Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Paula Gustafson passed away on July 11th, 2006, following a brief struggle with cancer. She leaves behind her two daughters, Nisse and Monica (Mickey), and her four grandchildren, Michael, David, Nik and Katie.

It takes a lot of gumption to start an arts magazine in Canada. Few among us have the expertise and the vision to create a world-class magazine, and even fewer have the perseverance to make it a success.

My mother, Paula Gustafson, did just that. For 16 years, Artichoke magazine highlighted the creativity of our nation's artists, reaching readers across Canada and throughout the international community. This award-winning magazine featured outstanding writing about Canadian visual art and artists, filling a valuable niche in the Canadian cultural landscape.

Not only was she the publisher and editor of Artichoke, Paula was also a prolific writer, artist, mentor and advocate. Her unrivalled talents as editor and her ability to keep the integrity of Artichoke magazine's vision intact earned her the respect of both the arts and academic communities. This combination of intelligence and diligence enabled Artichoke to attract the very best writers from every region of the country, and opened pathways for aspiring authors to get excited about writing about visual art and Fine Craft.

Paula was a tireless advocate for Craft, and did much to bring about a new perspective for Craft to be regarded in the same category as Fine Art. She gave lectures, served as advisor to individuals and non-profit organizations, wrote articles and published books about craft, as well as published three special editions of Artichoke magazine which showcased contemporary Canadian Craft. (Yes, Craft with a capital C. She always said it deserved it.)

Contemporary craft was further explored in her series of books, Craft Perception and Practice: A Canadian Discourse, Volume 1 of which was published in 2002, with Volume 2 following in 2005. For these books, Paula compiled critical essays by established writers and contributed some of her own writing to document craft practice and also to initiate discussion and critical analysis of craft art in Canada.

Paula had a special knack for mentoring new writers. Since 1995, she actively engaged in mentorship with writers of various backgrounds. She earned their loyalty and trust through exemplary business practices and sharp, skillful editing, ensuring that they continued to submit articles for publication in Artichoke throughout the years, and also submitted essays for the craft books.

Sharing her experience in the Canadian publishing industry and her extensive knowledge of art and craft, Paula traveled all over Canada to give lectures and to take part in forums. She was a guest lecturer in Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary, and Saskatoon, and was involved in conferences on craft, art, and publishing topics throughout BC and Alberta during the last ten years.

Paula wrote and edited several books. Her first book, Salish Weaving, was published in 1980. After conducting extensive first-hand research at museums across North America and Europe, Paula made a name for herself as an expert on First Nations textiles, and was one of the very first to bring the beauty and craftsmanship of First Nations art to the public eye in a prominent way.

Most recently Paula completed the second volume of Craft: Perception and Practice, and edited A Brush with Life, an autobiography of Vancouver artist, John Koerner. She also edited and handbound a limited edition chapbook by Barbara Ponomareff about French still life painter, Jean Simeon Chardin, called A Minor Genre.

In addition to her experience in writing and publishing, Paula made many valuable contributions to the arts community. She lent her wisdom as a consultant to emerging artists, assisting them with portfolios, marketing and professional advice. As a visual arts critic for regional, national and international publications, she always spoke her mind. Though at times blunt, she was always honest, and felt it was equally important to be frank when the art was not up to par as it was to give credit where credit was due. She didn't give in to hype. Her opinion mattered.

Her own artistic endeavours were uniquely Paula. She began as a potter in the 1960s, and had a successful pottery studio in Nassau, Bahamas. In the 70s, after moving back to Canada from the States with my sister and I, she had her second pottery studio on our lovely farm in Yarrow, BC. These were the happiest years for all of us. Paula also began exploring the world of textiles during this time, making her own natural dyes for the handspun wool she made into woven tapestries and knitted garments.

Later, during the 1980s, she tried her hand at watercolour painting and botanical drawing, which she excelled at. Over the years she furthered her artistic knowledge by exploring bronze casting, glassblowing, and crafting jewellery and handmade paper. Paula spent several summers taking part in courses at Series at Red Deer College, which she thoroughly enjoyed. In 1989 she went on an excursion along the Oldman River in Alberta with several prominent artists, including the late Tony Onley and his wife, Yukiko, who took the beautiful photo which accompanies this tribute.

She loved all of nature's wonders. Her special favorites were dragonflies, blue herons, sea turtles, seed pods, mushrooms and flowers of all varieties. Paula also loved the ocean. The majority of her artwork was based on natural themes, and often incorporated her treasured 'specimens' which she collected whenever she went walkabout.

