winter offerings

sun setting on snow, day after christmas
sun setting on snow, day after christmas

I feel like it has been a long time since I’ve written an email like this. And maybe that’s true. For a handful of reasons, I chose to slow things down a bit here at Blackbird Studio this past fall. I am learning – often the hard way – that this work, this life, is a precarious dance. A fine balancing act between putting myself out there and nurturing myself in here. Learning when to stretch and when to rest; how much to give to others, how much to care for self. I know that I want to have the heart and the ambition to be able to create, both for myself and with others, for a long time still. But it is still a journey of learning what that means, what I need, in order to be able to do that well.

foggy first day on a lake of rice in a new year
foggy first day on a lake of rice in a new year

All that to say, this past fall was a season that moved at a bit of a quieter pace. Or maybe more accurately, a more introverted pace (which can be noisy and busy, just in a different way!). I spent a lot of hours getting lost, in the best way, in my own art making – something I haven’t carved enough space for in seasons past. And I was blessed with some great opportunities to create with people outside of the studio walls – through projects like Culture Days, Shelter Valley Folk Festival, and with my gracious friends at Hospice Peterborough.

elbow to elbow art making
elbow to elbow art making

And while the slower season was good and necessary, I am really ready and excited to have the warmth and creative energy of others come and share the studio with me again. And by others, I mean YOU!  I’ve put together some workshops for the next couple of months – you can find all the details by clicking on the Up and Coming link under the Workshops tab at the top of the page. We’ll be offering the always popular Painted Floorcloth workshop again, as well as trying out a new 6 week series called Be Where You Are. I hope you’ll find something in the mix that inspires and intrigues you. I am always open to new ideas and suggestions, so if there is something that you have been aching to learn or try – or if you’ve got a group of friends who would like to come and book a private studio workshop session – then please drop me a line.

art underfoot
art underfoot

If you would like more information, or want to sign-up for a workshop (or two!) contact me at

One of the most rewarding parts of this work is when I hear from you. I love to hear your feedback and your stories. I am honored when you take an interest in this work; when you tell me that somehow, some part of it has connected with some part of you.

Thank you, as always, for coming along for the journey.

Be well.

come and be.
come and be.

maybe, just maybe

(this story was written by Tamsyn, a young writer who participated in our Spilling Open March Break camp here at Blackbird Studio…)


Imagine the nicest day ever: the beginning of a promising spring, with flowers already in bloom and a smell of freshness in the air. The weather was gorgeous – it was an ideal Vancouver day, shiny and bright, the rain of yesterday having cleaned everything off.

It’s the sort of day when I couldn’t not take my daughter Lydia outside, even if she was sick.

“You shouldn’t,” my husband had said. “I know it’s a nice day…but that’s not going to make her get any better. Emily, you know what Doctor Johansson said. She shouldn’t be over exerting herself; she needs time to recover from the chemotherapy. It might -if – you know, if we give her time to recover, she might just live longer.”

That stopped me for a moment. My maternal instincts wanted nothing more than to keep her inside, in her bed, where I could watch her and where she might squeeze in another day or two of life. I didn’t have to take her outside. Just because she had Leukemia, didn’t mean that she could have everything she wanted.

But I knew, inside, that the right thing to do was to let her go. Let her play, even if she had a shorter life. Because this place, our little house with her pony-poster-covered room, was not her real home. I knew that she would be 100 times as happy outside, with the trees. As much as I loved her, I knew that she would never love me quite as much as she loved the trees.

I took her to the beach, where we could run around and maybe swim in the ocean. Of course the very first things she did was climb a tree. She skittered up its branches and bark, with more difficulty than usual, and sat there for a while, wrapped in her thoughts.

“Come up, mummy,” she called down to me, her sweet voice twinkling like fairy bells. I could see that she really wanted me to. But I couldn’t come up. I hadn’t climbed a tree in forever.

“I -I can’t, Lydi.” I could see her face fall -she really was disappointed. She really wanted this. Remembering the painful truth about Lydia’s wishes,  and how they needed to be fulfilled soon, I couldn’t bear to let her down.

“Mum?” Lydia asked gently, when I had gotten up. “Am I -will – I’m dying , aren’t I?”

I didn’t answer.

“I think I am. The doctor said I might get better. But I think…I feel so sick, mum. I don’t wanna die.”

I squeezed her arm. “I love you,” I said.

“I love you too.” We both got lost in our own thoughts.

