Weaving for Art In The Orchard

saori spring wrap

A saori spring wrap

This past weekend, I was very pleased to be involved in the annual Art In The Orchard here on Pender, an island where artists and orchards abound.  Twenty some artists working in diverse mediums displayed their work throughout one of North Penders oldest orchard and heritage farm house, Corbett House B&B, dating back to 1902.  Paintings, print making, pottery, sculpture, wood working, jewelry, photography, stained glass, and fibre arts were all beautifully tucked under apple trees and framed with zig zag fencing while goats and sheep grazed on the other side.

Last year I had only a small collection of woven fabric that I hung up on the clothesline.  At that time, my journey into the art of saori weaving had just begun, and my available time was limited as we had many building projects on the go at our property.  This year, I found that the pile of weaving has indeed stacked up, and shows a pathway of explored techniques as I tried out new tings and made observations about texture and fibre qualities.  I was honoured to hang up my creations among so many other amazing Pender artists.


Glass Circle Star

Stained glass window by Tracy Calvert

Glass Circle Star

Circle star

you hold me intact

through the blazing of colours-

of heart and throat,

of cooling blue and the

pangs of crimson

a sweeping tone of

shadowed orange

presses against my temples

and pulls me into the

outward dance,

blueness like sky

blends into expression,

dissolves the time chaser out

from under my feet

shades and hues

shifting, blurring

over lapping into the ripple

and warp-

this is the passing through of colours.

White circle star,

bringing me back in,

horizon clear,

valley shaped, and still being so,

by the sliding-by of the lake

into the river

sky orbited by the pure lure

of magnetism and evolution-

I am swept into your landscape

and then I am swept away

at these imaginings,

of the brilliance

of where these roads might take me if I let them,

this vast, jewelled path

gleams, glimmers,


as long as I am listening.

I fall into this submission

of colour,

sink myself in-

and from the other side,

the light

lights my way through.

Tracy and I created this collaborative combination of poetry and art for a Verse and Vision art show that was organized by my mother Margaret here on Pender Island this summer.  She was inspired by listening to the readings by Pender writers at Speak Easy, an open mic night held once a month, and she began encouraging pairs of artists and writers to collaborate and create a show celebrating the word and the image.  Tracy and I have been working together through natural building for the past few years, and it was wonderful to expand into our other passions and connect on a deeper level that explored the process of our creativity and how that place of creating becomes a timeless meditation within a world of shape, colour, patterns, and unplanned, intuitive journeys that teach us about stepping aside and allowing ourselves to be moved without structure or judgement.  Tracy and her partner Jude have a beautiful little cottage that can be rented on South Pender.  Information for the cottage as well as natural building and stained glass creations can be found here…  www.woodandglass.ca

Artist In The House

Now that we have finally finished the art studio, the move to bring in the art supplies has been rapid.  My mother, Margaret, was all set to attend the Vancouver School of Art in the early 1960’s, but was redirected by her mother towards nursing school.  Despite her short career of nursing, she didn’t get back to art school until 1995, where she was finally able to expand her creative expressions.  During the many years in between, she has been painting, sculpting, and collaging throughout her life, creating her art in the small spaces of her homes and around commitments of family and work.  Since moving to Pender Island, she has been connecting more with other artists and finding inspiration from the landscapes of the west coast.  Margaret is a member of the Red Tree Gallery, a co-operative gallery that exhibits and sells the artwork of about 18 Pender artists.

My mothers sense of self-creation has certainly been a contagious factor in my own lifestyle.  I am not sure how many times throughout my childhood I heard her say, “well I could make that myself!”  She is driven by a hands-on desire to connect, to share, and to express, whether it is through paints, paper, fabric, images, or with recycled objects.  It has been a huge component of our home school environment to have access to her creative energy and resources, which from now on, will be stationed right in our own house.  The art studio, as a collectively used space for our whole family, is likely to become an inspirationally rich zone in constant use and experiment, allowing for the impulses of art to become a part of our natural daily rhythms.  For more images of her creations, see her blog – mjalpen.wordpress.com

Richard Shilling- Land Artist

On a scale of 1 to 10 for an inspirational experience, gazing at the photography of Richard Shilling’s earth creations is about a 100 for me.  After discovering his work for the first time, I immediately hiked into my forested backyard, found a form of green leaves that I liked and built a small mandala on a rock.  His creations are incredible in handwork and yet humble in their simplicity, with seasonal contrasts and landscape replications, cozy and sweet and profoundly intricate.  While walking in the North-West of England, Shilling stumbled upon a creation made by Andy Goldsworthy, and was immediately inspired to direct his own artistic talents towards the creation of land art.  Since then, he has developed his own smaller-scale, ephemeral sculptures using only the materials he finds while out in the expanse of nature’s studio and has published 5 books of his work, including Land Art For Kids, which, as a homeschooling mother valuing nature as the greatest teacher, is a sign of a good man doing a good thing.

