Happy new year! Looking back at our past year as a collective and- all things considered- while 2020 did not go the way any of us were expecting, but I think we have made do the best we could under the circumstances. We have continued to play and learn and re-imagined ways to continue creating and building community despite this year 2020.
photos from left to right, top to bottom: volunteers Beata and Sharman sort clothes, posters for Hodgson swap,happy swap participant; Freecycle/clothing swap at Moss Park Market; WIP logo in progress; Moss park market exterior; Leah, Kate, Gabrie and Tanya at our last workshop on Women's Day; a couple of the workshop promo images; Gabrie teaching; Leah reintroducing the sewing machine to participant; sewing kit made in workshop, Marnie burning fabric with participant (future collaborator) Cairine; Tanya and Ines on a tear-a-thon, Carine's bag creation, art testile letter xperiment, plans cancelled by shutdown (photo credits Tanya Murdoch, Gabrie Mills, Ines Scepanovic)
January to March aka "the Before TIme":
Clothing Swaps: We ran a series of clothing drives, exchanges and freecycle shop experiments that ran from November 2019 under the title #eternalswap. We did a winter clothing drive and swap at one school, set up a free shop in another and then climaxed in January 2020 with a giant clothing drive at Hodgson school. After that drive finished we continued to support ongoing Winter Freecycle shops in Beverly Heights MS and Moss Park Market with Building Roots that we helped maintain until March 2020, with help from staff and students and volunteers at both locations.
Makeover: We revamped our logo over the new year as well, came up with a simple use for the swirling arrow to use on labels we could print and use in our workshops, incorporating the idea of transforming something into another thing, central to up-cycling and creation.
Community building through workshops: We had a great time co-hosting alternate Sundays with Kate Hamilton in her Do it Together series run out of the same little shipping container at Moss Park, where she ran empowering DIY (but actually T) where she taught us about making sachets and balms and shared knowledge about plants, and we did simple up-cycling sewing projects, like hand-warmers, sewing kits and bags from jeans. We loved the new or "former" sewers who discovered they could actually make many things. This seed kept growing, as you will see below.
Planning ahead: Looking ahead, we had one more workshop in the series, we had started applying for grants with the OAC and the City of Toronto, to do more workshops, produce materials and work with educators: big picture plans. For March, WIP artist Ines Scepanovic and I (Tanya Murdoch) were collaborating on an interactive art project and swap to activate and Eco Summit for naturopaths hosted by CCNM and WIP collaborator Dr Leslie Solomonian. Prepping got as far as prepping and braiding two baskets of future rope letters... did numerous experiments with tearing and braiding rug letters...
But by March 13, the global Covid 19 pandemic overwhelmed everyone, and all gatherings and workshop plans were shelved as the world went into lockdown.
photos from left to right, top to bottom: Tanya and family in matching homemade masks made with Textile Museum donated fabric; Taiwan style mask pattern; donated thread from Elaine Dinsmore; Ursa sewing masks; Renata's garden with Covid-19 signs; summer workshop online poster; re-usuable pads; Tanya demo of t-shirt no sew masks; TMC logo; Leah show and Tell sock stuffie; natural dye Easter eggs; Anatomy of a sweater promo; Marnie leading the workshop; blue bear wears a sock; sock darning; boots re-imagined as planters (photo credits: Tanya Murdoch, Leah Sanchez; Marnie Saskin)
March to May aka "the First Lockdown":
First we did nothing. Hard. At home where possible. Global pandemic, and no one knew how it was spread. Donated blood. Bought canned food. Shared seeds (thanks Food up Front) Looked for sustainable alternatives to disposable wipes and masks. Started researching homemade masks, did numerous experiments with styles, were inspired by the Sewing Army, made masks for family and friends near and far.
Mask-making: there was an obvious need for and shortage of medical masks in the face of the pandemic. We have fabric stashes, and began making masks, as well as homemade wipes. Masks were controversial from the get-go, their effectiveness against this tiny virus was questioned. But nevertheless, seemed like a solution, and a way to help. As individuals we made masks for friends and family, as a collective, we shared our experiments and had people reach out to us with fabric donations for masks which we redistributed to fledgling makers and the amazing Sewing Army.
