Monday, 1 October 2012

The importance of art and friendship

Last week I got an email saying that a dear old friend named Ruth Buckley had died. She was 92 and died peacefully, without pain in her sleep. She had retired to Florida after the deaths of her best friend Adine and her husband Chuck some years before. I imagine that it is a glorious reunion for them.

She was a hugely important and influential individual in my formative years. She was an artist--a *real* artist who had a studio in her own house. She also had this amazing bust of Nefertiti that I always admired.
Nofretete Neues Museum.jpg

She was this interesting old lady who travelled with her best friend Adine seeing all the great art and architecture of the world. As a child I thought they were joined like one person. RuthandAdine. Like it was all one word.  And they probably were not nearly as old as they seemed to my young eyes.

Several times in my childhood, I was graciously invited over to Ruth and Chuck’s house when Ruth was trying out some new art technique she wanted to share. I felt in awe of her that she--a real artist--would allow me--a kid who liked art--into her studio. She always played classical music as she worked, Mozart was clearly her favourite but she always kindly indulged me when I brought my Beethoven cassette. She encouraged me to love instrumental music and  *feel* the music as I painted.

Once we did silk screen printing using torn paper and earthy toned paints to create interesting abstract geometric shapes on paper and another time we dyed silk scarves in a variety of ways--whooshing the paint around by blowing it through straws or dip dying. I am certain there were other times, but those are the two projects I remember the most clearly.

Our artistic sessions were always followed by lunch. I cannot recall what we ate except for her delicious home-made pickles and Welch’s white grape juice which was like nothing I had ever tasted and thereafter insisted--nay, demanded--that my family purchase the same ambrosia on our weekly shopping trip.

What I came to realize as an adult is the gift that she gave me was time and creativity. She let me come in to her world and shared it with me, teaching me some technique but also allowing me some free reign to create something new. She was older and took and interest in a squirt like me. These days I try to do the same. I am “Auntie Heather” to countless kids. All of my work colleagues with school age children have happily dropped their children off for “play dates” where we looked at the spiders, did some baking, made some lip balm and body scrub and just generally had a good old creative time. When one of our former students was diagnosed with cancer, I would pile all my card making supplies in my trolley and wheel it over to her house. We had several lovely creative sessions before she died.

 It is really important to pay back the debt I owe Ruth Buckley. She valued me as a creative soul when so many didn’t. I have lost count of the times I was beaten up by my peers for daring to dream and be different. Going to Ruth’s studio was a honour. I was very lucky to have her as an artistic mentor and friend.

May it carry on.


  1. So beautifully said, my dear one. She and Nina were your two older playmates, who understood what it meant to an impressionable young girl to have these kinds of moments. I am so proud you are continuing on with their gifts to you.

  2. Such beautiful memories Heather, and you carry on with the lessons learned. I wish I could be as free a spirit as you are!