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New Project: Joelle Labels Berlin


GermanWordExamplesSo, this project is called “Joelle Labels Berlin”, as you can see from the photo. It’s a new social media project, involving Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr that will (hopefully) help me and others to learn the difficult language of German.

If you have been following any of my social media tracks, you should know that my husband and I have recently moved to Berlin, Germany. My husband is originally from Germany, so the goal of this year is to learn the language and experience a his home culture. I’m hoping it will also be a year of meeting new artists, attending exhibitions and making A LOT of art.

This is my newest project, that was birthed out a conversation with a fellow English-speaking friend yesterday (thanks Shannon!). We were talking about how difficult it is to learn German. Then, she shared with me that one of her friends labelled everything in her apartment to help learn the German words with their proper articles. I thought, “What a brilliant idea!”

You see, in German every noun has an article (die, das, or der). Some words are masculine, feminine, and neutral. For example, das Fenster (window), der Spiegel (the mirror) and der Wand (the wall) There is no reasoning behind this system, from what I can tell so far. The only way to learn these articles is to memorize them. So, what better way to memorize then to label everything with sticky notes?  But, why stop with household items? I mean, there are only so many things in your apartment. But I need to know everything. So, everything must be labelled!

WHY DO THIS, YOU ASK? Because German is really difficult, and I’m a visual learner so I need pictures to remember things. Also, I wanted to do something for the greater good. I’m sure there are other English speakers out there, struggling with me to learn this language.

AND HOW WILL IT WORK? I will label random things with sticky notes and take a photo with my phone. Then I will post the photo to Instagram, Twitter and my Tumblr feed using this formula in the caption:

TheGermanWord (e.g. #derspiegel) +  ”German+EnglishWord” (#germanmirror) + Project Name (#joellelabelsberlin).

As I build up this photographic dictionary, anyone can find these words through searching for hashtags.


Great question! You can follow me on Instagram @joellegebhardt, Twitter @joellegebhardt or my Tumblr feed (the link is on my website). The Tumblr feed will be exclusively for this project, but I will still be posting other things on Instagram and Twitter.


Thanks! It might be a stupid idea, but I’ve gotta learn German somehow!





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Long Distance Memories



One of the joys of moving homes is that it forces you to go through all your stuff. (I say “joy” slightly sarcastically because going through old stuff is also incredibly annoying!) Today, I pulled out this old drawing that I mailed to my now, husband, then boyfriend, from Canada to Germany. At the time, we had been in a long-distance relationship for 8 months, not knowing when we would see each other again. I was missing him like crazy and kept seeing all these couples walking around googly-eyed, holding hands and simply being together.  But rather than sending another letter venting how much I missed him, I decided to lighten the mood with a drawing.

There are certainly benefits to long-distance relationships. You learn to communicate really well; you have an excuse to send old-fashioned, hand-written letters back and forth; and when you get in an argument, you have some space to cool off. But, that feeling of lacking or “missing”, never went away for me. I remember it well, and am glad we don’t have to suffer that anymore!

It’s coming up on Valentine’s Day this week, and it’s also the two year anniversary of our engagement. So it seems appropriate to look back and be thankful that the lone giraffe eating popcorn in the movie theatre is no longer me!

For those of you who can relate to this poor giraffe: Move back a row and cuddle up next to the aliens. They are a friendlier than you think!

Happy Valentine’s Day :)


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On Leaving



I wanted to make something “creative” this afternoon, but I couldn’t stop thinking about leaving Vancouver in a few weeks. I made this #hashtag card above to filter my emotions. Good ol’ hashtags! I’ve been learning some German with this free app called Duolingo, and incorporated some of my new vocabulary into it too.

It’s becoming more and more real that we are relocating to Berlin. Almost every day I am asked, “So, are you getting excited?”.  I’m never certain how to answer this question because, to be honest, I’m feeling mostly sad about it. It’s hard to leave behind all your loved ones to travel to an unknown place for an unknown amount of time. I know, it’s Europe, and everyone wants to go to Europe because it’s cool. But, the coolness factor is not helping with that ache in my heart when I think of all the people I’m leaving behind.

I have unintentionally put some roots down in this city, even with it’s transient nature. It is home now. And there are days when the idea of leaving is more than I can handle, so I have to pretend that it’s not happening. This is a horrible strategy for packing! Do not ask me for advice when it comes to moving.