Online workshops: we realized immediately that we would not be able to do workshops in the same way we have done before, and began to experiment with online workshops. We taught each other how to make reusable period pads over Zoom. By April Fool's day we had played around with the medium and did our first formal workshops in collaboration with our new partners the Textile Museum of Canada. We did similar experiments with Building Roots skill sharing workshops and came back for a very timely and fun discussion about all things masks with volunteers and members of the TMC. We have always structured our workshops with two artists, so no one is sent out alone; people with knowledge to share (lead artist) are supported with another artist. We continued this structure with online workshops and it worked well. We also learned a lot from other creative experiments online.
Many of these initial workshops were run by core WIP leaders, Tanya Murdoch, Marnie Saskin and Leah Sanchez, but as we got our footing we looked for ways to involve more of our community as teachers or collaborators.
Community Collaborators: In the initial lockdown, the government scrambled to decide what services were essential and should stay open. Community gardens could only operate with very limited access; farmer's markets were restricted; museums were closed; public gatherings were shut down. Our partners responded in different ways: the small Davisville community garden (aka Renata's Garden) pared down to one or two volunteers maintaining, but we did contribute signage. Appletree markets went online and we contributed a video. The Textile Museum of Canada continued processing fabric donations, and ran online workshops (we took fabric and collaborated on workshops) that were shared to a larger community through other online platforms that sprang up, like the City of Toronto run Arts@Home and Building Roots really ran with their resources, expanding the Moss Park market to offer delivery services, expanding their volunteer team, maintaining the Ashbridges Farm with minimal volunteers until they could expand members and experimenting with online skill sharing workshops.
Funding: We spent March/April applying for funding for these initiatives, and did our final report for OAC grant we received in March 2019. Luckily we had outlined the work we wanted to do and how funding could support these initiatives earlier in the year, over a proper coffee/bun meeting. We wanted to work more with educators of all kinds (school, home school, workshop facilitators) to develop creativity kits, we wanted to create materials based on our workshops to share these ideas beyond the in person meetings- these had to be adapted- pivoted- for these unprecedented times, but really, we were already adapting.
photos from left to right, top to bottom: Tanya on mini road trip/hike; Ursa and Otis digging up the front lawn; signs made by tanya in Renata's garden; Leah and family at fireside visit; upcycled pallet and mosaics in Tanya's garden; Marnie's composting toilet outside with vintage sheet walls; MArnie and family in backyard visit ; Leah shares patch inspired by Textile Museum exhibitor Anna Torma; visible repair (Tanya) denim apron (Leah) plant and workshop promo for kitemaking; Gabrie teaching, kite from workshop; Building Roots end of season picnic (Tanya, Cairine, Kate) promo for patch pocket workshop; Tanya, Jiyoon, Leah and Marnie share creative alteration ideas; Carine sharing masks; Gomo teaching (photo credits: Tanya Murdoch; Leah Sanchez; Gabrie Mills)
June to August aka "Plague summer":
Summer 2020 in Southern Ontario was gorgeous... warm, not too hot, and blessedly long. As businesses opened up again and many of us started working at home or some hybrid, we continued to meet online, but the idea of spending time online when there was the possibility of porch visits, park walks and gardening became less appealing.
Spending time outside at home meant gardening, firepit visits, investing in composting toilets and using all parts of our homes in creative ways.
BIPoC lives matter: In the wake of the very public murder by police of George Floyd, it was also the summer where systemic racial injustice took centre stage, with Black Lives Matter taking a lead on demands for real change. This didn't surprise us but did make us see the need to be more explicit in the benefits of a diverse collective, and to take steps to involve and spotlight all members of our collective, esp. members who are Black, Indigenous or People of Colour. Here's our newsletter from June.
Experiments with online creating: We continued to participate in online workshops that we hosted or were hosted by our community partners. The Textile Museum hosted a very successful Visible Repair Workshop that Leah Sanchez, Marnie Saskin and Tanya Murdoch all played roles in. Leah Sanchez gave an artist talk about Resurrection Furniture- an ongoing reclaimed materials furniture shop she began in the Philippines 10 years ago- hosted by Building Roots. Works-in-Progress hosted a socks themed workshop/brainstorming with a lovely group of creative people- all things socks (darming, balls, wrist warmers) followed by an online kite-making workshop for Father's day with visual artist Gomo George and his daughter Abeyomi Bird-George and, later in the summer, a Patch pocket workshop lead by WIP artist Gabrie Mills. We built on our strengths with Show and Tell sessions like the Creative Alteration session with WIP artists Jiyoon Moon, Tanya Murdoch, Marnie Saskin and Leah Sanchez.
