Mixed Media Assemblage Artist

J J Worden

I want to make Things Even if Nobody Cares

About me


I'mJen Worden

Maker of Things

I am a self-professed Hermit living in Rural Nova Scotia. My first love is rusty metal but I've recently discovered painting. Mostly abstract. I get bored [read: distracted] easily. Altered books, collage, assemblage, mixed media, encaustic, plaster, wire and of course, rusty metal are just a few of the media I work in. I love collaborations. I thoroughly enjoy sharing my processes and techniques. (have any questions? just ASK!) My trusty sidekick is Stella the Jack (Russell Terrier). You'll see more photos of her than me. I don't always advertise my work, but most of it IS for sale so if you see something you like? Contact me!

Current Work


working through

I'm kinda proud of myself.
And I do not say that lightly ...25 year badge for Self-Deprecation. thankyouverymuch

Turns out if you practice you get better. [uhm. no shit sherlock]
Bear [bare? I never knowwwww!!]  with me.

I've been uber reactive to the whole mission statement thang. Pretty sure I've written about that before ... just ended up going down a giant rabbit hole trying to find links to vision boards *eesh* the older I get the more frittered I become. ANYWAY. The point being I push back against that shit. Big. Time.


I know it works.
I've SEEN it work.
But something about sitting down and writing these days. I'm like a 5 year old hopped on sugar with hyperactive tendencies. My brain zips and veers off the road. I probably need to figure out what THAT's all about but not THIS day.

And because of this current propensity I've been super focused on practicing visualizations. Quiet moments thinking about my path, clearing it of obstacles, intent on how it looks and more importantly FEELS as I wind down that road. Slowing it all down so I can really look, listen, experience how I want it to BE.

From my previous post you know I've been trying to figure out how to interpret all these photos of Tom's Aunt Millie.  I was in the studio looking at what I'd started ... "What do you want?" I asked. And suddenly the conversation started.

Oh! Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
 I realized I don't HAVE to know the solution.
The conversation IS the solution.
And it's through this process ... my art process... that I'll discover what that conversation is.

And just like that my path opened and the direction was crystal clear.

New Work!

House built? CHECK!
Moved in? CHECK!
Studio Organized? CHECK!
Time to put the label-maker down and get to work then!

During the move, I discovered a bunch of old albums in a box in the shed. Turns out Tom's Aunt was quite the traveller and photographer. I'd actually planned on doing Stephanie's e-course Art as Allegory as my first 'new studio' project ... these photos fitting right in with that. Unbeknownst to me, moving a 1/2k down the road meant our already border-line internet access became spotty at best. If you've ever travelled and found yourself having to use dial-up again, you KNOW the frustration. And as 'give it to me NOW or else' firstworld white folk, turns out "or else" is to walk away.

So. I went ahead with my own take on Telling Stories.

Using a base of plaster, gesso and cast-off plywood from the build [free art supplies!], I've been putting all these photos to good use. My concern is how to make her stories, old stories, MY stories. I'm working on that part!

Perhaps because the context of this New York City scene was less personal than many others, I had little problem going to town. I really like how it turned out. But there ends the ease. I'm struggling with moving beyond these being "Millie's  photos" into the realm of anyone relating to them. There is one of Tom's Dad & Millie that I suspect will take me a long time to get to.

As I worked on "Millie and The Baby", which is just SUCH an awesome photo!, I was being oh! so tentative. I'd make a mark. Wipe it off. Add colour. Wipe it off. I was getting angry with myself and frustrated that it wasn't coming easily. So. As I learned from my Daily Painting project, uglifying [technical ART term] stopped me from being precious, getting me back into my own creative zone. I suspect there will be many more Ugly Painting stages before I finish with this series!

Been awhile OR Things I have learned while Building a House

  1.  Building a House is not for sissies.
  2. The euphoria is equally matched with the devastation. (this may be overly dramatic)(or not)
  3. Choose your builder wisely.
  4. Get used to everything being more expensive and taking twice as long.
  5. Remember YOU will be living in this place. Not your builder, not the painter, not the electrician. YOU. This cannot be repeated often enough.
  6. Take time to sit in each room. Preferably alone and in silence.
  7. Not everything has to be done before you move in. But anything done by somebody else should.
  8. Put your money where it's important to YOU. (ie bathrooms are not my jam)
  9. If things take a bit longer toward the end? Remember a few days will NOT make a big difference in the Big Picture!
  10. Enjoy the journey!

Absorbing the new

One of my very favourite studio activities is The Tidy or (as in today's case) The Absorption of Acquisitions. When I'm not in the mood for starting something new ... or finishing something already started, there is always time for organizing bits'n'bobs.

I've been lucky to acquire some coolio stuffs of late. Not that I have room for it in my current studio but more, in anticipation of my NEW space. (Yes. At some point I will have to write about our new house build but until then, I am SO excited about this studio space.)

My latest score was a box of trophy finials ... mostly majorettes, mostly plastic... but some gorgeous metal ones. My favourite being the Monkey Girl Bowler ...