Paula spent six months traveling around Central and Southeastern Australia, with the special quest of going to see Ayers Rock. She came back with stories and wonderful memories, and made a series of colourful paintings which captured her experiences there.

She moved to Vancouver from Calgary in 1992. From her humble apartment in the West End, Paula brought forth her magazine four times a year, and wrote and edited books which continue to resonate both locally and throughout the global community. She was known in Vancouver's arts community as a passionate advocate, a forthright critic, and an outstanding editor and publisher.

What you may not have known is that she was also a mother and grandmother. She was a great baker and cook, loved good food and good conversation, and handknit the most beautiful, warm wool socks ever made. She was an avid reader, and particularly enjoyed the mystery novels of Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and Josephine Tey, John LeCarre's spy novels, and the quirky humour of Douglas Adams. In addition to news and current affairs shows, she also loved Monty Python, and liked to watch movies based on books, such as Pride & Prejudice, A Town Like Alice, and Out of Africa. Her favourite movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, was showing on TV during her final hour.

Paula will be greatly missed. She touched the lives of many, and gave so much of herself to this world. The legacy of her words and her art, and the memory of her special wisdom, tenacity, and strength of character will always remain.

She inspired us all. It is because of her that I became a writer myself. She taught me the love of words, the savoury joy of a great phrase, the importance of integrity, humour and all things literary. She always encouraged me to make art and to challenge myself. In writing this tribute, I feel it only touches the surface of who my mother was and what she accomplished, and leaves out so much. I can only hope that you've had the opportunity to have met her, perhaps had some correspondence with her, or read her articles, magazines and books.

During the last few months, Paula was the editor for Galleries West magazine. A consummate professional, she continued working until just a week before her death. The results of her efforts can be read in the fall issue, to be published in September.

She had one last request that she wanted to express; her 'dying wish' as it were. Recently she finished reading a book that she would like to recommend to anyone interested in the history and significance of Canadian crafts. This book is Crafting Identity by Sandra Alfoldy, published in 2005 by McGill-Queen's University Press, ISBN 0-7735-2860-1. Never one to offer praise lightly, she found it to be not only accurate and comprehensive in all areas, but also extremely well written.

In 2003, Paula was the recipient of the Board of Governor's Award of Excellence from the Alberta College of Art in recognition for her contributions to the arts. Her speech at the convocation ceremony summarizes her convictions:

"… if I may, I'd like to take a moment to turn the spotlight to everyone who contributes time and energy to sustaining the arts — whatever way we do it. Those of us who make art also have the responsibility of being its stewards — of committing ourselves not only to achieving our individual goals, but to ensuring our arts organizations remain vital — to participating in cultural events — to encouraging and mentoring young artists, and — to remind our politicians, regularly, that art isn't about the bottom line — it's a hallmark of civilized society. Our success is measured not in what we get, but in what we give."

If you would like to write a comment or share a memory of Paula with us, you can email your response through this website, or contact either myself or my sister, Mickey, at the following:

Nisse Gustafson

Monica Schmutz

Special thanks to Michael Dymund, who for the last six years has been Paula's graphic designer, helping with not only the layout and graphics for Artichoke and several books, but who also put together this blogsite and was one of my mother's closest friends.


Blogger Kriss Boggild said...

Dear Nisse and Mickey, I met your mother only very briefly at Artropolis 2003. I waas struck then with her candour and passion for the arts, a passion she demonstrated by her stringent thinking and her outstanding support of Artropolis endeavours through the years. I send you my deepest condolences for the loss of your mother and grandmother and hope that you know that she will be deeply missed in the Canadian arts community -- both by people who knew her well and by people who knew her only briefly but thought of her always as a role model whom all artists and arts and craft patrons should emulate.

9:30 AM  
Blogger BKGallery said...

My deepest condolences to you both. It was with shock that I heard about Paula's passing. I had just sung her praises to a local artist the weekend before receiving the news. I had been thrilled to learn she was working with Galleries West. I met Paula during my formative years in the commercial art gallery world throughout the mid-90's. I had the privilege of knowing her as writer, publisher and mentor and was disappointed when Artichoke shut down. But that pales in comparison to the sadness for the arts community for losing this lovely lady. She will be missed.

Sherri Kajiwara, Bjorson Kajiwara Gallery

2:28 PM  
Blogger BKGallery said...