Collaborating and visiting: The warm weather seemed to make visiting safer (outdoors, at a distance) and we took advantage to do some in person visiting. Over the summer Kate Hamilton (our workshop playmate from Building Roots) got back to her first love, running the community farm at Ashbridges Estate in East end Toronto; one of the participants, Cairine, began making masks for the volunteers, stewards and staff from the farm, and WIP supported her endeavours with fabric from our stash and printing labels for the masks she would offer at the Market. Amazing. I got to represent WIP at the Building Roots/Ashbridges Estate Farm volunteer picnic at the end of the summer.
Funding: we received our OAC grant just before school restarted- yay! but of course, our educators in the school system were all quite busy, we started slowly collaborating. We also got shortlisted for the Community Waste Reduction grant and Building Roots agreed to be our big sister for the final process, but we have yet to get results of final funding (supposed to notify us January 11 2021)
photos from left to right, top to bottom: Clothing swap poster, poster designer Treya Beaulieu, our T-shirt bags, hosts, signs Ursa models pants made from a tablecloth, swap sign, eco fair banner and (below) the workshop in action butter sculture in progress and WIP artist Ines Scepanovic, More masks, Leah and astrid, pompoms, Tanya modelling shorts made from fabric samples, more labels for building roots and Extember Zine cover.
September to December aka new normal into end of year lockdown
Autumn 2020 in Southern Ontario continued warm and lovely... these summery pix are from September/October. We lead a Back-to-school Neighbour-to-Neighbour clothing swap in September using a new, safer plague protocols that ended up being much better in all ways. Individual hosts hosting one size meant work was well divided, clothes went where they were wanted or needed. Best of all, it can be replicated!
Art-making: we worked on our individual skills: Marnie started a small batch business making masks sold online and in coffee shops in Hamilton and Kensington market. Tanya went deeper into making patterns and visible repair, and Leah worked on carpentry skills. WIP artist Ines Scepanovic was commissioned to revisit her recurring annual gig as a butter sculptor for the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. Jiyoon Moon began her art school again, and doing portraits, and Gabrie Mills launched her Futuristicruins 2020-21 collection online.
Workshops: We were very excited to be part of the EcoFair 2020 lineup, reviving our visible repair workshop and co-presenting with HelenmendsTO a repair expert with a mission to repair... over 1600 items kept from the landfill via her hands alone! The workshop hosts were the Textile Museum of Canada, Green Neighbours Network and st. Clair reduces, and the event had 80+ participants registered. We also launched our in class collaboration, making pompoms with Ms. B's kindergarten class.
Works-in-Progress in Review: The problem with such prolonged social isolation is that is makes it hard to collaborate organically... we are thankful for the possibility of meeting online but it is physically tiring when you are online all the time for work. But we went back online to begin a very fruitful + focused team coaching process with our WIP collaborator, life coach Amy Brown, allowing us to make our group values explicit and actionable. Here are a pretty good list of words outlining our values: Play, Kindness, Integrity and clarity Sustainability, creativity, Inclusion/collaboration, responsiveness "yes, and..." The process continues in 2021.
Extember: This same Amy came up with an idea in a dream, where she felt like there is a month she has forgotten, and called that month Extember. With her permission, we are borrowing this idea as a metaphor and a title for another project we began in this later part of 2020, a place to park what we have learned and will continue to learn, a place that is outside of time: a 'zine called Extember. We want to use this as another place to encourage creativity and collaboration... See you in Extember.
Welcome to 2021, thanks for playing with us in 2020.
We are making a 'zine. 'Zines were a thing when we were youth, and still exist: small books, like a magazine, but short, non-commercial, homemade, photocopied or online publications with a niche subject matter- very on brand for Works-in-Progress.
As we entered our second lockdown and the 10th? 11th? month of this pandemic experience, we were thinking about all the things we had learned. I have learned a lot about time, pacing... plus how to darn socks, slash sourdough and make kombucha (tip- don't smell it, just drink it.) A 'zine seems like a good place to share all sorts of things.
