compass & hatchet

On the road to fortitude

Category: ART

Wendy Stok, Creative Crush

I don’t think there is anything that this super woman can’t do. The Talent behind Thistle Handmade has  precise sewing skills, an eye for details, a trained  back ground in wood working, is an accomplished chicken herder, and has a fresh take on turning metals into cleanly styled jewellery and ornaments.

Her beautiful and functional pieces borrow from flora and fauna, from artifacts and vintage motifs. Her training and practice in silversmithing with the accomplished Nina Turczyn of Paprika Design, has influenced Wendy’s work, giving her the ability to create well made, clean, utilitarian jewellery but with an originally and uniqueness all her own.

Wendy so graciously lent me some of her time, to answer my burning questions about her creative process, where her inspiration comes from, and as she puts, it the importance to having dialogue about art and creativity.


Who are you and what is your star sign?

Wendy Stok, and very much a Pisces.

Where are you from OR where do you live?

I’m originally from Montreal, but am firmly planted on Gabriola Island, BC. I’ve been here for nearly 8 years and the longer I’m here the more I feel like I belong to this place. 

What do you do?

These days, I mostly play with metal. I’ve been apprenticing in Nina Turczyn’s studio, learning silversmithing and having a ridiculously good time. Jewellery design occupies most of my headspace at the moment, although decorative arts in general are never far from my thoughts. 

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What Inspires your work? 

Right now, mostly a need to explore. I’m at the beginning of what I recognize will be a long relationship with metalworking, and that’s pretty exciting. As much as I’m looking forward to mastering certain techniques and having a really holistic understanding of my medium, I’m really enjoying the sense of discovery that is especially acute at the beginning of getting to know something. That’s really what’s leading me right now.

What/who are your artistic influences? 

I’m a total texture freak, and so I get a lot of inspiration from nature. I spend a lot of time walking around outside and the minutiae of the natural world is so fascinating. 



What would be your dream project?

I would love, love, love to design and build my own home.  I have a deep appreciation for things that are both functional and beautiful, and the best houses are the ones that achieve both of those things.  It’s a project that has existed in my head for as long as I can remember, and if I ever have the chance to do it it’s gonna be bonkers. It will drive my partner, Chris, crazy because he sees a house as a material thing, but for me a house in more of an extention of one’s interior. Some people just take up more space than others. 🙂 

What is the best advice you have been given?

Breathe by the nose. I’m getting better at remembering this. 

Do you have any vices? 

Nothing scandalous, sorry.

Name something that you love and why? 

Hmm…so hard to choose! Right now I’m in love with the fog. I’m surrounded by it and it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s hard to beat fog for atmospheric beauty; it makes the outside feel so intimate and inviting. I love the headspace it puts me in.

Why do you create?

Because if I don’t then something essential is missing from my day. The whole process of creating, from the conceptions that begin in ones head to the physical act of transforming materials and finally to the contentment of having completed something just feel integral to my being. It sounds a bit lofty, but it actually works on a pretty modest scale as well. On a slow day, I’m still pretty happy having made a Lego helicopter-house with my daughter. It’s just a process that I enjoy deeply. 

What Super Power would you have? 

Would immortality be considered a super power? If so, I’ll take it. If not, I’d like some go go gadget arms. 

How do you know when a work is finished? 

That’s a tough question to answer. With what I’m working on lately, I rarely actually feel like anything is ‘finished’. Because silversmithing is pretty new to me, I mostly feel like I’m exploring and discovering with most of the importance being in the process. In general, though, there’s a certain balance that is instantly recognizable when it’s been achieved. I can’t describe it to a tee, but with jewellery it involves movement, weight and texture along with other things. When something is ‘right’ it’s instantly recognizable, and if it doesn’t happen instantly then it needs more work.


Do you ever experience times of being uninspired, and if you do, is there any thing that you do that gets you back into the groove? 

I haven’t felt this in a while, but i certainly have in the past. I’ve come to realize that, in general, I fare better when I have an imposed structure that I’m beholden too. I kind of lose my moorings when I have to much freedom because I don’t have the self-discipline to structure my time. 

Do you have any daily routines? 

My morning routine is the most consistent part of my day. If I do it right, then the day is usually golden. It starts with 10 or 15 minutes of silly stuff with my daughter and then my coffee. I’ve become increasingly ritualistic about my morning coffee, actually. 

Is there anything you are obsessed with? That you think about more than anything else?

There’s a large portion of my headspace that seems to be reserved for making things and dissecting how things are made. It’s always chugging away. I usually have a dozen or projects in a bit of a feedback loop. Lately it’s mostly jewellery but it still includes some woodworking and sewing, among other things.

What is your most prized possession?

Probably my tools.



What’s the first thing you would do if you won 1 million dollars? 