And as I sat there in the tree, holding Lydia tight like maybe if I did she wouldn’t leave me, I realized something about life. That maybe, just maybe, if doesn’t matter how long you live, but how you live. And perhaps it didn’t matter that Lydia would die at her young age, but that she got to fit so much life into her 6 years.


That was weeks ago – when Lydia was still here. She died, since then.

Sometimes I forget, and I wake up in the middle of the night sad. For a split second I wonder why; and then I remember. Sometimes remembering brings me sadness, sometimes pain or anger; and sometimes all three.

Sometimes I feel okay. Most times I don’t. I know I will recover – eventually. That’s what scares me the most. As much as remembering her hurts, it would be infinitely worse to forget about her.

When I feel so sad that I want to die too, I remember that afternoon. I remember sitting in the tree, holding her close.

I remember what she taught me.

And then I don’t feel so bad.


this is Earth’s heaven

( the following is a piece written by Lia Formenti, a young writer who participated in our Spilling Open writing camp last week…)

The Church

The walls stand taller than anything around, straight up, then slanting up to a center point with a cross standing atop. The bricks are aged and grey, the stone steps strong. Stained windows all around, crafted beautifully. The old wooden doors, classic and rich, creatively carved, and a statue  of an angel at each side. They sit on their knees, their palms pressed together in front of their chests, small stone eyes closed. The church gives out such a feeling of majesty, safety, love, composure, and the feeling that you are very small, but significant.

The doors of the church are opened wide and you see a vast stone hallway inside. As you walk, there are statues of God, baby Jesus, and the Virgin Mary. The art of stained glass windows astounds you, and you are left feeling smaller than when you entered.

You feel that the statues are watching you, evaluating you, you feel like you want to just yell to the Lord, but you keep walking. The peace emanates around you, but not quite touching you.

Suddenly the long hallway opens up and you are in one of the largest stone rooms ever. The windows and statues are crafted incredibly on the sides of the wall. The ceiling arches over you making a protective wall from all your troubles. Long polished wooden pews sit in 2 rows facing towards a raised platform, in which the largest statue of God stands and a large stone basin is placed. A huge red tapestry hangs down, with a golden cross in the center. This place is indescribable.

You don’t feel at peace, but yet peace is around you. You don’t feel at ease, someone is looking down on you.

A couple more wooden doors to choose from, you go straight through the one at the far end. Down a slate staircase, and into yet another stone room.

The room is lit with a thousand white candles, all around the wall. You can feel the heat from the candles, that was the strength of them. It is so warm here compared to the rest of the church. This place was magic.

In this lit room, you could hear the chanting of lots of people coming from a door at the other end of the room. It was beautiful, they were singing a godly hymn. You walk slowly past the lit candles and have your hand on the handle of the door where the chanting comes from, but stop just as you are about to open it.  It’s not right to intrude.

You sit in peace in the candlelit room listening to the harmonic voices of the people. You feel small, but right, in peace, but watched.

You suddenly realize you should go. It is time. So you get up and walk back up the stairs, through the larges stone room, and back down the hallway. Once you leave the final doors, you look back and see, and you realize,

this is Earth’s heaven.


field notes and small poems

every morning this week the studio has been home to a group of six young writers, all between the ages of 9 and 13, all girls. we’ve been pushing pencil to paper, crafting poems, forming characters, letting ideas spill all over the page.

the words on the easel are those of Thomas King’s, reminding us that “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are”.

that’s all any of us are. stories.

so yesterday we tumbled out onto the sidewalk, pocket sketchbooks and pencils in hand. the sun was bright and we were a small but mighty group of inquisitive minds on a mission.

our purpose?

to collect stories.

we set off around the neighborhood trying to listen…to pay attention…ready to ask questions.  we took notes and made sketches and collected snippets of stories from people we’d never before  met.

when we converged back here at the studio we scribbled our findings in chalk all over the sidewalks, spilling our stories into cracks and crevices, making them part of the landscape of our town.

today we returned to those findings, those sketches, those notes and we pulled out small pieces and crafted small poems. 17 syllables that give tiny glimpses into the stories we saw, the tales that we heard, and the way that our imaginative minds make sense of the world.


I want to see birds

Chirping on their little branch

Sitting in their nests.

– ashleigh


Worked for thirty years.

He just loves his job so much.

Gave us guitar pics.

– myrae


Nature, sweet nature,

Clear blue skies, running water,

Small spotted sparrows.