Besides the beautiful photography, I was also struck by the insightful descriptions of his time spent in nature building such sculptures.  His blog stories are both funny as they reveal the reality of the attempts and follies of making nature art, the mistakes of cotton trousers and leaky trainers, or the kinds of thoughts that float through a mans brain (Why when someone says “say when” do we say ‘when’?) as he waits for the sun to move.  His stories are also deeply thoughtful, as in his contemplations of revolution and liberation around the world, or which are those pivotal moments in our lives that anchor us to our own creational journeys.  I have enjoyed his words as much as his images.  I admire his knowledge of the trees and plants that grow in the areas in which he works, and his observations of leaf shape and colours in different seasons.  Certainly his lifestyle is one to be inspired by- earning a living by playing out in the woods, taking pictures, and writing stories about it.  I have already come to the conclusion that if money were not needed in my life, I would be doing more activities which I am drawn to do with my heart and creative instincts in contribution to my family, the earth, and the community in which I live.  It is with much trust that we put our creative drive first, and our bank accounts second, and know that we will be given what we need to continue in good faith.

Land Art does not need to be slotted in with high profile and elite artist circles.  Children and adults everywhere can benefit from connecting with nature through the process of creating something outside with the materials that the earth provides.  There are no limits to what one could do with the variety of tools, seasonal environments, and ecosystems.  It gives us the opportunity to observe and learn while “just playing”, something that children are exceptionally good at.  By letting go of the attachment to outcome and focusing on the experience of just being in nature, we can celebrate the beauty and uniqueness of everything that the earth offers and allow our minds to settle into the present moment.  Land Artists out there who have become “high profile” artists are a great reminder to the world of art that creativity can be as humble and as public as a piece of driftwood in the glow of the rising sun, and as priceless as paper thin birch bark.

“I don’t produce land art images. No, I have experiences out in nature. Observing and experiencing what I find, discovering new things and wondering at what else is out there. A finished photo is just a byproduct like oxygen emerging from a photosythesising leaf.  I love ephemeral land art. I want to experience what I experience as I make something. And once that is done the experience is over and I am happy just to leave it to decay.  Someone once said to me “don’t you feel like it is waste putting so much effort into something that may last only a few minutes?”  It is not a chore to put yourself wholeheartedly into something you enjoy, to feel connected with it, experience its intensity and have nothing but the memory left afterwards. We all do just that with many things we love every single day.”

I would be overjoyed to stumble upon a creation of earthly beauty such as Richard Shilling’s land art in my wanderings, left out to decay in it’s own journey of transforming with the elements of earth’s interconnected environment.


Thuja Wood Art

My Husband, Colin, created his own business when we moved to the island out of his need to balance income with art.  He learned the skill of splitting cedar by hand, an age old technique of cutting western red cedar (thuja plicata) into usable pieces.  It is the only type of wood that splits easily following the grain, and with the use of wedges and a froe and mallet, cedar will split within the flow of the trees natural curves, twists, and undulations.  By then fitting the pieces together with traditional wood joinery, such as mortise and tenon joints, Colin creates tables, benches, fences, gates, and arbours which shine with the natural beauty of western red cedar. Since every piece of cedar he splits is different, the designs that he creates come out of the inspirations of the wood itself, making each piece unique.  Because western red cedar is native to the wet climate that we live in, it contains naturally occuring oils that give it a long outdoor life without being coated in any sealants or stains.  It is very important to Colin that his business be sustainable and have a low impact on the earth, so he collects his wood from beaches all around Vancouver Island, which means that he is not supporting the cutting down of any more trees.  Most of what he finds is old growth, so the grain is tight and the wood is clear, with beautiful variations of red and orange tones.  If a stain is requested, Colin uses an all natural finish containing tunge and linseed oils, pine rosin, beeswax, and citrus.  He also does lots of landscaping and stonework for many of his clients.  Take a look at his website, http://thujawoodart.com/, for a better idea of his work.  Colin and I are very grateful that we can earn our income from such a creative and earth friendly business.

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