Ready For Something New In Your Life? I Sure Am! (New Blog Post)

Prayer Machine 251. In My Dreams All The Places Are Bigger - Wire Sculpture by James Paterson, Ontario, Canada

My emotions have been swirling since returning from the Art San Diego show 3 weeks ago, with my wife Lynn, and daughter, Sorche. “What am I doing as an artist?” I’ve been asking myself. My spirit says I’ve come to the end of a season with the Prayer Machine creations and am about to start into a new one. Am I ready?

So far I see the journey with the Prayer Machines in three phases; the first part being our move to Germany from 2008 – 2011 where the Prayer Machines were conceived.

The second phase has taken place over the past 6 years, from the time we arrived back in Canada in July 2011 to the first showing at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition in July 2012, through this past Art San Diego show at the end of September, 2017. This phase allowed us to introduce the Prayer Machines to the public, establish prices and value, and form relationships with a number of different galleries now carrying the work.

That means the third phase is beginning now, anticipating a return to the Spectrum Miami show in December for the fourth time, during Art Week Miami, arguably the largest collective art fair in the world.

The Prayer Machines have evolved. Initially, they came out of an experience I had in Germany when I couldn’t find words to use in prayer. In my distress I wondered what my prayers would look visually, rather than sound like with words. Intuitively I started playing with wire, twisting it into ambiguous machine-like looking objects. My prayer life returned and I ended up calling these little creations “Prayer Machines”.

Since my first experimental constructions, the Prayer Machines have changed as I’ve added colour, kinetic movement and more complexity.   Now I find I want to take them beyond being reminders of that experience back in Germany and have them talk about things going forward as well. They’ve made me curious. I’m curious about what machines are, where they’ve come from and where they are going. I’m curious about the intermingling and identification we have with machines. I’m curious about how that relationship will develop and further define us. In culture we are often seen to be pitted against “the machine” but I wonder why the relationship continues to be so dependant and why it’s so often  personalized?

I’m not sure anymore if what I’m doing is art, or if I’m even an artist. What I know is that I make things, objects, hopefully beautiful objects, and I deal in imagination. Entering this third phase with the Prayer Machines I’d like to look further into our entanglements with machines and the impact of technoculture on how we live, think, make decisions and view who we are. My imagination will be the road, the Prayer Machines the vehicles my curiosity uses to travel, as I explore our growing relationship with the machines we are creating.

What I Said To My Wife In The Car The Other Day…

Or “The Fragility of Life demands Ornamentation  – A conversation in the car, May 2017”

We have really fragile lives, right?  We can be disabled at any second through a catastrophe, an  accident, or disease. We are always questioning everything; our own identity, our security. Things can be taken from us; stuff that we love, stuff that we find security in. And physically we are very fragile; we can be hit by something and killed or injured badly. There is so much chaos in so many ways.

Ornamentation says, “I’m not going to be reined in by all that or held down or limited by all of that.” Ornamentation are the thrills that we put on our lives. Or the things we enjoy. Music can be an ornamentation to your life. Ornamentation can be what you wear, how you wear it, or the little eccentricities that we have. It’s the real me coming out from underneath the defenses I put up to protect my being as I go through the world each day. Ornamentations are the little extravagances we allow ourselves. You know, when after we deliver all the work at the gallery and then go next door for a Baskin-Robbins ice cream cone, that’s an ornamentation in your life.

And I sort of feel that in my art I am showing that in a tangible way in all the little twirls and wiggles and spirals and whirling things. They don’t mean anything and they aren’t necessary and yet they sort of defy the hard lines that reality puts up for us to walk between.

Like Jesus, taking time to just be with his Father when he could have been dealing with all the people who would have been demanding him to heal everybody in the world because he had the power. Yet he took time away to ornament his life, by enjoying a wedding feast with friends, or spending time with Martha and Mary and Lazarus who he enjoyed.

Everything that’s fragile about us is a given; the ornamentation, how we approach life is a choice, and I think it’s important both for us and for others to enjoy it and for others to see it in us, to be ornamenting our lives with things that can’t be quantified as being useful in some ways.

Like art. It doesn’t make any difference to your life in one way, whether you live or you don’t live, or whether you are sick and can be healed or not, the way medicine does.  And yet, why do we always need art? Why do we need music? Why do we need beauty?

