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.
art experiments turning waste into beauty