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Moving Where the Sheep Are — A Conversation with Jamie Bowen

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Originally Published in the July/August 2023 Bowest’ner

By Logan Renaud

Tell us a bit about yourself and your history with the neighbourhood.

“I’ve been in Calgary for the past five and a half years, but I’m from BC originally. The reason I moved is partly to do with my work as a fiber artist — we were shipping all of our wool from Carstairs! We decided nothing was keeping us in BC, so we thought ‘let’s move closer to where the sheep are!’

We ended up in Bowness because 30 years ago my husband lived here and he always thought it seemed like a cool place. We’ve stayed around because the community is amazing. We know all of our neighbours — our neighbour across the street is like a grandma to all of the kids on the block.”

How did you come to be an artist, and what mediums do you work with?

“I’ve been creating my whole life. My grandmother taught me to knit when I was about 10 and I played with it off and on. And I was always drawn to doing different crafty, artsy things. In my 20s I was in Vancouver and I really picked up knitting again and started taking a few different classes.

“Then I had my daughter so we left Vancouver 11 years ago and went to the Okanagan. My husband and I started needle felting and started a small business doing that. And then when COVID hit, I started natural dyeing as well.

So I now have a business with my husband needle felting, selling supplies and teaching, along with my art practice which includes needle felting and natural dyeing. I’m even growing my own flowers!

I just started last year and I’m not a plant person! But I was determined. So I killed a lot, but I did manage to grow a few different flowers right from seeds. I dry them out and I use them in different techniques, such as bundle dyeing, where I lay the flowers out and then roll the fabric and steam it to leave imprints. We’re going to do a workshop on that here!”

That seems like a slow and patient process – what inspires you?

“For me, environmentalism has always been key. I believe in using local materials, that’s why my needle felting uses all local sheep. It’s all processed locally with minimal chemicals to be healthy for the environment, myself, and others. And then there’s just something amazing about actually being able to grow and produce.

I recently got accepted into a gallery show at the Alberta Craft Council. I’m proud to begin pushing my art into that realm — I’ve always just sold online kits until now.

This weekend we did a Maker Fair and we had a table where we taught needle felting. We had the cutest kid come and he loved it so much. He bought a kit and he spent the whole day on it, and when he came back to show us he was literally jumping for joy! When I can bring that joy to others, that definitely makes my heart happy.

So my goal for this year was to try and get out into the community and meet others. So for me, the ARTS Program is a really great way to be able to share my passions and get to know others.”

Tell us a bit about what you have in store for the neighbourhood during your time as an ARTS featured artist!

“As part of the ARTS Program, we’re going to do a community art project on solar dyeing.

The idea is that I’ll put together solar dyeing kits that anyone can pick up and do at home, and then when they’re done, they can bring it to the BCA to add to the community weaving that will be set up here.

And then we’ll have all kinds of workshops!

One on bundle dyeing, one on needle felting, one on knitting, and one on visible mending so people can come in and learn some techniques to mend their clothes.

And to cap it off, we’ll have a small celebration and art show where the finished weaving is going to be shown, along with a few more pieces I’ll be working on through the summer.”

UPCOMING BCA ARtS EVENtS

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