I love this game! I’d take a long road trip with my family and take in a bunch of landscapes that I’ve never seen before. Then I’d come back, buy a small acreage and design my dream house. Complete with my dream studio.  Which I would likely never leave. 

Are you happy? 

Obnoxiously so, yes. It’s a crazy feeling knowing you have everything you need. I feel incredibly fortunate. 


You can find Wendy’s work at
Also work by Nina Turczyn at

My Mother as my Creative Influence.

I am very grateful for my Mother, and her creative influence in my life.  I  would not be who I am if it weren’t for her. Sue Artuso has always been making. She is the original DIY Maven for me. From clothing, to gift ideas, home decor and garden grown edibles. She instilled a great respect for Re-use, Re-duce, Re-cycle in my sister and I, and it’s her attention to detail that has inspired my own.

I turned to my mother with some of my “Creative Crush”  Questions, as some insight into what drives her in her own creative pursuits

Who are you and what is your star sign?

Sue Artuso…Mom…Capricorn on the edge of Sagittarius

Where are you from OR where do you live?

I was born on a farm in rural Ontario…..raised my family on the west coast

What do you do?

I love to sew, quilting mostly, but my days are my own. I enjoy lawn bowling

What Inspires your work?

Whatever scraps come to my hand and what I think I can make them into

What is the best advice you have been given?

Finish every project..but that doesn’t mean you can’t start more first

Do you have any vices? 


Do you ever experience times of being uninspired, and if you do, is there any thing that you do that gets you back into the groove? 

I clean my sewing room and refold material, look into bins and baskets and get projects lined up again

Do you have any daily routines?

Swim, hot tub, and walk around the park to get my hair dry

Why do you create? What is behind your Drive to make things? 

Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without…is sort of the motto I was brought up with…nothing was wasted and everything could be used for something. I never had much money so everything was home made.

Where did you learn to sew? 

My mother taught me to sew on her singer sewing machine at home and on the treadle machine at the cottage. I learned needle work from Brownies, but mom helped me practice.

Who in your life inspired/inspires you to sew and quilt? 

I quilted with my Gramma and great aunts. They would get together once a year with quilt tops done and sit together around a quilt frame under a large tree and quilt, gab, gossip, and plan. I was 5-6 yrs old then.

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Water Melon Magic

I’ve been stuck in a creative rut. For months. Many months. I have been sifting through my way of living, my history of poor choices, and working on being a “better” person. To love my self. To eradicate the self sabotaging tendencies and internal criticism. Catch up with my inner child, find out where along the way she picked up the all baggage she carries with her. And of course working on being vulnerable, honest, present, ( The list goes on)  I am working… but my self-help occupation hasn’t been helpful in my “work” … my creative drive… although making Art is a therapy all it’s own. I felt like I had so much to say, but didn’t know how to express it. How to communicate the feelings of change, pain, insecurities, loneliness. How to connect with other people, about this stage in my life, through something visual, tangible…… I just didn’t know where to start. So I didn’t.

This is where the water melons came from. In one of those moments of needing to create something, say something…  I  sat down, with some paint and paper and painted the first thing that came into my head. Then I painted it again, and again, over and over, a meditation, a rhythm, an addictive gesture. Something so simple,  child like, and FUN. I would wake up in the morning and the first thing I would think about was painting Water Melons. Just as simply as that I felt engaged in creative thoughts again. Now I am back to painting everyday, silly quirky things (Love birds, and Cockatiels, Whales, Cats, and Hot sauces ) Nothing new, or groundbreaking, but I am forming a habit, having a practice. Water Melons were my gate-way drug to being back in the swing of it. I know that eventually I’ll be ready to make work that represents some of the harder feelings I’ve been going through. That how I will express and share will come to me….  I am just not there yet… and that’s ok too.

In the meantime I’ll oblige the child, and make art that feels fun. Because fun is important too, right gang??

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Pam McCartney – Creative Crush


Pam. I can’t actually remember the first time that I spoke to Pam, but I can guarantee you that she made me smile immediately. Pam happens to be one of the most positive, friendly and welcoming people that I have ever met. She hasn’t lived a life void of challenges and adversity, but she certainly hasn’t let her hardships stand in the way of being an exuberant, charismatic, and open community member, wife, artist, photographer, dog lover, and so much more. This is why Pam McCartney is my first “Creative Crush”. (name subject to change)

I am going to work on having some regular projects to write about, and taking the time to write about people who really inspire and move me has been on my mind to do now for a while.

But, back to Pam and her work. Not too long ago, Pam, her husband, and her fur family members relocated to Manatoba, where she originally hails from. She has always had a unique artistic voice, using collage/mixed media, drawing inspiration from daisy’s, dolls, humour, and the life that surrounds her. Pam’s current settings, along with walks with her adorable dog Laylee, have inspired some outstanding photography as of late.