You know, no matter what’s going on in the economy or how badly we’re doing economically we still need to treat ourselves to little things,  we still need to ornament our existence.

I think that’s a big part of what I’m doing with my prayer machines. I’m sort of saying this extravagance is important too, the fact that these wheels spin so delightfully for no discernible purpose is still worthwhile in some way, it still has validity.

And now I want to cry.

James Paterson

May 26, 2017

209. Can You Envision Such A Windblown Silence? - A Prayer Machine by James Paterson 2016
209. Can You Envision Such A Windblown Silence? – A Prayer Machine by James Paterson 2016



Prayer Machines in Outer Space?

Written by guest writer, Lynn Paterson

Prayer Machines in Outer Space?  Well, not really. They haven’t flown out there yet. But James did have an opportunity to show his whimsical creations on the TV show, “InnerSpace” which airs on, what else, the Space Channel.

James was invited to participate in an interview with InnerSpace host, Teddy Wilson. The event took place at the Petroff Gallery where the Prayer Machines were being featured in the window during a two week period in July. Teddy asked probing questions about how the idea of these wire sculptures began, while Petroff rep Ellen Hlozan and I listened in from behind the partition. Eavesdropping, we were. But fascinating to hear how Teddy was able to draw out of James the “why” behind the wire pieces and explore his spiritual crisis that lead to the first twist of wire. Then James showed him the “how”.  It really is a miracle how in TV time, a masterpiece can be created in a matter of minutes, or seconds.

The whole shoot took about 3 hours and ran quite smoothly, and then it was a matter of waiting until the editor and producer told us when the segment would be airing on the Space Channel.  And as they say, “A good time was had by all!”

Thanks are in order to the Petroff Gallery for their gracious hosting of the event and to Michelle Melles, Senior Segment Producer for Space/CTV and Bell Media for arranging the proceedings.  And if you think of the internet and TV as this mysterious, magical method of sharing moving pictures that I do, then the Prayer machines really are now in Outer Space!

Lynn Paterson, Observer of art and mystery.

Prayer Machines and Shadows

There is a brilliant book by David Galenson called, Old Masters and Young Geniuses, in which he makes a point for the credibility of those that develop later in life. The ones who take time to mature while coming to effective, if not profound, creative expression a little later than the rest. In a culture that gives popular acclaim to precocity and exults the energy of youth, Galenson makes a great case for those who seemingly muddle along much of their lives in search of, they aren’t sure what, but end up saying something new and valid and true in the end. (The book itself is in-depth, he’s an economist after all; for an easier read, Malcolm Gladwell capsulizes his thesis nicely in his book, What the Dog Saw, in the chapter “Late Bloomers”).

I love what Galenson says because I feel like I’ve been muddling along most of my life, in search of I don’t know what, but figured if I tinkered long enough something would emerge.

That’s not to say I didn’t have a vision. From my earliest memories I had this “idea” that I wanted to express.  I was aware of an “ethereal image”, like an elusive shadow, that would float before my mind’s eye that I knew I wanted to capture. And so I set off on a spacious road for an unknown land. I called the unknown land “Art” because on the map I was drawing it seemed like a place that had a recognizable name. Not many of the people I talked to knew what the place was like or where it was, but at least they had heard of it. Then came other place names that needed marking on the map of my journey; Career, Faith, Beliefs, Marriage, Family and Evangelical Upbringing. How was I to locate then visit all of these diverse locales on one topography?

I had the notion from the start that God was inviting me to make this journey and I sensed that getting to know Him was important from the outset. God the Father, I believe, set the course and prepared me for the destination. Jesus the Son has been my traveling companion and confidant in discouragement, confusion and joy along the way. The Holy Spirit inspires me through the hard trudging days and quickens me on the exuberant ones.

When I set out I wasn’t sure what “art” was and I didn’t know what being an “artist” meant. I knew I had ideas I wanted to express and visual art became my vehicle of expression. I’ve spent many years and progressed through many phases and genres to learn my craft and find my voice, but by God’s grace and faithfulness He brought me to this place where this body of work I call Prayer Machines has emerged. They have come to embody what I saw in my spirit from the start but they also resonate with other people and speak to them.

I simply use wire lines, forms, colours and hand-driven motion as elements which morph to become ambiguous machine-like objects that invite reflection, stimulate ideas and interaction. With these creations I call Prayer Machines, I’m putting substance to the elusive shadows of the ethereal images I saw as a child but didn’t have the tools yet to bring into focus. Now they’ve finally emerged as vehicles of my imagination to convey visually the journey of faith I’ve been on and to give expression to mystery.