So, the working model is to create four simultaneous issues about making things from other things. We are seeking tips, not recipes; inspiration, not aspiration; works in progress, not finished masterpieces. The content will be playful, launch pads, more visual than text. Collaborative and inclusive, with lots of contributors involved.
These will be published (online and also as downloadable pdfs to print) as they get full, and grouped along 4 themes: Food, Cloth, Plants and Stick & Stones.
And the name- I was mulling over a few names along with the idea. It could be something playful and a little 90s,like Make/Do or more explicit, like A magazine about Anything but Shopping but then inspiration came from a wise friend (this is not unusual and also another good reason to do a group project like this.)
"I dreamed they added a new month called Extember. 'I always forget Extember,' quoth I, in my dream"
-Amy Brown, earlier in 2020
This inspiration of whimsy from our friend Amy is a perfect name: Extember- literally a month out of time. e have all been experiencing a strange time out of time, and this is a place to share what we have learned to help each other out. We are seeking images and ideas that inspire, ways of making do that you have learned over this Extember.
If you feel inspired or have something to share, email us firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the sample pages on our website.
Marnie has been making a lot of these (and upcycled blankets and masks) and cranked up the old online store as well, check out www.marniesaskin.com
Some images from today's online workshop, part of the sustainable Textile Teach-in series run by the Textile Museum of Canada, the fourth one we have done together. This one was Hosted as well by EcoFair Toronto 2020, during #wastereductionweek
Our hosts invited a tailor, Helen, who runs a business called Helen Mends- she began offering repair services in Toronto just a few years ago, with a mission to help divert waste by repairing and teaching repair skills, and it was really great to have her skills in the mix. We hope we can do more collaborations with her in the future!
The workshop was very well attended... the eventbrite was maxed out in a few days so the hosts set up an "overflow room" on youtube live. Hosts estimate 80+ people, and we have heard from the chat, the hosts and on social media that attendants were inspired and had fun so mission accomplished.
Here are the takeaways: If you need to get new clothes, swap, purchase second hand or invest in clothes that are single fiber well made clothes worth the investment. Don't buy more than you need. If you have more than you need, swap or find a new home where you know they are needed before you unload them where they may not be needed. If you manage your own textile waste you know it is not ending up in the landfill, where possible find a new use for old textiles- stuff your own pillow, make rags, repair them or use them as patches. Stylish and fun.
Eco Fair 2020 will be posting the video from today's workshop, and we will be posting excerpts of the useful bits on our website soon. Thanks Aelena, Annette, Leah, Marnie, Helen and all the teams for a great day.
We have begun an interesting group coaching process, with professional coach in training and friend of the Works-in-Progress collective, Amy Brown. We met individually over the past month, and as a group last week. We are her first group coaching experiment, so we are all moving forward in faith, as you do, in the usefulness of the process. So far, very interesting, and as we take steps, the path gets revealed. Here's a link to a VIA strengths quiz, if you like that kind of thing... it's free!
Part of the process is identifying some core values of the group. We are still working on it but on the list was play, creativity, sustainability, and an integrity of purpose. We want the collective to support our members and build a community. To that end we are doing artist talks, seeking funding to both host workshops and pay artists to create online materials.
One of our artists- Ines Scepanovic- has an annual gig as a butter sculptor for the Royal Winter Fair. So awesome. This year they asked her to come back, online, as part of a nation wide online contest. So of course I offered to make a video with her, support her as she ventures into online workshop world. But, should it be a Works-in-Progress thing because, of course, butter sculpture is off brand :) We wrestle with using food in other projects, like rice or flax in hand-warmers, both for the food waste and the cost.
It is a work-in-progress. We are artists and want to make things because they are beautiful and sometimes that means using material that is not up-cycled or recyclable or even toxic, but materials and alternatives are always part of the discussion.
For now, some play. The skills Ines shares in this video transfer to working with other material And, while butter sculpture is wasteful, it is not toxic, it is ephemeral and, in the end, as Ines says, if your hands were clean, you can always keep your finished sculpture in the fridge and use it on your toast.
there is another video on our instagram feed- she did make the chicks in the end as well.