My deepest condolences to you both. It was with shock that I heard about Paula's passing. I had just sung her praises to a local artist the weekend before receiving the news. I had been thrilled to learn she was working with Galleries West. I met Paula during my formative years in the commercial art gallery world throughout the mid-90's. I had the privilege of knowing her as writer, publisher and mentor and was disappointed when Artichoke shut down. But that pales in comparison to the sadness for the arts community for losing this lovely lady. She will be missed.

Sherri Kajiwara, Bjornson Kajiwara Gallery

2:29 PM  
Blogger pierre coupey said...

Dear Nisse and Mickey ––

Please accept my condolences. Your mother Paula was a fighter of the first order for the value of art and artists here in Vancouver, in BC, and across the country. Honest, straightforward, sharp, perceptive,
and full of care. Mind, heart, speech: all was clear with her. She was invaluable to me as curator and essayist for my show in Tokyo, she wrote fearless reviews, and did one of the toughest and most thankless jobs in this part of the world: edited a magazine devoted to the arts -- Artichoke -- all in the pursuit of that which matters.

Ah, what can one say...

What is the use of talking
and there is no end of talking,
no end of things in the heart...

And then this:

What thou lovest well remains.
The rest is dross.

9:53 PM  
Blogger Jeannie said...

Dear Nisse and Mickey,

Paula has been a person I have considered a comrade in arms as we fought to make Craft recognized as art. We have spent time sitting at art conferences laying on the grass discussing art, politics and most of all our children and grandchildren.

Paula was a crusader. It was always with joy that I read my Artichoke looking for again more insite about my own field.

My deepest condolences to you two. I will miss her.

Jeannie Kamins

11:27 PM  
Blogger Helen Sebelius said...

I am shaken by this news.

Dedication, passion, clarity of purpose, generosity and above all, caring, were and will remain embodied in Paula’s spirit. My memories of her and her great work will be carried forward.

My deepest condolences,

Helen Sebelius, Nelson, BC

7:47 AM  
Blogger Adrienne Fast said...

You and your families have my deepest sympathy. I met Paula only recently, though we had known each other via email ever since I wrote a piece for Artichoke from London in 2004. I had known her to be a treasure of an editor and was completely blown away by her when I finally got to meet her in person. Intelligent, funny, assured, professional, insightful and warm - she positively glowed with grace and strength. Reading your your wonderful tribute to her confirms for me that Paula has left behind a real and lasting legacy, both professionally and personally. She will be greatly missed and lovingly remembered.

8:35 AM  
Blogger kay burns said...

Dear Nisse and Mickey and families:
Thank you so much for your email message and blog link to inform about this sad news. Please accept my deepest sympathies. As a freelance writer who has worked with Paula on different occasions over the last several years I just want to say that my ideas and writing were enriched through my exchanges with her as an editor. She always offered astute and carefully considered comments and it was clear that she was incredibly dedicated to her work with a diverse and deep knowledge of art. I will greatly miss my correspondance with her and the insights she provided. I wish you continued strength as you face each day in her absence, and comfort in the knowledge of her wonderful contributions to Canadian art and craft.

10:31 AM  
Blogger donna mcalear said...

My sincere condolences to you and your families during your time of loss. Paula was a vivacious and dedicated individual with so much passionate energy for the diversity of visual arts. Her bold vision and drive to initiate Artichoke, supporting and nurturing the work of designers, artists and writers, will be missed by many. I knew Paula in Calgary when she first published Artichoke, and I well recall the excitement it generated for those western creators who gained so much experience and exposure from Paula's initiatives. She is in our thoughts.

11:25 AM  
Blogger ken said...

I am shocked to hear of this, and l am sorry to hear of this. I received a pair of Paula's wonderful socks just a few months ago. I loved the first pair she sent me, wore them out. I met your mom in 1986 at aca where she gave me a graduate cheque, and then ran into her many years later in vancouver. Paula was wonderful, l always enjoyed visiting with her as we would sit and have these wonderfully grounded conversations. I use to always send her stupuid things, like my journals and little gifts of threads or other things. She even sent one of the gifts back because she couldn't deal with it at the time, it was a silly gift and l don't blame her. I juried the filberg with her this year, was so nice to see her again. Paula talked about you Nisse and your husband and how happy you were. Paula was truly a good person, always straight and true. She gave so much of herself to the arts. I will miss her.