The new Prayer Machines can be seen at The Artist Project show in Toronto, February 18-21 booth # 327. Visit my website or for more information.


Two Down, Two to Go…

It sure feels good to be back at work creating new Prayer Machines since putting the finishing touches on the last new one in mid-October and then being consumed by show preparations, travel, the shows themselves, follow-up and recovery. Lynn and I arrived home from Spectrum Miami last Wednesday night and I was happily back in the studio creating new work by noon on Thursday. By Saturday I had made good progress on three new pieces and finished up one I had been working on previously. I love the excitement of the shows but it sure feels good to be back in regular routine in a quiet and secluded place.

In brief, the Spectrum Miami art show was wonderful. Good crowds despite a last minute venue change, a great reception of my new work and our best sales so far. A few highlights were:

– a young girl wanted to start her own collection of original art and chose one of my pieces for that purpose, purchasing it with her own money. I was touched. Her parents were very encouraging as she asked questions and decided what she wanted.

– We sold our two biggest and most expensive pieces within half an hour of each other, one going to Taiwan, the other staying on in Miami.

– Each day of the show we had significant conversations with people who were wanting to share ideas, probe the meaning behind the Prayer Machines or delve into deeper Christian spiritual truth. I very much enjoyed sharing with these various individuals on a heart to heart level.

– Lynn and I both received a lot of positive feedback suggesting that the Prayer Machines are speaking to people in a way that goes beyond mere wall decoration and that the pieces are sparking thought, engaging the imagination and that, although the work appeals to them as being joyful and whimsical, they take it seriously as well.

So two down and two to go. Art San Diego and Spectrum Miami are done and now it’s The Artist Project in Toronto in February and artexpo NEW YORK in April that I am twisting wire for. I am excited to see the new work emerge as my vision for the Prayer Machines expands.

Prayer Machines Between Shows


San Diego seemed like paradise! I loved the neighborhood we lived in, which kind of reminded me of the Kensington market area of Toronto where I grew up during the ‘60s. The low buildings, the laneways, the angle of the sun and the light in the morning when I went to buy Lynn her chocolate croissant from Pappalecco and the August feel of the air. And Balboa Park, where the art show was, transported me to another time with its old Spanish architecture and Palm trees. I loved it. I wanted to stay!

The art show we were at, Art SD 2015, was a fairly large art fair put on by Redwood Media Group who also own and host Spectrum Miami and the New York Art Expo that we have also participated in. These ‘art fairs’ are currently becoming a popular draw in the art world because they offer art lovers and the buying public a chance to see many artists and galleries at one time in one place; and for artists, like myself, they offer the opportunity to show my work with immediacy, meet and interact with many people directly, get prompt feedback and also have the opportunity to sell. We are currently doing four of these art fair shows a year (San Diego, Miami, Toronto and New York) our goals being:

  • To raise our public profile and establish a collector base for my art.
  • Meet and establish relationships with commercial galleries in the US and Canada who will represent me and sell my art.
  • Be able to earn an income from the sale of my art while continuing to build a good business practice that will extend long term.
  • Express myself effectively through the creation of art that is redemptive in aspect and affirming of a creator God in its approach.
  • And, along with Lynn, live creatively, according to God’s purpose for our lives while working together to achieve these goals.

Prior to and immediately after a show, Lynn does most of the heavy lifting with arranging the logistics that get us and the art work there as well as the follow-up afterwards. It’s a huge job, but since she has taken on the role of studio manager things have gone much better and much more efficiently. The level of “best business practice” has also gone way up thanks to the relationships with RMG show staff and staff at the galleries we are dealing with. This bodes well.

Well, Art SD 2015 in San Diego is done. It was our first time there and I’m happy with the results. It was a beautiful venue and a classy looking show. I felt we made our best presentation yet and we had a very positive reception. I won the Best International Exhibitor award, while Lynn established a relationship with a very good gallery in San Diego called Adelman Fine Art. And of course we sold some work, yes!