She's solid brass and HEAVY and while I'm not sure what I'll do with her (or any of them actually), I love just having her. (ruh roh. can you say hoarder?!?)

Also ... I had no idea there were so many variations and permutations of majorette trophy toppers ... a dozen in my small collection. And that's just the metal ones. Including one solitary dude.

My general modus operandi of adding something new to the established collection...

  1. Clean ... most stuff has been housed in less than stellar condition and needs a good wipe down
  2. Sort ... this is  equal parts fun and 'lunch bag let down' part of the process. Fun because each piece holds the possibility of something Great. Something New. 'Lunch bag let down' because once I'm finished, the possibility sort of leaks out and down. I dunno. Maybe this is just me. But if you know what I'm talking about, I'd love to hear your version!
  3. Find a place for the New Stuff. This is kinda fun but also can be stressful particularly in my current digs. So much stuff. So little space.
  4. Put away.
And that last one is where I'm looking for input ...a change... something. 

I'm very much an out of sight, out of mind kinda girl. Once something has been sorted and categorized and safely tucked away, I totally forget it exists. (and likely the major reason I keep acquiring stuff. I don't know what I already HAVE!) I need to find a way of organizing things ...I don't function well in a messy space... but can SEE things. Or easily access them. Or ..ugh... I dunno. Help???

In my new studio I'll have a long El-shaped bench ... one side will be desk height (under the window looking out at the lake), the long side will be a standup bench with shelves behind reaching to the ceiling approximately 12" deep and shelves underneath that will be 24" deep. I figure the lower shelves will have plastic bins to hold my heavy stuff. But the upper shelves? I need to find something that, while stashed, I can access easily. Initially I'd thought of those clear(ish) plastic shoe boxes. But I don't know if that will give me the visual I'm looking for. If you have some ideas or what works for you, I'd love to know! Please!!

The Possiblilites of Detritus

It's been a crazy stressful few weeks on the home-build side of things. Without getting into too much detail suffice it to say we have turned a corner and are back once again full steam ... and infinitely more important, full ENTHUSIASM... ahead. Part of reclaiming the build-site was going in and doing some tidying up. And really, this post's gist ... do you get excited with reno/build leftovers?

Do you see some old sheet metal, HVAC hole cutouts and a bit of rusty metal? Or are you like me and think, "Free Metal! Wheels! What could I MAKE from that?!?" Tom shakes his head as I squirrel away my newly found ART materials, brain already spinning with possibility.

There's a bag of blue insulation styrofoam that I will be lugging up to the studio tomorrow that I want to do some more animals. And those "wheels" would be perfect to make it pull-toy base, don't you think?

As you can see I've already used some of the HVAC sheet metal. It wasn't quite thick enough so I just riveted a few layers together. Bonus:

  1. Practice rivets
  2. Cool layers
  3. A new shape for me
Wins all around.
As an aside ... I do not consider myself a religious person. Spiritual, yes. But indoctrinated faith? uh uh. And yet, I'm often drawn to religious symbols ... crosses, angels, reliquary, shrines. What's up with that? I was brought up with a reasonably strong Anglican background, my parents were both involved in the church for years. Until they weren't. During a particularly hellish time in my teens, I even went back to church on my own volition. Studied and went through confirmation. And when I think back on it, kinda boggles my mind. Cuz I am so NOT organized religion. Regardless. I continue to be drawn to the symbology less for the specific meaning, I think, than the safety and comfort they invoke.
I can't wait to scavenge more building/art supplies as our house build continues. (more about THAT later!)

Personal Symbols

Taking another online mini-course, Personal Patterns from Stephanie Lee.

Starting with painting, mark making on tracing paper ... when I did a course with Jane Davies a few years ago, we did stamping on tissue paper but I wholeheartedly agree that tracing paper is much more sturdy. And it disappears just as easily as tissue paper without the potential tearing. So. Keep that puppy in my arsenal!

Then we layer. Here I focussed on colour and form rather than any specific imagery. Again. A new thing for me and while the "finished" look kinda gives me the heebie jeebies I love the scope and freedom of this base. Another, trick I'll use over and over again I think.

Now we get into personal patterns and symbology. I looked for First Nations symbols for Seasons ... going through some stuff so I'm trying to remember that everything passes "to everything there is a Season" and all that. The balloons on strings on the left  bottom is actually the symbol of winter. The diamond divided in 4 = Seasons. As you can see, not a whole lot of the original collaged substrate is showing once the paint starts to get introduced. And yet? It's all still there.

As per usual it became a tad overwrought, something I'm trying to change. I want a much rougher or rawer final product. Which I didn't quite achieve. I stopped here. But knew I'd have to go back in the morning.

And this is where I stopped. I realized I'd gone too far and would only be treading the same bit of water if I kept on. There are bits I absolutely adore ... the background behind the 3 circles on the center left. And the triangles and scribbled red bits (using new-to-me Golden Fluid Acrylic pens ... OMG swoon!) have the rawness I'm after. Everything else? Giant "meh".


PS It's nice to be back and I apologize if you got a flood of old posts by email. Technology. *sigh* #amiright
Nova Scotia . Canada