During her three decades of publicizing other artists and their work, Paula Gustafson avoided having photographs taken of herself for publicity purposes. That's why Paula Gustafson's third and final volume of essays, Craft Perception and Practice: A Canadian Discourse (Ronsdale $26.95), does not provide any image of the ever-industrious editor. Instead, in a dignified afterword, co-editor Nisse Gustafson has offererd a patchwork quilt of memories of her multi-talented mother.

"When I was about five years old, my mother began working with textiles,"; she writes. "The scent of lanolin from newly sheared wool permeated the house, and my little hands were put to use carding it to take out the chaff.

"I also fondly remember foraging through the wilds to gather goldenrod, lichen, cattails and chestnuts, which my mother stewed in a crockpot to make natural dyes.

"When the wool was dyed and dried, she spun it by hand on an old-fashioned wooden spinning wheel that went 'thunkety-thunkety-thunk' as she worked the foot treadle.

"Later I would watch as the big balls of wool yarn were deftly transformed into sweaters, scarves and tapestries by my mother's able hands....

"One glorious summer she took a bronze casting course in Red Deer. For weeks, the old crockpot was filled with warm beeswax, which she sculpted into seed pod-shaped vessels to be cast in bronze.
"To this day, I love the smell of beeswax, not only for its sweet aroma, but also for the memories it evokes of my mother sculpting wax forms on the picnic table in our back yard.... All of these sensory experiences have stayed with me, and in many ways have influenced who I am.";
Although Gustafson's craftmanship extended to pottery, watercolour painting, textiles, spinning, bronze casting and paper-making, her first love was always writing.

"The sound of her electric typewriter was a constant clickety-clack,"; Nisse recalls. "In later years she replaced it with a succession of computers, the keyboards of which had to be replaced every second year because she wore down the plastic keys with so much typing.";

A recipient of the first Jean A. Chalmers Fund for the Crafts Award for critical writing on Canadian crafts, Paula Gustafson wrote more than 300 articles for arts magazines and served as the editor and co-designer of an illustrated biography by artist John Koerner.

More importantly, Paula Gustafson co-founded Artichoke: Writings about the Visual Arts in 1989 and became its sole editor and publisher in 1995. After its demise due to financial constraints in 2005, she edited Calgary-based Galleries West magazine.

Gustafson's first monograph, Salish Weaving (Douglas & McIntyre, 1980), was based on her extensive research in museums in Europe and North America. She also produced a history of the Crafts Association of British Columbia called Mapping the Terrain.

Born in Abbotsford on Feb. 25, 1941, Paula Gustafson died on July 11, 2006 after a brief battle with cancer. She was widely respected for her breadth of appreciation for the arts, not mired within any particular discipline or camp.
To accompany more than 40 full-colour photos of works in various craft media, Craft Perception and Practice Vol. III contains 21 essays by artists such as Mackenzie Frère, Ruth Scheuing and Murray Gibson; theorists such as Paul Mathieu, Sandra Alfoldy,

Arlene Oak and Kirsty Robertson.
Paula Gustafson's own contribution records the creation of Stardale Women's Group, a weaving cooperative that was established to foster healing and self-esteem amongst Cree women who live in and near Melfort, Saskatchewan.

Shannon Stratton's provocative essay, Getting Things Done: On Needlecraft & Free Time suggests that knitting is a radically subversive activity in an era that emphasizes materialism and speed.
Inadvertently akin to the "slow food"; movement, public knitters are steadfastly non-efficient reminders that meditative and constructive activities can serve as antidotes to the established socioeconomic order.

"It important to realize,"; Stratton writes, "that knitters are, by and large, NOT professional activists or political artists; nor should they have to be....

"Perhaps what makes knitting important is its stubbornness. It refuses to be pinned down. It is neither an economically efficient way to clothe people, nor are knitters overtly challenging oppression and stopping war with fuzzy scarves. But what it does undo, one stitch at a time, is the idea that efficiency is a cultural value.";
Craft Perception and Practice was co-edited with Amy Gogarty.

Craft Perception, Vol. 3: 978-1-55380-052-1


Salish Weaving (Douglas & McIntyre/University of Washington Press, 1980).

Craft Perception and Practice, Vol. 1 (Ronsdale, 2002)

Craft Perception and Practice, Vol. 2 (Ronsdale, 2005)

Craft Perception and Practice, Vol. 3 (Ronsdale 2008). Co-edited with Nisse Gustafson and Amy Gogarty. $26.95 978-1-55380-052-1

[BCBW 2008] "Art" "Anthropology" "First Nations"