Next week we are off to Miami for Spectrum Miami, December 2-6. This will be our second year there and we hope to build on last year’s success. We want to exceed last year’s excellent sales with the new work we are bringing and pray that we will land a gallery deal for that region of the US, like Lynn did in San Diego. Spectrum itself is a bigger show than Art SD, plus there are approximately 18 other shows in mid-town Miami and Miami Beach the same week as part of Art Week Miami so it is a pretty energized time. It is the world’s largest art fair and it is electrifying with all the people that come in from around the globe and the hype and the dynamism.

So this week I’m writing you with five inches of snow outside my window while a week from now it will be sun, palm trees and art galore being mounted and primed. I hope you will follow on Facebook and Instagram once we get there and will ‘like’ my page so Lynn can reach her goal of 500 ‘likes’ by Christmas.

A Professional Development Day Out


steam engineLast Saturday was a professional development day for me.

I got up early and drove to Cookstown to visit the annual Cookstown Steam Show.

I was looking for inspiration and found it. I was overwhelmed!

It was park full of gentle, steam sighing, ponderous behemoths from the early days of agricultural mechanization, each one there in all its whirling, spinning, greasy glory.

It was like being surrounded by mammoth Prayer Machines from a time before my Prayer Machines were even thought of. The visual similarities were apparent; big wheels and pulleys driving other big wheels and pulleys. What I liked most was the human interaction. As I watched one antique tractor being started, the owner performed no less than five functions and checks; a squirt of oil here, an adjusting of clearances there, before he even got to turning the crank wheedling the engine to life. Then, even after it was running he was constantly fiddling with it all.

The thing that intrigued me about these machines in relationship to my Prayer Machines was the ‘put together’ nature of their construction. The combination of machined parts and high tolerance mechanisms with “wired together” low tolerance connections; the poetically fragile lack of uniformity in construction. “Almost” rather than “exactly” was the dictum that seemed to prevail.

I also liked the human interaction, especially with the large steam-powered tractors, where the humans operating it seemed to be nurturing them along variously steering, feeding, lubricating and adjusting in a symbiotic relationship as they progressed. The impression that grew on me was that in creating my Prayer Machines I too am creating a technology that is accountable. You can’t just expect to start it and have it “run”, you have to be engaged with it, feel it, adjust it, listen to it, touch it so that it moves and does what it is supposed to do.

I came away that day inspired by the construction of the machines; their symmetrical beauty, practical visual compositions and exposed mechanisms that make them run. I also came home feeling a connection from the past with a new story I am telling in my Prayer Machines now.

Written August 8, 2015

medium steam enginemini steam engine

My Prayer Machine Journey So Far

The Prayer Machines are growing and expanding. Not only in size, weight and dimension but in my imagination and spirit as well.

People have told me it typically takes five years for an idea to become a venture that is viable. Since arriving back in Canada in July 2011, concluding our three year sojourn in Europe, with my little twisted bits of wire stuck in wooden blocks they have grown into expressive, complex, moving creations that are gaining traction in the public sphere. We are now entering our fifth year and I am full of anticipation with how this coming year will shape up. Good things have been happening up till now. Since 2012 I’ve have shown the Prayer Machines in Toronto, Buffalo, Miami, New York City, and Vienna, Austria. Won the Best of Sculpture award at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition and have been listed as one of “40 artists to watch” in this summer’s issue of the American magazine Art Business News. This fall I will be showing at Art San Diego in November and then again at Spectrum Miami during the international art fair Art Week Miami in December. I am grateful for the success we’ve had so far and look forward to what lies ahead.

Entering this pivotal fifth year Lynn and I are concentrating on better streamlining our business practise and focusing on innovate creation with the art. Lynn is now working full-time as studio manager looking after the logistics of getting to shows, working through the myriad of paperwork especially for the international shows, coordinating our social media presence and dealing with gallery requests, commissions, correspondence and sales. I am continuing to delve into the creative process as I generate new pieces each day and explore the roots of these Prayer Machines in my past and present life. I am finding so much of who I am emerging through these pieces and each day seems like I’m uncovering some new fragment from my formative past. I believe the mature phase of my art is finally emerging. It seems everything I’ve ever done in art, up till now, whether as a child, a student or since I began pursuing art full-time twenty-eight years ago has finally blended into an expression that is uniquely my own true voice.

I hope this blog that we are initiating will keep you abreast of developments in my work, give you insights into my creative process and introduce you to the newest work I am creating. I may even post pictures of past work that I think has bearing on what I am doing now. I hope you will join Lynn and I on this journey as we take the Prayer Machines to the world.

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