Our friend Amy has been hosting a Monday morning co-working session called Creative Company... when we last met we talked about structures, structural editing in particular, finding the right form for the thing you are creating. And I realized that, especially this past year, we have really been paying attention to the best season to do things.
This season, the new year, into Spring, it is a good time for workshops. We are content to contemplate, to do the work before and after, to spend time thinking about structure and format in a way that we have NO interest in doing in the Summer.
We had TWO workshops this last week in January, and really enjoyed both of them,
It took a while to crank up into workshop mode, to shift seasons from making and regenerating to structuring and leading; the Scraps workshop was a good challenge, in the way that dealing with scraps is- how best to share joy, how to organize for future use, what the small says about the large, the stories they tell and how to honour that.
Here is a most good slideshow that Marnie Saskin put together. We will share more about the workshops- still and show and tell in a future blog but here is this for now. The whole workshop is posted on the Textile Museum site here if you missed it. The video below is an excerpt from that workshop:
Also, the most asked question during the workshop was what is the recipe for the cornstarch glue? (along with Q: can you unfelt a sweater? A: no)
Cornstarch glue aka Gaw gaw (Filipino name for this great homemade clear glue)
1 cup cornstarch
1 Tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp salt
4 cups hot water
Whisk over high heat, bring to a bubble. Starts to thicken & turn translucent within minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
Dries clear, does not go mouldy. Non toxic. Can use for wallpaper paste, crafts and textile sequestration AND to undo, just soak in warm water to dissolve.
Looking back on 2021, there are seasons to our activities as a collective and if there was a theme for us as a collective and as individuals this year, it was to not do anything we didn't want to, let go of the difficult and make space for doing more of what we want to do. 2021 was hard enough, we rolled with it and did what we could to enjoy the ride. We were able to grow as a collective, making connections to new community (institutional) partners as well as connect with, support and learn from new artists so what more can you ask for? Here are some photo highlights season to season.
photos from left to right, top to bottom: Leah models her fancy patched knee, Tanya models her fancy pieced scarf, Anna leads a "Repair as revolutionary act" workshop for her neighbours, with our support, Marnie models a pompom earring. Next row: Textile Artist Marina Dempster joins us for a series of classes with SAL group, Otis models patched snowpants, a T-SHIRT BAG pamphlet designed by Treya, Foofy the rabbit and cloth rabbits from an online kindergarten class. Third row: Helene Frank at a Tshirt online workshop at the Textile Msueum, Building Roots volunteers at Moss Park, Leah and Ursa making upcycle kits at Moss Park, Fourth row: Columbus the cat with issue of Extember zine, Tanya with Tshirt yarn weaving, Leah with Tshirt yarn macrame and T shirt bag Final row: Workshop ad for Do it Together online workshop, with Marnie leading demo and BR host Tooba
January to March: playing with educators
Fresh from our group coaching sessions with Amy Brown, Works-in-Progress exec (?) Leah Sanchez, Marnie Saskin and Tanya Murdoch began to meet regularly to plan and to connect with educators to move our (Ontario Arts Council funded) creative curriculum experiments forward. Marnie and Tanya lead a second online kindergarten class with Leona Breslaw, making bunnies with cloth and learning about a real angora rabbit- kids used handkerchiefs, dishcloths, bandanas and even paper towels to make their own pet rabbit. We worked with older learners as well: after the Eco Fair in Fall 2020, an educator with the Supervised Alternative Learning (SAL) program worked with us and their 14-18 year old learners on a 6 week series; we alternated artist lead techniques/talks with collaborative work sessions and looped in textile artist Marina Dempster and WIP artists Leah Sanchez to give artist talks as part of the series. The students helped us workshop our bunting pamphlet and were inspired to create some for the halls of their school.
We put out a second issue of our 'zine Extember- Sticks + Stones, featuring buy nothing stores, making useless things and wasps, as well as profiling artist Gomo George (one of his paintings is part of the Fragments of Epic Memory show at the AGO until late February.)
