For Culture Days, Ann K Chou hosted three accessibility-focused public art workshops in Victoria, one of which was a sock puppet art jam themed around the exploration of gender and non-binary identity. Her mentor, Tim Gosley, who has decades of experience experimenting with puppetry, was instrumental in helping her prepare for the activities.
Tim Gosley: After months of initial meetings on and off Zoom dealing with the preparation of Ann’s three workshops, the test of the work culminated with a weekend of trial workshops I arranged with a chosen group of artists, teachers and Ann’s contacts as participants. This allowed Ann a relaxed ‘dress rehearsal’ of the final events with people familiar with this kind of work to enjoy the activity at the same time as offering suggestions for improvement. This also allowed me to step back and watch Ann outside of my shadow, to see how she interacted with the workshop participants. There was about a two week pause after these trial workshops where Ann really took to heart the comments provided to her, and she rethought the material supplies she needed. I believe these trial workshops gave Ann a firm footing towards the success of her final public workshops.
Ann K Chou: Tim provided me with valuable encouragement, helping me overcome writing blocks and scattered thoughts. His support was particularly crucial for a relatively ambitious project, especially considering my limited track record as an art workshop facilitator. Tim’s backing played a significant role in addressing my deficiencies and refining the project. Tim was very responsive. After each meeting, he would clearly say very clearly what he was going to do and what time it would be done. He would always respond within 36 hours. He gave very clear time expectations, and I really appreciate that. So he was very easy to work with.
I didn’t really follow a typical path for artistic training and development, so it’s very helpful to be under the mentorship of a professional artist and to be immersed in their environment. It’s helpful to know the whole ecosystem. The mentorship helped me to get introduced to Tim’s circle and to connect with fellow artistic educators. Having the mentorship helped me to explore my alternate professional pathways and meant that I am building my support network.
BC Culture Days: Tim, did the mentorship have any impact on your own artistic practice?
Tim Gosley: It is always humbling to be reminded that other artists have different processes than I do. My process tends to be (depending on the subject matter and length of the workshop) quite straight forward. If people are making a sock puppet, while I encourage people to think about character and voice, I try to get people focused on the activity and create their character. What Ann did was create a thematic thread to how the puppet might be an extension of the creator or might reflect aspects the the creator might like to aspire to. I found this thought provoking and added a depth that I may emulate in the future. This mentor/mentee program is an excellent opportunity for artists on both ends of the spectrum. It is always fulfilling for me to share my accumulation of years of knowledge. It is also enriching to see how new generations re-imagine what I give them and see how they incorporate it into their own practice and carry it into the future.
Ann K Chou is a visual artist who works with spontaneous brushwork in Chinese calligraphy ink and acrylics. She was born in Hong Kong and grew up by the southern seaside of the island. Ann is a first-generation immigrant who is severely hard of hearing and on the autism spectrum. Her personal history and unique intersectionalities have influenced her art and her desire to create works that break down boundaries and celebrate diversity. Her preferred art media are lanterns and wearable puppets, which she creates from a variety of materials such as papers, found objects, bamboo, grape vines, and fabrics. She has received training in photography, digital production, soft sculpture, and the language of arts and crafts from community centres and local art schools. Currently, she is in ScreenDance residency, where she is further honing her skills to create all-disabilities accessible art with captions, audio descriptions, and multi-sensory kits. As a hard-of-hearing person with a deaf accent and a first-generation Cantonese-speaking immigrant, Ann often feels like she does not quite fit into any one community. However, rather than viewing this as a limitation, she embraces it as an opportunity to create something unique and unexpected. As an artist, she believes in the power of breaking things down to rebuild them in new and functional ways. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she rekindled her love for Chinese ink and brush painting, returning to simplicity and Zen. Ann hopes her art inspires others to embrace diversity, and she believes in accessibility to the arts for everyone.
Tim Gosley‘s four decades in puppetry include a wide spectrum of projects. He just built and performed the lead puppet for a Toronto television pilot. Currently, he experiments through puppetry with autobiographical subjects: The Heart Coffer & Le Bloke de North Hatley (under development). He was the festival director for Puppets for Peace in Victoria, B.C. He is a Gemini Award winning puppeteer on TV series including the Muppets Fraggle Rock, and was Basil Bear for nine years on Canadian Sesame Street. He creates his own shows for both families and adults in different techniques including LED shadows; low-tech live video; object manipulation; and Muppet-style manipulation. The content ranges from children’s shows like The Ugly Duckling, which toured German, the UK, Austria, Taiwan and across Canada, to the avant-garde including Michael McClure’s 60’s hallucination “The Meatball.” Since moving to Victoria (2008), he started building giant puppets, which he has created for The City of Victoria, Theatre Terrific, and Puppets for Peace. He conceived and produced a 24 cast of community mixed-nations performers with Roy Henry Vickers telling the Tsimshian tale, Peace Dancer. His latest suitcase performance is with Runaway Moon Theatre’s project, “How did you get here?” In 2020 he had an artist-in-residence fellowship at the Center for Studies in Religion and Society at The University of Victoria where he has created The Heart Coffer: an exploration into the universal heart through puppetry.