So I asked Pam some questions, and she gave me some answers.

and now, you can read them!

Who are you and what is your star sign?
I am Pam McCartney and I am a fabulous Sagittarius! ;o)

Where are you from OR where do you live?
I was born in Winnipeg, MB…spent 15 years on the West coast, 6 of those on
beautiful Gabriola Island, BC. I think of myself as an island girl…for always and
forever. But presently, I live in Winnipeg Beach, MB…with my hubby Clint, 17 year old kitty Wednesday and a crazy young horse/dog named Laylee. ;o)


What do you do?
I spend much of my daytimes adventuring about at and near the beach, hanging out taking pictures, relaxing in the sand (in the summer) and finding treasures all along the way.

What Inspires your work?
For sure nature and all that it is…plants, animals, water reservoirs big and small and everything else that is living. There is beauty in all life. and that beauty gives me great joy and sometimes I feel so happy to notice some of the special things I see. Well then I just have to try and capture that feeling in a photo to share with others and hope they too get that good inside feeling. Heart good.

What/who are your artistic influences?
I am influenced greatly by colour and texture. When I see paintings (by any artist) that are vibrant my eyes want to feast on it. And even more so if there are mountain peaks of paint that make those colours stand out from the canvas…texture is soooooo good! Of course it’s not just paintings that I love to be exposed to…all art…fused glass, felting, photography, pottery, crazy needle point and jewelry. There are so many talented people out there that it is just so great to feel influenced by everyone you meet that creates these things…even “meeting” through the internet. AS much as I will sometimes disregard or slam technology, it opens up a larger world to see and enjoy a vast variety of artists from all over the world.

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What would be your dream project?
Having the funds to blow up some of my favourite images into huge prints…then collaborate with other artists and having them interpret those images in their paint or ceramics or silver jewellery or illustration. Like an “en plain air” project of various artists sitting in front of my oversized images and creating and interpreting the image. And have a big old art show with all of it together…that would be fun.

What is the best advice you have been given?
don’t worry about your art selling…just make the images you want to see.

Do you have any vices?
yes…Miss Vickie’s sea salt and malt vinegar chips. oh…and marijuana. 😉

Name something that you love and why?
I love love love LOVE daisies! They make my soul feel happy…especially fields of white daisies growing by the thousands. So beautiful. A daisy is a strong flower that can grow in any condition…rocky ground, lush soil, side of highways, meadows, gravel driveways. A daisy is a happy flower…it is always used to portray peace and joy and bliss. They can bloom for a long time…even being rained on they are still standing up strong. They have a very natural smell…stinky but good.


Why do you create?
Because I can and it is fun and is something that gives me joy.

What Super Power would you have?
The ability to fly. I have so many dreams where I am able to fly over water, fly over towns, fly up high into the sky way way way up there. It would be pretty sweet.

How do you know when a work is finished?
With photography it’s easy because I have the image I wanted taken but then I mount and wax and put it up ion the wall. I’d say that is finished. Playing with clay or working on mixed media collage…when is it really finished. Sometimes I feel you could always go back into something to make it “better”. It’s just finding the “this looks great” feeling even if you could do more if you really wanted to. Ugh. lol

Do you ever experience times of being uninspired, and if you do, is there any thing that you do that gets you back into the groove?
Going for a walk and breathing in the smells of the outdoors generally always lift me out of a slump.

Do you have any daily routines?
adventure times…walking Laylee the dog. She is really learning to have patience with me…I’m always stopping to get a shot in. There is always something that takes my breath away and I feel the need to capture that feeling. And sometimes it is Laylee looking so fine out on the water or green green grass.


Is there anything you are obsessed with? That you think about more than anything else?
I’m obsessed with some of the amazing photo editing apps on my phone. You can have so much fun playing with photos and going them a cool ethereal feeling…like a fairy tale. My hubby loves to say he sees more of the back of my head than anything else. It’s not THAT bad!! ha ha ha ha…Oh…I almost forgot about the Water Tower. I am obsessed…really obsessed with it. I must have hundreds…maybe more even…pictures of the water tower. Cloudy days, sunny days, wavy days,snowy days, foggy days, sunrise, sunset…I love taking pics of the water tower. It has its very own hashtag. #myobsessionwiththewatertowercontinues ;o)

What is your most prized possession?
I feel I could get rid of anything ever since our move back to Mantioba. After spending one month in a tent trailer with nothing but some clothes…my favourite houseplants and our animals, all of the “stuff” that was in a container making its way across the country didn’t matter anymore. But…I take all of my photos with my iPhone. So, if I lost that I would be very sad as I couldn’t even replace it till my contract was over and could get a new phone! ba ha ha ha ha. ;o)


What would be your Theme Song?
“I’m walking on Sunshine” at least on the days when I am feeling happy. Which is a lot. ;o)

What’s the first thing you would do if you won 1 million dollars?
Pay off debt and hop on the next flight to Fiji bringing Clint of course and Laylee and Wensday. We’d have to find an on the ocean hut that allowed pets! ;o)

Are you happy?
Yes…most of the time. I have days where I can feel depressed about stuff. But I usually try and pull myself out of that because I would way rather have a fun day than not. ;o)


Check Pam out on her instagram: @pamichen -Youtube: Daisygroove

Got Wood?

