Author Archives: deborah catton

Healing Palabra Ball Project completed


As an artist my usual mediums for exploring, creating and expressing have been through painting and photography. In the past year I have begun the process into natural organic sculptural pieces. I also have a twenty year background as a clinical herbalist where I worked with plants as remedies to assist in the healing process of others.

I have always wanted to find a way to bring the two areas of my art background and my healing background together and through my residency at Joya this has provided me the opportunity to explore this concept in a very unique way. I am working with Joya’s ongoing call Sistermos Efíremos  to create a sustainable, biodegradable sculptural piece that offers a healing message to the water starved landscape within the Parque Natural Sierra María-Los Vélez.

The work Healing Palabra Ball is constructed from almond branch prunings that have been free woven together to create an organic shape. Palabra means word in Spanish and the shape holds several messages carved into the very abundant local clay which are attached to the interior of the shape with woven esparto grass and wool.

The piece has been placed into the water catchment system which has dried up and broke. There are several theories as to why this has occurred, everything from the lack of rain due to weather patterns changing, over extraction of ground water at lower altitudes, soil erosion from outdated farming practices, non native species establishing themselves such as the Aleppo Pine tree which can contribute to further soil erosion.

Healing Palabra Ball is a healing gift to the landscape at Joya: arte + ecologia. It currently rests in an erosion gully within the catchment area where it may assist and prevent further erosion in this area. The word messages contained within offer a healing message to the area as the ball moves and settles within the landscape.

The photos below show the piece being transported to the landscape site:

Deborah Catton- Healing Palabra Ball 3

Deborah Catton-Healing Palabra Ball 2


Deborah Catton-Healing Palabra Ball 1


Deborah Catton- FullSizeRender Shadow of the ball captured by Simon Beckmann



Residency in Spain

Currently I am in residency in rural Spain near Veléz Blanco, Almería. The name is Joya and it is located within a national park called Parque Natural Sierra María-Los Vélez.

Getting here is quite the adventure, a five hour drive south from Madrid and then about 20km  past Velez Blanco on a very rough single lane dirt track which winds through the mountains passing through pine forest after pine forest, up and down, hairpin corners and rutted out and washed out sections of the road. This is a desert region and the residency is an off grid site with water being sparse and the source is collected and stored rain water.  Electrical usage and warm water is dependent on the sun, solar panels and a wind turbine.

Cortijada de Los Gázquez was originally five abandoned farms which have been turned into an artists creative centre where artists from around the world come to apply themselves in a specific process or the continued fostering of ideas. I applied to the residency back in late 2014 and heard by late February that I would be able to attend the following fall. At the moment I am three days into the residency. I have spent my time familiarizing myself with my surroundings, the living space and the people. There are four other artists working here and each week that number could change as people leave and others arrive.

By day two I was out in the field cutting material for my project. I am working with the pruning material from the many almond trees on the property. The almond produces bright green shoots that require pruning annually to allow the tree to produce adequate fruit. My sculpture installation project will be formed from this material. On day three I was fortunate to have an assistant volunteer who accompanied me in the field to continue cutting and carrying it all back to my studio space.

My work here will address a specific call called Sistermos Efíremos. Here is a link to more information about the project.

The land in this region has suffered enormously from a lack of water in the past 50 years. The water catchment that was in place has dried up and currently doesn’t function at all as it once did. Joya is working to address this change and repair the water catchment to its original state. There are many factors to look at within the problem. Everything from massive soil erosion issues, the take over of pine trees that are not native to the area which contribute to erosion issues. The pilot holing for water in the town of Lorca for underground water channels to divert water which many claim has affected the water table level in the region causing the drying up of wells and catchments.

This water starved landscape is what my project addresses. I am creating a sculptural installation piece that offers a healing message to the landscape in the form of a sphere or spheres, orbs, balls..some sort of roundish shape that has the ability to move or roll across the landscape due to weather conditions such as the wind and as it moves it will carry a healing message to the landscape. My message will be embedded within the sculpture.

Here are some early photos:


Deborah Catton- Palabra Ball in the studio being built




Deborah Catton-Palabra Ball in the studio

Deborah Catton-Forming the healing palabra ball









Travelling to learn by the Sea



Deborah Catton-Weaving by the Sea

I landed in Barcelona almost two weeks ago and made my way along the south coast to a place called Villanova i la Geltru. I’m told the name translates to “new town of the old” and it is clear to see why as there is a definite old town centre and then the area around it that grew to be the new town. For the most part this small Catalan coastal city is a summer resort area for the Spanish who are seeking more moderately cooler temperatures in the middle of their hot summers.