– brooke



Fred is my friend,

my Imaginary friend

he likes to swim with Sueshine,

my other imaginary friend.

He swims in the day,

he swims in the night,

he swims while he eats spaghetti

he swims in a shark infested sea.

Fred is my friend,

like you or me.

Fred is green

with purple spots

he also has

the chicken pocks!

He has blue eyes,

a blue nose

and orange toes!

He’s always sick

with measles or bumps,

he’s always depressed

whether or not

he smells like salami

and gets attention,

he’s never clean,

JUST like my brother!

– written by Brooke,

a playful, imaginative, aspiring young writer who is participating in our Spilling Open writing camp for girls this week at Blackbird Studio.

summer 2009 randoms 051

Winter Offerings

I seem to always be writing these letters to you in the dark of the night when my toes are cold. I suppose I should either become more productive in the mornings, or find myself some warmer slippers.

But winter won’t be here forever. I caught my first whiff of a soon-to-burst hyacinth the other day (albeit in the grocery store, not the garden), and I knew that spring was (slowly) on its way.

Over here at Blackbird Studio I’m trying to make the most of these cold, snowy days by spending hours wrapped in blankets scheming up new workshops for YOU to come and explore. Yes! You!

Check out the smattering of juicy workshops that are coming up in the next couple of months. It’s a cozy mix of favorite familiars ( March Break camp for girls, the Painted Floorcloth workshop for adults) and some brand new ones that are fresh off the press (i.e. my ever swirling head).

I’m really excited about what’s in store here in the studio over the next little while. But it will only happen if you come along ( trust me, workshops aren’t that fun if I’m the only one who shows up). So wander over to the Up and Coming section of the site and peruse the workshop offerings. Then go clear your calendar and put your cap of creativity and courage firmly on your head. It’s going to be great. You’ll see.

If you have any questions or want to sign up for a workshop, you can reach me at:

Thanks for your interest and support and willingness to foster a little more creativity in this sweet old world.


(“Flower Invasion” by  Kiersten Essenpreis. )

a dangerous journey

for the last 4 weeks i’ve been spending an hour, every monday, with 4 beautiful art makers.  we’ve made mandalas, sculpted our dream worlds, played with paint, and told stories about who we are and what we love.

these artists are all young – between 8 and 12 years old – and are all girls.  in our short time together i have seen sweet moments of courage and honesty; there has been a lot of silliness and laughter; i have witnessed juicy moments of discovery and unfettered creativity.

today was our last week together. we drank tea out of small glasses, made free form mandalas with watercolor pencils, and talked about things that mattered from our day and our week. i brought up the idea of life being a journey. of every day being new and different from the one that came before it.  some days we feel like we’re on the top of a mountain. other days, the bottom of a valley. still others, teetering on the edge of a cliff.  some days ask us to be brave. some days let us be silly. some days make us swoon and dance and relax.

we talked about how being an artist can be a dangerous thing. how there are risks involved sometimes. how sometimes we have to be really brave. we have to be willing to be ourselves, and tell our stories, even if it feels like nobody else understands. these may sound like big words or heavy topics for a table full of young artists. and maybe, in some ways, they are.

but as i watched their faces, and listened to their stories, i felt assured that they understood somehow what we were talking about.  one girl told me about her mom who, she said, makes the most beautiful drawings. but she hides them, or throws them away, because she doesn’t think they’re any good. another girl talked about not wanting to make art anymore because other people didn’t like the kind of art she made.

letting ourselves spill open, telling our stories, painting the pictures of our lives…these are dangerous choices. to do this with honesty means making ourselves vulnerable. it means taking the risk that we will be misunderstood or maybe even rejected. it means being willing to believe in ourselves, to believe that we have something worth saying, and maybe more so, something worth being heard.

4 weeks isn’t a lot of time. and there are a lot of things i wish i’d had the time to do and share with these young girls. and maybe some of these words were too big today. but maybe some of them were just right. i want these girls to be proud of their stories and the things they create with their hands and their hearts. and i want them to know, no matter what lays ahead, they’re not alone on this dangerous journey…spilling open 003

Words + Photos + Credit

Unless otherwise noted, all original photography and text are property of Raechelle Kennedy. If you see or read something here and feel inspired to share it somehow, please be considerate and give the artist (me!) credit, or even better, drop me a note and make sure I don’t mind.
Thank you!

Here + There

Secondhand Sainthood and the gift of losing it all – Topology Magazine, December 2015

Ten Things Made – Topology Magazine, December 2015