Our friends from Building Roots started up an online version of the Do it Together workshop series, and we lead a workshop with them on T-shirt bags + Clothing Swaps. The workshop is intended to drum up community support for an Earth Week clothing swap but the pandemic has other plans...
photos from left to right, top to bottom: CANCELLED! poster for Earth week clothing swap, Leslie (from NEST) + Tanya and friends make bunting for Encampment dwellers at a Building Roots BarBQ, Rewild logo designed by Tanya for NEST as part of an online Earth/eco action, We supply silk ties to Isabelle, who shows us how to make silk dyed eggs. Row two: Greg Chambers from video still "Artist approach to Repair" Make your own kite pamphlet designed by WiP artist Treya Beaulieu Ursa and Tanya at Moss Park Market, silk dyed eggs Third row: retro amp repaired by Greg Chambers, Delivering Kite kits to Tooba at Moss Park Market, Images from Gomo and Abby leading online Kite workshop as part of the Do it together series. with Building Roots. Next Row: WiP artist Safitya Saskin launches yarn.af to sell her hand spun Merino wool. , ., Next Row: Helen Frank (@helenmends) leads repair workshop with Sharon from Double Take, and a happy kite-maker. Final row is a montage from our patterning workshop at the Textile Museum of Canada , with Leah, Tanya, Gabrie Adair, Jiyoon Moon, Marnie and demo table., followed by Gabrie's work in progress and another issue of Extember.
April + May: Pandemic Third Wave:
By early April it was obvious that the pandemic was far from over and any in person face to face events we had planned ran up against the Third Wave of Covid-19 (remember when Ontario Premier Doug Ford promised to arrest people loitering?) After multiple discussions, we decide to not rework the Earth week swap but instead cancel until September. What a relief!
When you close one door, another opens: we received our official notice of the Waste Reduction Community Grant from the City of Toronto, to begin March 2021, which gave us a broader funding mandate. And, we got back to first love of making things... videos, logos, bunting, experiments with wallpaper and scraps, supporting artists and building a maker community.
Workshops continued online. In April we lead an online workshop at the Textile Museum of Canada called Sustainable Textile Teach-In: DIY Patterning with Works-In-Progress This was a group lead discussion on approaches to pattern making and design with WiP artists Jiyoon Moon, Leah Sanchez, Tanya Murdoch, Marnie Saskin and Gabrie Adair (with Futuristic Ruins) In May, Artist Gomo George and his daughter Abeyomi lead us through a kite-making workshop in May as part of the Building Roots Do it Together series. This was all hands on deck, supported by workshop kits for participants (assembled for high school volunteer hours by artist Jakob Bautista) delivered through Moss Park Market. The workshop was hosted by Kate Hamilton.
Community building: We were contacted by local maker Isabelle to source silk from our stash to do egg dying- she shares the results in an upcoming issue of our 'zine, Extember. We are excited to share the work of artist in the collective, including a new side hustle for Spinner Safiya Saskin @yarn.af And with our new funding we reached out to offer video support to an institution offering online workshops: Double Take thrift store.
As the weather heats up, we are more interested in finding (pandemic safe) ways to work with other outside. Building Roots invites us to take part in a Barbeque they are hosting for a an Encampment support network event, so Leslie Solomonian and Tanya take down some bunting materials and we do some socially distanced making while taking in the speeches and tunes, and leave them for the tent community. This gives us an idea for more art support, via bunting.
photos from left to right, top to bottom: Marnie Saskin and Tanya Murdoch hold up bunting kits, bunting kit, Appletree Farmer's market with bunting, Chris Trussell from Appletree holding up donated bunting, Beata and Kuba at our drop in bunting workshop. Row two: flags at half mast, two pairs of shoes artwork by Jiyoon Moon, tiny harvested cuke, bunting pamphlet designed by Treya Beaulieu, Leah Sanchez with bunting kits at Appletree Farmer's market min row: brushes and materials donated to building roots for banner project lead by Building Roots. Third row: Safiya Saskin spinning angora yarn, refinishing project, Marnie with painted fabric, shoes donated from Davisville school, Cia Prior with her composter at Davisville Community garden, Extember plants issue 2 Final mini row: little free library in progress, sweet grass harvest Tie dyed Tshirts at Moss park Market (part of a WIP donation to Building Roots.)
June-August: summer of connection and play
At the end of May, 215 graves were found at the site of a former residential school in BC, and flags were lowered across the country. Individual artists in the collective looked for ways to process this fresh grief (blog post here). We also received a donation of hundreds of shoes, 2 years worth of abandoned or unclaimed shoes from the lost and found at Davisville school as they relocated, especially poignant in the timing. Two bags were immediately taken for Afghan families relocating in Toronto.
web of relations: The summer was full of things falling into our laps. Retiring educator and friend of the collective Nancy Rawlinson donated her collection of wonderful objects and art supplies to use or redistribute, and immediately were asked by Building Roots for some art/textile supplies as they tried to reopen Saturday fun in the park days. We donated 25+ gently used T-shirts to be repurposed into Tie dye tees and some of our old art supplies (+ some from Nancy) and sheets went to programmer Amy Rumbolt, also from Building Roots, to make a banner at a creativity workshop at West Lodge in Parkdale at the end of June.