Along one of the seaside streets that looks out from the cliff above is a place called Moli de mar and this where I stayed for a one week intensive course called Weaving by the Sea with Tim Johnson who is originally from the Isle of wright now living in Spain, Monica Guilera a native Catalan and Danish instructor Mai Hvid Jorgensen. I have travelled here to learn about working with plant material of the Mediterranean for the purpose of sculptural construction with natural materials within my own art process. All three of the instructors have interesting and diverse backgrounds with many years of professional experience.

I am surrounded by students who have years of experience working with these materials and are looking for new ideas as well as those who are completely new to this whole process.

In one week I have learned weaving techniques, structural techniques and attachment techniques. I’ve also learned about different plants worth working with and how to prepare them for using in this way. All of this I expect to be very helpful in my upcoming residency in Almería later this month.

The teaching schedule consists of starting each day at 9:00am and working through to 2:30 with a short break in between for a second breakfast or lunch, where we are served  typical Spanish food fare. It requires a fair bit of concentration to learn the many techniques being presented and by 2:30 you are ready to stop and change gears. Because we are only steps from the sea, I took advantage of taking a wonderful swim daily in these warm waters and afterwards you can choose to continue to work on projects on your own or walk into town for exploring, tapas and drinks or just down time and rest.

Below are some photos from the week:

Deborah Catton-Weaving by the sea



Deborah catton-finished basket

Deborah Catton-working on projects at weaving by the sea

Deborah Catton-Date Palm for weaving

Deborah Catton-Weaving project

Deborah Catton-different colors of willow



And The Beat Goes On…


I’ve been travelling a lot in the past two years. In fact I’ve made five major trips, four International and one Domestic and three of them have been centred around my art. Previously, I never imagined that travel for my art would become such a huge part of my process but apparently it has and I seem to have found a very satisfying method to fulfilling my need to create within such a scenario.

There are many different reasons that I could offer as explanations as to why this seems to work so well for me at the moment. One of those may be the fact that I love the challenge of arriving in a completely new and foreign environment and having to find something specific that I can engage with. To some extent I believe I work better under pressure.  The act of arriving in a brand new place where the smells, colours, and sounds are so different, forces me to be much more alert and attentive to what is around me. I become like a sponge absorbing all of this information and then somehow I break it all down into some specific detail that I manage to work with in my art.

It doesn’t matter if I’m painting or taking photos, either way I will automatically and intuitively hone in on some aspect of what I have been exposed to that becomes my next body of work. I think I have done some of my best work while on the road in some obscure place on this planet.

Happily, and with a determined “happy dance” I can share here that I will soon be off on yet another travel art residency to a foreign land. This time it will be completely different in terms of the medium I plan to work in which has me rather intrigued for the challenge.

I recently received notification that my proposal to an ongoing project at an ecological art residency in Spain had been accepted. This specific project is fascinating to me because for any of you who know of my background for 20 years as an alternative clinical holistic therapist, my proposal project comes in as a “healing project of intention” to a landscape that has suffered immensely over the past 50 years.

My work will address a specific ongoing project that has to do with promoting sustainable and transferable adaptations to land use and water resources in an arid landscape. It will be sculptural in nature, built on location with fully sustainable local and biodegradable materials.

I will post more about this once I’m on location later this fall.




These are my feet…I love my feet!



My feet are my feet, and unlike any others, they are truly unique to me. My feet are almost 50 years old.  My feet have had such an incredible job to fill. They have had to carry the whole weight of my body through out my life to date. I think about all the places they have taken me, pointing me in a direction of forward movement. It is with the help and guidance of my feet that I am able to walk, run, dance, ski, hike, bike and travel…all the things I like to do. They allow me the ability to drive a vehicle or walk me up a mountain and down the other side. They have run me away from danger or walked me away from hurt.  They have taken me down the aisle as well as into the delivery room. They have pointed me courageously equal in strength and stride next to those I love.

 We don’t seem to recognize or appreciate the importance of our feet…taking them for granted most of the time. For those of us in a northern climate we cover them in socks and hide them away in shoes and boots for most of the year. In southern climates, they can be exposed to the heat and dryness that causes cracking and bleeding of the heels.  Yet through all of this they remain as the base and foundation of our bodies, closest to the earth that literally grounds us, keeping us in contact to planet earth, always ready to jump into action as needed. Next time you have a moment take a good look at your feet and be thankful for all that they are, all that they do and the huge role they play in your life.

One of my New Year projects will see me working on a series about feet. Stay tuned!!



Livin La Vida Loca and the search for “new”

This is a Mediterranean Pine that I connected deeply with while recently visiting in the  Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid 

It’s interesting how I seek out the trees of a place when I feel the need to ground myself no matter where I am in the world. I have photographed trees for over 30 years and usually it happens in those moments of needing a direct method to connecting my energy with the experienced energy of a place.