9:27 PM  
Blogger tiko kerr said...

Dear Nisse and Mickey. What a tragic surprise hearing of Paula's death. She was a pivotal anchor in our community and seemed indomitable. Her keen insights and dedication to her stewarding of art-making, writing and arts organizations brought validity and integrity to us all. She helped us to develop a clearer idea of who we are, what we do and what more there is to do to maintain our vitality. Paula cast a long but gentle shadow. I'm very sorry for your loss. It is a loss for Canadian culture and we were very fortunate to have enjoyed her while she lived with us.

8:19 AM  
Blogger Adrian Livesley said...

Dear Nisse and Mickey,

My hearfelt condolences. Unlike the majority of visual arts publishers, Paula wasn't afraid to promote work and writing that went against the grain of the art establishment. Her generosity, common sense and spirit will be missed.

9:09 AM  
Blogger QUASAR9 said...

Hi! thanks for sharing that.
All the best!

1:54 PM  
Blogger Lee Hill said...

As the editor of the now defunct Vox, I was invited by Paula and David Garneau to the very early editorial meetings for what became Artichoke. I don't recall the details of those meetings, but I do recall the enthusiasm and determination. The arts, are by their very nature, probably the most speculative and entrepreneurial things a person can do. It is always inspiring to find people who dedicate their lives in an effective way to pursuing and promoting the arts. I was glad to see Paula take Artichoke to a level I could barely envision. Calgary and the Canadian arts scene will miss her. I hope her example will inspire others.

4:59 AM  
Blogger marcus bowcott said...

Dear Nisse and Mickey, I'm saddened hearing the news of your mother's passing. She will be truely missed by many artists and artisans. Her original and genuine voice articulated a clear vision of the arts Western Canada. My condolences.

Marcus Bowcott

9:07 PM  
Blogger Kaye said...

Dear Nisse and Mickey when I wanted to start my art magazine Paula answered all my questions wrote me a letter of introduction - she had jusst met me but gave me so much - she believed in what I wanted to create - Nisse became the editor and I would not have been able to move on in my life without her help - thank you Nisse - thank you Paula - both of you have a gift of natural presence and belief in people. much love to you both Kaye

9:39 PM  
Blogger PeterMogensen said...

So sorry to hear about the loss of your wonderful mother. She was a bright spark.
I worked on Artichoke along with Paula (and others) in the early days of Artichoke as a Designer (cira 1989-1994).
Between Artichoke (which is in many collections), her other publications, and the positive connections Paula made with everyone she met, she has left a lasting legacy.
Working on Artichoke with Paula has had a positive influence on my life. It gave me the experience I needed to kick-start my commercial professional career in the Canadian publishing industry. I was passionate about Artichoke, because I believe, as she did, that there is a lot of great stuff going on culturally in western Canada, and it needed to be written about and put out there for people. Artichoke helped to create some sort of cultural balance for Canada.
I have carried on with my career in "publishing" for the last 15 years. While working on Artichoke I pursued freelance graphic design, illustration, and photography. And for the last 10 years I have been a Digital Media Designer.
Paula has had such a rich and varied life. Completely focussed on the task at hand, and managed to live life to the fullest.
I'll be thinking of her, and you and your families.
Take care.
Peter Mogensen

3:51 PM  
Blogger scratchy said...

7/ 27/ 2006

Dear Nisse,

I'm so sorry to hear the news. But thank-you for letting me know.
What a wonderful person to have had for a mother and a grandmother.
May her strength of spirit be an inspiration for you within your grief.

Paula would write me personal hand-written letters whenever I had a show,
or even when I renewed my subscription. Her calligraphy was always so
welcome - her letters were carefully scribed jewels.

I never met her, but I knew she was careful and passionate about everything
she did.

When a review of my work (in Artichoke) had a mistake in it (by the
reviewer, not her) she telephoned immediately, and allowed space in the next issue to set it to right.

That's integrity, that's care. She had a depth of caring that many fall
short of.

While she didn't know me, or my husband, except through our work,
her championing of the Fine Crafts & Arts - and her belief in their value -
helped us both immeasurably.

Her passing is a loss, one that - to do her honour - we must all step
forward to fill.

Diana Lynn Thompson
(and Lari Robson too)

4:41 PM  
Blogger scratchy said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:41 PM  
Blogger merrell said...

Your mother was a special spirit who touched my life with her gentleness and wisdom. I will miss her.

8:59 AM  
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