community support: The pandemic restrictions were hard on everyone, and we were happy to see Appletree Market return after a year hiatus, albeit with limited access to the market. They had to build temporary fences every week to control flow of visitors, using yellow plastic caution tape, so we loaned them some of our bunting, had a work bee to make pay-what-you-can bunting kits to support the market (donations were to be split 50/50 with WiP and Appletree) plus lead a drop in workshop to make bunting for the market to replace the tape. It was good to be (cautiously) around humans again, and making things collectively. It felt like 2019 again, being back by the Davisville Community garden doing a workshop, and we got to know gardener Cia Prior: she and other gardeners and foragers contributed to TWO plant based issues of Extember.
ad hoc play: we also did a lot of being outside, as individuals- camping, gardening, experimenting with friends, restoring old junk, harvesting and gifting. A lot of soul restoring goodness to store up reserves for winter. Also, Vaccines were becoming available across the country to everyone over 12, it began to seem as if we could actually spend time inside with people again, just in time for Fall.
photos from left to right, top to bottom: Clothing Swap donations in Amy's shed (above) plus sample shoes (below) Otis printing (gender free) signs, Zenadine putting up posters in Westdale (Hamilton), WiP clothespins at Westdale Swap, Amy (and shadows of Amy and Tanya) putting up posters, posters and map on the little free art library in Hamilton. Row 2: Anna holding up her finds, the Back to school swap poster designed by Treya, 3 volunteer hosts at the Davisville (Toronto) swap, clothing swap bunting sign (photo by Delphine) Third Row: tanya at Double Take store, Tanya, Leah, Tooba and MAxc at Moss PArk market, Moss park swap clothing, Marnie and Nancy at the repair site of the Davisville swap #stitchitdontditchit Leah setting up Marnie's pod lamps at Double Take, Cairine Fong and her masks, Susan with her repair project, Double take studio window reveal in November, with Leah, Tanya and Marnie album cover style outside the store mural; bottom row: some other artists contributing to the residency: Lukas Bautista, Anya Laskin, Nancy Rawlinson, Gabrie Adair, and a sample tag from the shop.
September-December: recruitment and sharing
The two big events of the fall through the end of the year were our series of Back-to-School, Neighbour to neighbour clothing swaps in the Westdale neighbourhood of Hamilton, the Davisville and Moss Park neighbourhoods in Toronto AND the artist residency in the storefront Double Take from mid November, a thrift store that supports the work of Yonge Street Mission as well as their expanding up-cycling efforts.
The Swaps: We wrote about the swaps extensively in our earlier blog but they were the next step following on our first pandemic swap in 2020; we find this style of swap the best to manage, most rewarding for the hosts and volunteers and safest during a pandemic. Each yard hosts one-2 sizes, and are responsible for their shop set up and take down, no central organizing, and all sizes come to one place (ideally, the size that the host is seeking) We plan to do this again in the Spring of 2022, around mid April, again as a series of swaps, with one feeding the next, ending at Moss Park. We will include adult sizes in the next swap, and hope to connect with like minded grassroots organizations at each site to make it even better.
The residency: In October, we applied to be (collectively) one of three artists in residence at the Double Take thrift store at 310 Gerrard Street east in downtown Toronto, and our application was accepted. We have been longtime fans of the programs at the store and the use they have made of their institution to steward used clothing and textiles away from the garbage, and generate income and jobs and programs en route. It meant that we would be decorating one of the three windows in front of the newly created Double take studio (housing affordable up-cycled materials and in person workshops) AND selling up-cycled items (with 75% going to the artists) in the store AND running a workshop (or two) ... we are planning an online workshop with the shop on January 29th, 2022. The shop meant that we could recruit artists who have not done retail/marketplaces before to contribute and make items for the store, or sell off extra stock (Artist are all on our website, here)
Other end of year connections: we have recently connected with other up-cyclers through social media, including a young maker with a fashion/science background who is interested in doing workshops with us in Toronto and another education focused maker in Idaho about distributing her repair manifesto/manual- we will keep you posted! We are looking for new institutional partners in Hamilton, and building on our current connections, and continue to dream of a shared space to play. Despite the current lockdown across Canada and much of the world, we continue to seek connections, play and share the joy of re-imagining and making new things from old. Happy New year from Works -in-Progress.
art experiments turning waste into beauty