Yes, it’s true….I’m back in Europe fulfilling several wish list items that have simmered away in the recesses of my being for quite some time. It all began with the making of a huge decision to leave my clinical practice this past summer in order to pursue my art on a more full time basis.

It seemed like the right time to make this change given the amount of time I have already been away in residencies over the past couple of years. I’m still in a transition period with this and have thrown myself into a complete cultural experience.

First and foremost I am attempting to learn another language. This is not an easy task at this stage of my life but I welcome the challenge to grow through this experience on so many levels. Of course I am also constantly being stimulated by my surroundings these days and this in turn will most likely show up in the next body of work that I do.

I will be capturing imagery and working on smaller sketch works that I hope to take back into my studio in Canada later this year and develop into larger concepts.

I have been filling my days with classes of instruction, visits to museums to study the masters, sampling food and drink, basking in the heat of places I have craved and dreamt about, reading, reading and more reading and yes knitting. (I have some creative ideas percolating around the sculptural qualities of felting)

I’ve been formulating new ideas and working out some of the finer details and really beginning to understand more about the cultural differences that exist between where I come from and what I am faced with currently each day. I expect to be in learning mode for the next few months, returning home before Christmas. This is a period of “study” and through that will come new knowledge, new influences, new experiences, new ideas, new exposures and hopefully some new art work, maybe even a new me!

I’m Livin La Vida Loca!!


The Importance of Public Art

Why is Public art so important?

Public art occupies a unique position within the art world. It’s virtually accessible to everyone at any time without charging a fee.  At its very core, it enhances a city’s quality of life by:

  •  Making the places where we live, work and play more welcoming and beautiful.
  • Creating a deeper interaction between the community and its environment.
  • Adding dimension to civic spaces.
  • Increasing the community’s assets by creating images that help define a space.
  • Allowing the community to express its identity and values.
  • Demonstrating pride in corporate citizenship.
  • Affirming the educational environment.
  • Enhancing roadsides, pedestrian corridors and community gateways.
  • Beautifying the transportation systems.
  • Helping Green Spaces Thrive

The City of Calgary contacted me recently to inform me that I have been selected as one of several artists who will design for the Utility box program. These are those grey electrical boxes that are found in every community throughout the city. The city has a program in place that selects local artists to contribute a design for one of these boxes as part of contributing to bringing public art to the masses within the city and to make these dull grey boxes a little more lively. I just finished submitting the final design template for “my utility box” which will be found in the community of WildWood. My design will be a vinyl wrap which will consist of five of my paintings, one on either side of the box. The design should be in place by the summer of 2015.

Here is a sample of my design: 

Small Signal Boxes

Iceland Part 2

I have just passed the half way point of my residency here in Iceland and the landscape has changed so much since when I arrived. The rain came last week and nourished and fed the earth, mosses and lichens. This resulted in an intesification to the existing colour of things. Even the mountains have transformed with this bloom of green gold spreading across them. It’s similar to looking at an algae bloom in water only on land. There are also many species of birds either passing through on migration or settling to nest. The thing about Iceland is that there are very few trees and so the birds all hangout on the open ground and in the grasses. As we are getting closer to  summer Solstice the day light is increasing quickly. By June 21, Iceland will see almost 24 hours of daylight. Even now the darkness doesn’t really come until after midnight and only for a short while. The birds all start chirping at about 1:00 am. The sheep and lambs are birthing their babies so the outdoors have become a very busy place.

I have spent a lot of time in the past week in the studio waiting for the showers to cease. When I see a clear moment I grab my camera and quickly head out in search of something interesting to capture or I head to the secret hot spring pool in the middle of somewhere (but I’m keeping it a  secret) for a soak.

Check out some of my work below.





The nice thing about residency work is that you get to do a lot of experimentation if you like. I have been trying out  a few new ideas…working on some different surfaces.

DSC_1514_2 DSC_1528





My second project in Iceland

I am also a photographer and with that comes an eye that is always searching for interesting and unusual scenes. I am typically drawn to colour, texture and contrasts in the world.

In Iceland one thing I have noticed is that the architecture is very boxy and functional without any detail or interesting features on the exteriors. After a while everything looks the same. In my driving adventures I started to notice only one type of architecture…and that is the churches. It seems every little village, hamlet and town has a small church that can be seen towering above all other buildings. This became interesting to me and I started to go and have a closer look at them. Most have been there for a long while and each is very different in the detail of windows, shape and colour. I started my own second project…chasing down the churches in Iceland. Have a look.

Selfoss Church DSC_1056


Stora-Borg Chapel

Mosfell Church

Skalholt Church Torfastadir Church

Mlodalur Church

Sod Chapel at Skalholt Hallgrímskirkja Church ReykjavikMosfel Church east of Reykjavik

 Þingvellir Church at  Þingvellir National Park


Ulfljotsvatn Church


Burfell Church