Sometimes it takes a while, but by popular demand, here is the latest video from a workshop we actually hosted over the summer...
Really love all the approaches our artists take to both making and sharing knowledge. Gabrie brings many hours (and yards and yards) of hands on sewing experience despite her less many years on earth, and is good at passing on both the minimum effort needed and also the details you should pay attention to if you want to do it right. Even something that seems straightforward, like patch pockets, really can benefit from some experience to work out the kinks.
We just sent in a grant application with the City of Toronto Waste Reduction Community Grant program (we were shortlisted!) with our community partners Building Roots acting as our trustee. The grant is to do things like this- take workshops we are doing and record and use that material to create videos and graphics to post online for people to see after the fact- seems like a good idea!
It is amazing how much can be achieved by a small group of determined people. And a good poster- art makes it real. Witness the concept to execution above of the great swap poster by the great artist Treya Beaulieu.
We have done many swaps over the years, every one has an added challenge? refinement? tweak? Our goal with these swaps is literally to swap clothes around from where they are no longer needed to clothe a new person, avoiding waste and keeping clothes in use. We are not interested in handouts (though if it can help people in need, all the better) but rather in each of us helping each other. We all have something to give and we all benefit from asking for help.
This swap structure kept that philosophy all the way through. It sprang from a concept hashed out by Leah Sanchez and I (Tanya Murdoch) because we want to keep having swaps and community building events in spite of a pandemic that makes our usual setup impossible. Also, our children outgrew their back to school cords sometime during the longest March break ever.
It took a month, from concept to execution. We had support spreading the word from local Councillor Josh Matlow and trustee Shelley Laskin as well as the Davisville School council. With a little more time and when it is slightly less weird we will have institutional support from local churches and can tie in swap shopping with the local shelter, so we could have an adult swap as well- next time. Also, in my dream, more T-shirt bags and bunting and maybe locally made masks for sale as well. We want to support local artists and makers.
Here's how it works, if you want to reproduce (or get our help. We would love to partner and grow this idea)
Some suggestions for next time (we are thinking Earth Week 2021):
Final feedback from this first annual back-to-school neighbour to neighbour clothing swap:
Ask an Artist (or 4): "Creative Alterations/Hack your Closet" a brainstorm session with Works-in-Progress artists recorded August 1, 2020
We got 4 artists together to share some of their past experiments in altering clothes (and pillowcases) to give these textiles a a second, better life. The video is 15 minutes long but action packed with ideas and a variety of approaches to changing one thing into another with as little work or fuss as possible.
Thanks to artists Tanya Murdoch, Jiyoon Moon, Marnie Saskin and Leah Sanchez for sharing their work and ideas and enthusiasms. Pillowcases become shirts, skirts, dresses... old sweaters become bags and doll clothes and crazy new shirts... it's magic.
We are starting a new thing on our website: Artist talks and portfolios...
The artists in The Works-in-Progress collective all have their own things going on, and lots of it it pretty interesting and connected to why we do things together. Also, we don't always know how cool our friends/colleagues/partners are until we see an overview of their work... so we are starting with Leah Sanchez, my co-founder of Works-in-Progress.
Leah Sanchez had a rich life in the Philippines prior to immigrating to Canada in 2016, including running a resort, working as an architect and in 2010, she and her friend Binggoy started an up-cycled furniture company in Manila in response to the mountains of garbage created by super Typhoon Megi. Watch and get inspired! And then check out their website: https://resurrectionfurniture.ph/resurrectionfurniture.ph/
This is the Resurrection manifesto. I love it. the website is filled with poetry as well as objects to inspire:
Resurrection Furniture and Found Objects Gallery is an atypical atelier that produces unique pieces of furniture and works of art that use everyday found objects as their main components. It prides itself in being able to bring "dead" objects back to life by breathing into them witty and quirky designs.
We see dead objects.
We revive them.
We are Resurrection.
We had a brainstorming session last week with some creative Works-in-Progress artists. All of us use sewing machines but don't really know much beyond the basics so when we get together we always learn something, especially from experienced sewer Marnie Saskin. This time we had what Marnie called "an old lady talk" about needles (what kind you need, signs you may need a new one) and why to invest in a walking foot. It's a lot of useful info so I posted it to our useful info page as well as here.
art experiments turning waste into beauty