Monday, July 30, 2007

Blogging for Positive Global Change

My friend Jacquie at Wild Ink has nominated me for the Blogging for Positive Global Change Award. Thank you Jacquie, I'm honoured. This award is sponsored by Climate of Our Future. It’s not limited to any specific ideologies, religions or philosophies. It puts a premium on human compassion and the desire to make the world a better place for all of us, without exception. Sounds good to me!

Since it's a meme, and I'm allowed to nominate up to 5 fellow bloggers, here are some other people I think are doing a fine job working for the revolution.
Ryan Is Hungry
Carless in Vancouver
Steal This Sweater
No Impact Man

The participation rules are simple:

1. When you get tagged, write a post with links to up to 5 blogs that you think are trying to change the world in a positive way.
2. In your post, make sure you link back to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
3. Leave a comment or message for the bloggers you’re tagging, so they know they’re now part of the meme.
4. Optional: Proudly display the “Bloggers For Positive Global Change” award badge with a link to the post that you write up.

And for good measure, here are two beacons in my life, meeting for the first time this past week: Wendy Tremayne of Swap-O-Rama-Rama and Green Acre, and Conrad Schmidt of the Work Less Party. They don't have blogs (well, Wendy does but updates infrequently) but do have terrific websites.

Check them out!
Work Less Party

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Visiting Gambier Island

The last few days have been taken up with a visit by friends from New Mexico, and an excursion to Gambier Island to give them a taste of the real B.C..
My friend on Gambier has a beautiful house with a view of the ocean.

It is a lovely peaceful place.

The island can only be accessed by a foot passenger boat. Any vehicles have to be barged over and there is no gas station, so people have to bring fuel over as well.

We had to say goodbye way too soon.

This caught my eye as we got off the little boat - it turned out to be a sculpture made by the boat's captain.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Aesthetics of the Handmade

Whooshh! Was that summer speeding by? Here in Vancouver we have gone from a week of record setting temperatures (41 C.) and blazing sun to cool, rainy September-like days in the blink of an eye. And on top of that I have been working two temporary part-time jobs just to earn a little cash for next month's trip to Nevada and Burning Man. My garden has taken on triffid-ish proportions, the bronze fennel looms outside the window with a squash vine snaking up it. The tomatoes are hidden underneath the giant lovage and the raspberry canes are seven feet high. But that's not what I was going to talk about today.

I did have time to make a new design, incorporating Buddhist patchwork and my beloved recycled kimono fabrics. Looks so simple, but there was a lot of fiddling to get the shape and proportions as I wanted them. I'm really happy with it and ready to go into production mode.

I have used this method of Japanese patchwork before, in The Blazing World series. In the 16th century, Buddhist monk’s robes were constructed out of rags, and had two religious meanings. First, retrieving the rags from the dustbin and allowing them to end up in a place of honour signified that the cloth itself had attained Buddhahood. Secondly, the practise suggested the interconnectedness of all beings. Those of you who know me will recognise how this metaphor resonates with me, and how I return to it again and again in my work.

The bag has two pockets, one zippered and the other not, and a magnetic closure.

Now, I did title this "Aesthetics of the Handmade" for a reason. I am basically trained in a fine art tradition, and while in art school struggled with the art vs. craft issue. Since I was coming from the feminist side of the fence, it seemed to be permissable to use craft techniques as long as the real content of the piece was something a little more intellectually weighty. One of the tricks I used to get my foot in the door with the high-falutin' contemporary art crowd was the quality of my construction technique. The elements of my work, whether embroidery, tailored burlap or gold leafed panties, were meticulously made - to the extent that people would assume that a machine had been used. There were no distracting, clumsy hanging threads or dropped stitches. (This was back in the late 80's and 90's, things might be different now.)

But strangely enough, this "perfection" didn't work the other way. When I entered straight craft pieces (ie. a handspun, hand knitted sweater) in guild shows, people would say in disbelief that they couldn't have been done by hand. For that audience, the obvious mark of the maker's hand is desirable. I found myself in the odd place of not having my skill recognised and valued.

Recently, I had a colleague comment on the Matisse T-shirt that I made a while back, saying,"It's the uneven running stitch that makes it." Even Wendy Tremayne (who I adore and respect with all my being) says here that something is better when all the ends are hanging out because then you can tell it's made by a real person. It's sad that we encounter fine craftsmanship so rarely these days that we don't even have the vocabulary to describe it - except to say it doesn't look like it was made by hand!

It's something I need to ponder on. But I will leave you with a couple of photos of one of the bolts of fabric I was working with to make my new bag. I unfolded it to discover that it was actually a kimono that had been taken apart, cleaned and neatly rolled to await another incarnation.

This piece of cloth tugs at my heart. So plain jane, moth-eaten and torn, it is not tossed into the bin, but instead mended and kept for a future use. (Can you imagine doing that with anything in our current wardrobes?) Not just an anti-consumerist (or conservationist) attitude, but a recognition of the value of human labour and skill that created the cloth in the first place is what prompted the unknown sewer to save this cloth. I guess I would argue that yes, it is essential that people return to the path of creating and making, and those first crude stitches are an important step, but knowing the amazing things our human hands are capable of is necessary as well.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Deed is Done!

On June 30, 2007, at 5 in the afternoon, under a 1000-year-old Douglas Fir, Ian and I were married.

The happy event took place at a retreat centre called Xenia
on Bowen Island. Here we are walking from the Sanctuary, led by Ian's daughters. The weather, which had been rainy all week, blessed us with a break in the clouds.

My brother Dave built the walkway to Opa (the tree) several years ago when he was a caretaker at Xenia.

Judy Geddye, a BC Provincial Court judge and textile artist, officiated at the ceremony.

Our rings were made by Sarah Groves of Blue Box Design.
She lives just down the road from us in Vancouver.

Instead of a cake, my mother made us her famous trifle, topped with chocolate covered local strawberries. We had the reception at my brother's house on Bowen, and were served a fabulous meal of local wild salmon and organic salads. My brother Rob and his partner Jim were bartenders, shaking up delicious martinis. We also had plentiful amounts of organic red wine and sangria.

Here is my handsome husband, wearing the frock coat I made for him. It is green silk taffeta appliqued with dark green silk noile. The beautiful, charming and multi-talented Gretchen Elsner made my dress, of ivory silk noile and irridescent blue silk taffeta.

The gorgeous bouquets were created by The Flowerbox, off Commercial Drive, and used locally grown flowers and greenery.
Here's a closeup of Ian's ring, taken while we went exploring on Bowen.

We went for a little kayak trip around the island.

An early resident of Bowen scattered foxglove seeds around the island. They continue to bloom a century later.
1000-year-old trees and 100-year-old foxgloves - I hope that Ian and I share their resilience, adapatability and longevity.