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


Conversations : A Series

I alluded to this in my previous 2 posts but I've been having weird and wonderful conversations with photos of people long since passed. When I flipped through these albums I found during our move, I noted how so many, particularly Tom's Aunt Mildred's, were of only females. This was during or just pre-WWII so I guess the guys were gone? Or maybe Millie (fwiw WE rarely called her anything but Mildred. I have a feeling there was much about "Millie" we knew nothing about ... the photos were like a glimpse into HER world) just liked taking photos of all her girlfriends. (again. an aside...Tom's father's photos tell a very different story so I'm going with the 2nd possibility)

The Interrupted Fairy Tale : 15"x11" . plaster and wax on plywood

These past few months watching what's been happening south of the border, both politically AND in the entertainment industry, well let's just say a whole whack of (ie 50%!!) of the population have been triggered. It's hard. I know from personal experience ... ya think you've seen the last of those feelings and WHAM! they hit you upside the head yet again. It's enough to make you want to dig a hole and hunker down until the world comes back to its senses.

A Conversation with Ethel: 6"x6 3/4" . plaster and wax on plywood

As I rummaged through the albums,  I pondered if it's ever been different.  All these old (almost 85 years!) photos of young women, hanging together, supporting each other, having adventures, travelling the country, footloose and fancy free ... with hopes and (big?) dreams that seem possible when a world has gone mad taking the boys and men away to fight, calling on those left at home to step up. Opening up a whole host of possibilities that were never even thought of, let alone acted on.

Heading West: a conversation with Millie : 7"x5" . plaster and wax on plywood, wood shadowbox

Flipping forward 10 - 20 years in those same albums and the guys show up again. And that spirit of ... I dunno... hopefulness? freedom? hunger? desire? ... seems lacking. The girls have moved into the boys arms, babies in prams, coupled up. Certainly less goofiness. Less spark.  I wonder how they related to each other after the men returned. Were they less forthright? More subdued? I wondered if they mourned the loss of the lightness that shone from those photos. Maybe it would've happened anyway. Maybe age has a way of rounding off those corners. But I couldn't help feeling a certain melancholy. So much potential. So many abandoned dreams. And can only hope that our children's children can witness our hopes realized as they [click, scroll, project?] through the photos of our youth.

Waiting for Yes : plaster and wax on plywood, vintage cigar shadowbox

Ask Me No Questions: 7"x14" . plaster and wax on plywood

Aw HELL No! : 8"x13" . diptych . plaster and wax on plywood

It Was All Over in a New York Minute : 8 1/4"x21" . plaster and wax on plywood

You Do You, Booboo : 15"x36 1/2" . plaster and wax on plywood

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!)
Nova Scotia . Canada