If you’ve ever had to move to another city, I’m sure you can relate to these feelings. It’s something we are all faced with at some point. And I always think that it will be easier the next time, but good-byes always seem to suck.

On the flip side, I know that Berlin is going to be amazing and I am excited to go. I have my appointment with the German Consulate tomorrow to apply for my work visa, and plan on making lots of art while I’m there. And as an artist, this is an ideal place to be going.

Everything is going to be ok. (I actually hate it when people say this, however, in this particular case, it’s true). Everything will be ok. The ocean isn’t THAT big, right? There are planes and boats and skype and letters. Wonderful inventions that make the distance smaller between me and you.

And on that note, I’m going to go organize my closet now. Thanks for listening :)









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An Inside Look


For the last year and a bit, I’ve been working on this book with my mom, Karolyn Burch. And finally, we have printed our first run of 50 books!

The book contains 30 revised blog entries from my mom’s blog “Notes from my Red Canoe”. You can find the link to it here. The format is a 30 day devotional of “meditations for the soul”. It is reflective of my mom’s personal faith journey and intended to encourage Christians in their faith.

It was really special to help my mom with this book. I’m really proud of her for finishing it, as I know how scary it is to let the world see your heart. She’s been dreaming of this for a long time.

My contribution to this project was editing and doing the book layout, design and illustrations. It took longer than both of us imagined, but we were able to get it printed in time for Christmas 2013.

For now, this is a non-profit project and you can purchase the book on my mom’s blog. Here is the link to her blog:


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“Time” – Illustration Friday



This is my quick illustration I made today for the Illustration Friday blog. The theme for this week is “Time”. My inspiration for this drawing is a quote by Dr. Seuss, “How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon”.

This quote resonated with me today as I worked from home and couldn’t get over how dark it was; at 3 pm it felt like 6 pm. On days like this I truly do wish I had a sunshine window covering to help me forget that time is passing.

I also tried a new effect of cutting and pasting a drawing over a drawing and embroidery. I haven’t decided if I like it, but hey, sometimes it’s good to experiment a little.


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This was December



As with most things in December, this collage is late. I’ve been doing these reflection artworks at the start of each month, but it wasn’t possible this time. So consider this piece a backwards reflection on December.

While making this, I was thinking about the events of the past weeks. Also, the strangeness of this season. Everywhere I went I saw a juxtaposition of Santa, elves and reindeer with Jesus in the manger. I heard stories of families being reunited while others were separated and trying to forget it’s Christmas. For some their dreams were fulfilled and others had to swallow their disappointment. December was wonderful and December was hard. It was FULL. So this collage is very busy. Everything has a story behind it and all the images are my own quick creations.

It was a great month, even if I was eating soup for half of it. In the midst of the craziness there were  moments to rest, read and enjoy good company. So, I’m not complaining.

What was your December like? I’d love to hear about it. And if I haven’t had a chance to say it in person:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!



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Nelson Mandela Drawing



Nelson Mandela's Letter from Rhode Island

I pulled these drawings out from under my bed today when I heard about the death of Nelson Mandela. I made them 2 years ago for school in a project I called “Prison Letters”. This drawing is based on a letter from Nelson Mandela. It was smuggled out of the confines of Robben Island, South Africa and took 2 years to reach the ANC (African National Congress). At this point Nelson Mandela had been in prison for 17 years as a political prisoner for resisting the apartheid and white minority rule. The letter calls on South Africans to continue their resistance and fight. It is also a response to the Soweto uprising of 1976 when policemen opened fire on children who were marching in protest.

The specific quote that I drew imagery from is,  “between the anvil of mass united action and the hammer of armed struggle we shall crush apartheid and white minority rule”. This was written on June 10 1980. The drawing is on vellum, attached to a board shaped like Robben Island. The markings show the number of days the letter took to reach the ANC, and the drawings in the anvil are collaged from newspaper photographs around the events relating to the letter.

To be honest, this was an important drawing for me. The research I did on Mandela was impacting, sobering and inspiring.  But during my critique in school it was pointed out that it was not very “relevant” to the Canadian contemporary art scene. Why prison letters? Why Mandela? Ouch. So the drawings went under my bed.

Yes, we don’t have an apartheid here. And yes, Nelson Mandela lived in South Africa. But everything he stood for and accomplished is relevant to Canada. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission  launched HERE in October is named after Nelson Mandela’s Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa. Did you know that? And today there was a memorial held for him at the Vancouver Art Gallery, which I find very ironic considering the critique I received two years ago.

