Scotia's master craftspeople called Life's Work: Six Conversations with Makers.

Each of Elizabeth's metal insect sculptures can take months to research and fabricate. Using gold, silver, gemstones, and various other materials, she incorporates aspects of an insect's life into each sculpture's design. Habits and habitat, mating calls, folk tales, and nursery rhymes — no element of an insect's life escapes her thorough research. Every sculpture also contains a hidden compartment that holds its 'treasure', now an anticipated element in the insects she creates. "My work has become known for what I call treasures in a secret compartment," Elizabeth notes. "What was important enough in the life of that insect to be the treasure?"

Director Ben Proudfoot introduces the viewer to the 'crazy bug lady' as she shares her excitement and enthusiasm for her subject matter, noting there are 'gazillions' of insects that she can re-create. "I'm even more excited now than when I started. Now I feel that I can achieve much closer to what I want to achieve because my skills are catching up to my vision," Elizabeth says. "I love what I do. I'll die with my boots on, with my hammer in my hand. This is me. This is me making insects. That's my life."

Fibre & Wood

Light and Shadow, Yin and Yang, Fibre and Wood

Fibre artist Sanna Rahola and woodcarver Douglas Drdul are featured in Fibre & Wood the fourth in a series of six short documentary films entitled Life's Work: Six Conversations with Makers. The documentary series is a project of Craft Alliance and the Nova Scotia Designer Crafts Council, working in partnership with Breakwater Studios International Ltd.

Sanna and Douglas work independently on their unique creations featuring both traditional Finnish felting techniques Sanna learned in childhood from her nanny, and woodcarving methods taught Douglas by a Finnish master carver. "We have separate workshops and we approach the work so differently, yet it becomes one piece," she says. Douglas adds, "It's a happy combination. I see two fibre artists because wood is all fibre, so we're two fibre artists working together." Sanna agrees, "I see two pieces of work that fit together like a puzzle. I see harmony." She continues, "When we're doing the work together he always does the carving first. We usually discuss the idea, the theme, and then he'll create the piece and puts it in a frame for me. And then I look at his work and decide how I can combine with it."

Fibre & Wood visits Sanna and Douglas at the straw-bale house in Walton, NS that they built themselves. "We chose to build and construct our own house the way we like to see things unfold," says Douglas, "Most of the materials — the beams, the floor, the ceiling, the clay, the straw, the stone — all come from within 10 kilometers of this house." Sanna says that a lot of their neighbours didn't understand the straw-bale construction method and made jokes about the Three Little Pigs. "Now that we've been here I don't think anybody really thinks twice about it. We're just another couple trying to have a life. It's just how we choose to live."

Set against a backdrop of stories relating personal loss and tragedy, Sanna and Douglas reflect on the contrasts that make their work so compelling. "There's the yin and yang to everything, everything in balance. And that's the light and shadow that bring out a carving," muses Douglas. "I realized you really have to do what you love because you're here only once," concludes Sanna.

Mother Earth

Mother Earth a Voice for Women

Mother Earth from Breakwater Studios Ltd. on Vimeo.

For 30 years, Louise Pentz was a production potter producing functional wares from her studio in Pentz, NS. "I loved it up until the last year," says Louise, "And in the last year my heart went out of it."

But stepping away from her pottery wheel did not mean that Louise stepped away from working with clay. She continues, "At the same time there seemed to be so many stories in the media daily about the atrocities and injustices being put upon women around the world. And I thought, 'Am I contributing to the problem by my silence?' And I came to the conclusion that I was."

Mother Earth is the third video in a six-part series entitled Life's Work: Six Conversations with Makers. Mother Earth introduces us to ceramic artist Louise Pentz who takes us through the four meanings of the word 'vessel' and how it has related to her life working with clay. Louise's interpretation of the human form as a vessel for the spirit, along with her investigation of gender and social issues, drove the creation of her most recent body of work featured in the video. "The material is capable of saying more than a functional pot, so use the material to say something you care about," she says.

Finding her voice of protest for the way women are treated around the world, Louise adds "Artists have an important role in bringing about social change. Each of us needs to find our honest way of speaking. I do clay. That's all I know. If everyone did what they could, change would happen. I think those who perpetrate hateful things on others are banking on our silence. We all have power. What are we going to do with it?"


Life Takes a Turn

Turns from Breakwater Studios Ltd. on Vimeo.

Woodturner Steven Kennard is the focus of Turns, the second and most recent video to be released as part of Life's Work: Six Conversations with Makers. The six video series is a collaboration between Craft Alliance Atlantic Association and the Nova Scotia Designer Crafts Council, in partnership with Breakwater Studios International Ltd.

Turns visits Steven in his Canning, NS studio where he introduces the viewer to some of the tools and techniques used in the creation of his exquisitely turned boxes, made from a variety of local and exotic woods. "Almost from the very beginning I enjoyed making boxes," says Steven, "Although they're mainly decorative and sculptural pieces, people do put things in them — jewellery, rings, that kind of stuff. The discipline of knowing it's got to be a container of some kind. That's really where my passion has taken me."

Not formally trained — he got his start in woodturning by "simply making components for furniture" — Steven also takes the viewer on a brief tour of the twists and turns his own life has taken. "You have to make decisions in your life, and as a creative person you can't do everything. So you have to say 'Well, okay, what's important? What's going to work for me?' I realized that if I didn't stick at something that I never stood a chance of achieving anything. I mean, you can look back on situations, things that you've done, and wonder what would have happened if. I mean, they're all the possibilities but they're not regrets, as such."


Stone, the first in a series of six short documentary films about some of Nova Scotia's master craftspeople called Life's Work: Six Conversations with Makers.

Stone from Breakwater Studios Ltd. on Vimeo.

Craft Alliance and the Nova Scotia Designer Crafts Council, in partnership with Breakwater Studios, are thrilled to release Stone, the first in a series of six short documentary films about some of Nova Scotia's master craftspeople called Life's Work: Six Conversations with Makers. Stone focuses on Heather Lawson from Bass River, NS.

Powerful and poignant, Stone provides insight into Heather's background as a trained stone cutter, and her career as an artistic stone carver. Heather says, "I learned long ago that it is really hard to be normal, or what people perceive as normal. It is hard enough being me without trying to be what people think I should be. So as soon as you step off that tightrope, sooner you just become odd, the sooner the world will accept you as being odd. And there is great freedom with that."

A self-described 'chisel whore', Heather and director Ben Proudfoot take the viewer on a journey from the rock quarry to her studio, exploring en route her personal and professional struggles and philosophies. "I chose the back road. Some people get on the highway of life and I just chose the back road and it's been a pretty good trip," Heather says, "Like I said, I end up in the bushes once in a while, but sometimes there is some interesting stuff in there. It is better than flying down the highway and missing everything, right?"

Over the next 10 weeks, Life's Work: Six Conversations with Makers will continue with the release of the five remaining documentary videos in the series. Stay tuned!

Craft Alliance, the Nova Scotia Designer Crafts Council and Breakwater Studios International Limited all wish to thank ACOA Nova Scotia and Film and Creative Industries Nova Scotia for their support and assistance with this exciting project.