I wouldn’t really call what I am doing “woodworking” but I certainly have been handling a lot of wood lately.

Every piece of work for this up coming show, is made of old wood paneling, and other random pieces that were found on the property. With the help and tools of my pal and room mate, my goal is to complete this collection with all recycled materials.

It’s been good to stand up to some of my fears of using power tools. Why am I surprised that I still have all my fingers? Every time I learn how to do something new, over come the fear of fucking up, and succeed I am reminded that that applies to most of life. Dream big kiddos, because we really can accomplish great things when we put our minds to it, and let go of the fear of failure ( flailure )






Poor neglected Etsy account

Spring has sprung. Sort of. I am still wearing three long sleeved shirts and LJ’s under my pants. But it is the end of March, so even if it doesn’t feel like spring, the desire to tidy and organize is brewing. I am going through stuff I no longer need, and putting some stuff up on Etsy. Here it is.




Lets talk about hands, baby…

I am totally obsessed with hands. Artistically they inspire me in so many ways. One of the very first pieces I ever had in a show (Tofino ’06 or ’07) was a painting of my own hands, stitched together with black thread. And ever since then I’ve gone through phases of hand inspired work.

When I look at my hands, I think about the things I’ve created, I think about the potential. This goes for situations in life too. We have full creative freedom to create our own lives, to write our own stories . It’s in our power to make good ones and it’s important to reconstruct when we haven’t.

There is this fabulous Ceramic Artist named Carol Epp, who made (makes, you can check them out on her Etsy account, info below) a small ceramic sculpture of two hands praying, and on the knuckles it reads “make” and “mend”. It has become a life motto for me. How it resinates with me is in terms of life and situations. You Make it, you Mend it.(you break it, you bought it) We make mistakes, but we can also make amends.

It is also is really relevant to our “DIY” culture. Lets make things our selves and mend the things that need mending, instead of throwing them away.

I’ve been overdosing on hand imagery lately, painting hands, cutting out wooden hands, reading about Palmistry. So I thought I would take 2 seconds and tell you about hands.

All hands on deck. The devil makes work for idol hands. Gain the upper hand. Get your hands dirty. Lend a hand. Hands up! Hands down! Wave your hands from side to side. Hands on, hands off….. Out of hand, show of hands, and finally, take someone by the hand.

Carol Epp
Carole’s Blog




Getting Handsey

I am working on a show these days. About hands, about helping, about what keeps me living. It’s been a while since I’ve had a steady practice of creating, and like anything that takes practice it’s always frustrating in the beginning to feel how much has slipped over time.

I am working with old tools, paints and brushes, but mixing in some new as well. I used a Bandsaw for the first time in grade 8 and I had nightmares about cutting my fingers off. Woodwork has always inspired me. Old faded country road signs are among my favourite things (that’s not exactly woodwork- but you know what I mean) there is something so satisfying about painting on wood.

Cutting your fingers off, cutting fingers out, would be ironic…. Knock on wood that doesn’t happen…. (See what I did there…. I am Terrible… )





Coming together

My space is getting there. I was painting a chalkboard wall in the big room of the trailer, and I had an idea to paint the ceiling in this room too. This way I can draw all the constellations, and the moon. I found some old canvass, washed and then sewed it together to make curtains. Mostly it just feels therapeutic to have a project.

I’ve been obsessing and day dreaming about the gardens that our household is planning for the pasture in the front of the property. Craving “work”. The kind that makes you sore and tired at the end of the day. The sort of meditative quality that doing something repetitive (weeding..) brings to your life. Art and gardens.


New to improve

Well, folks, life it seems will throw you a curve ball any chance it will get. Or maybe it’s me that threw the ball. I’ve undergone another period of life, where change and personal reflection, growth, learning, adapting and so on, is necessary. All of life is this way actually. I am rambling. Trying to summarize for you the changes, with out actually getting into it and weeping/typing the night away, is bit challenging. Instead I am going to talk about how I plan to move forward.


I am currently getting ready for an Art show I have in April ( more on that later) and in an effort to keep a tranquil sleeping/yoga zone, I am moving my “studio” space out of my bed room, and into part of the trailer that my roommate is currently also turning into a studio. Blah blah blah. Come with me on the journey from before to after. It’s one of my favourite things to do in the world. So at least there is that.