I end this day, thinking of an old verse I’ve heard many times over the years. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful” from 2 Timothy 4:7.  Few of us could say that with full confidence, but there’s no question in my mind that Nelson Mandela fought the good fight.


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Fellow Vancouver Artists in the Crawl

This past weekend was the Eastside Culture Crawl in Vancouver. For those of you who don’t know: this is an annual event where over 400 East Vancouver artists invite you to come look at their studios and artwork. There is a lot to see and buy, if you are looking for some local art. To be honest, this was the first year I participated in the Crawl, even though I’ve lived in Vancouver for almost 5 years.

This same weekend, I was participating in The Postcard Show: Volume 3 and the Annual Artist Showcase at China Cloud Gallery, which was open for the Crawl (photos of this below). Not having my studio open, allowed me to go out and visit other artists, which I really enjoyed. While I was walking from studio to studio, it hit me that half of the artists from the Open Book Art Collective were in the Crawl this past week! This is the art collective/book club I’ve been a part of and we just had our first show a few months ago. I took it upon myself to take some photos, since these ladies are doing amazing work and deserve some attention :) I wasn’t able to get to all four of their studios (sorry Andrea Armstrong), but here are some photos from the ones I did see.

First up is: Jenny Hawkinson ( Jenny works with a variety of mediums such as acrylic painting, drawing, embroidery and textiles and installation. I really appreciate her consideration of display and installation which is something that many artists working in 2D often don’t consider. We are so quick to put something in a frame, but her drawings are hung from the ceiling or mounted out from the wall. Check out her website site to see more of her work!jennyh2



Next is: Cara Bain ( Cara is a designer as well as an artist. She paints amazing portraits that are expressive and capture the character of the subject. I personally find portraits difficult and tedious, so I admire Cara’s ability to do this. She recently made a series on wood panels for the Death of a Beekeeper exhibit. I enjoy that she allowed some of the natural wood surface to show through the painting.


Lastly, but not leastly (I know that’s not a word) is: Erica Wilk ( Erica put a lot of work into preparing for the Crawl this year and pumped out a whole series of new works. I’m really excited about the direction she is taking with her work, I’ve not seen anything like it. Check out her website above to see what I mean. Erica also makes jewellery from bits and pieces of vintage jewellery. She was kind enough to let me sell some of my postcard books and zines at her table in the China Cloud gallery. If you are looking for some one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts, she sells her jewellery online and does custom orders too! erica2

The picture below shows some of work I was selling next to Erica’s at China Cloud during the Crawl.




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This is November


But there is always a November space after the leaves have fallen when she felt it was almost indecent to intrude on the woods…for their glory terrestrial had departed and their glory celestial of spirit and purity and whiteness had not yet come upon them.

Couldn’t say it better Ms.Montgomery.

I’ve resolved to make one of these for each month, so voila! This is NOVEMBER. Mustaches, bare trees, boots, shopping bags and acorns. All of these images are my own photography and drawings, layered to represent my feelings toward this month. I try to do it very quickly, and not think too hard about the layout or composition. Basically, this is my procrastination project for the day.

Happy November to you!



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The Postcard Show

DonutSnorkler_WEB ToastPainter2013_WEB WaffleMattress2013_WEB

This is a series of postcards I finished this week for The Postcard Show: Volume 3 at Hot Art Wet City Gallery running this Nov.14-16th.

Since I’m really enjoying the combination of embroidery, fabric and drawing, I decided to use these materials once more. I also had a revelation last week that most of my drawings seem to be about animals or food. Rather than fighting this impulse, I’ve decided to RUN with it.

So the subject of this postcard series is FOOD. And specifically, some of my favourite WHEAT products: waffles, sprinkle donuts, and toast with jam. Fortunately, even those of you who have to abstain from wheat can happily indulge in these drawings. They are gluten-free, I promise.

The intention of the Postcard Show is to create “a narrative through accessible and affordable art” And how it works is, “each postcard is made available to the public through a silent auction with an affordable minimum bid and a buyout bid in order to entice the audience to get involved in the business of art collecting” (copied from the website). All of the art in this auction will be original works of art. And if you are free for the final night of bidding, I would definitely recommend you get in on the action! The finale is on Nov.16th from 7pm-midnight.