Artists have a unique approach to reuse and repair, usually finding their own path to making things whole. It is an approach that works for some of us, where the step-by-step instructions may not. To explore this, we will be interviewing artists who repair/reuse items or make use of found objects in their work, developing transferable skills on the way.
The first artist featured is a musician, Greg Chambers, who (with his wife Lisa Nighswander) have been part of the Toronto indie music scene since the 1990s. (Currently, they play together as part of the band Away Forward). They have also spent many years working in theatre production and when the pandemic hit, Greg found both skills served him well and developed a side hustle of fixing amps and other musical electronics.
This video is a work in progress still- we are working on animation to unite the theme of the video, but we are grateful to Greg for giving us his time and perspective. If you need an amp or stereo repaired, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
This project is supported by the City of Toronto through its Waste Reduction Community Grants and by the Ontario Arts Council through its Artists in Education and School Grants.
There is enough if we share.
We love Little Free Libraries. But how about a...Little Free ART Library?
Participating in Works-in-Progress helps me practise that walk away from a scarcity mindset. During the shut-down I signed up to our neighbourhood's Buy Nothing Network. It's been fascinating witnessing stuff shuttle around the neighbourhood in real time, helping people out, moving to homes who could very much, yes please!, use those empty plastic plant pots/really old golf clubs/extra plastic grocery bags/kid's bike/cookbooks.
And it's helped me feel more connected during an isolating time in a fun, casual way.
The cupboard is from that network. The plastic sheet is from my friend Anna. The super-not-environmentally-friendly-but-outdoor-sturdy paint was leftover from a project of older child's years ago.
Plan: cut out middle of doors, finish painting them to match frame (and cover that beige!), add plastic, re-attach, add knobs. Add legs/spikes on the bottom to secure in lawn. Add roof. And of course, decorate :-)
Ta-Da! Little Free ART Library!
After years of (and ongoing) homeschooling, we have plenty of art supplies and things that can be used as art supplies. Some of them have been handed down, some passed to our youngest child from our oldest, some found, some gifted to us, some bought and well-loved, some bought and hardly used, waiting for someone to be interested.
This is our un-tidied-up workspace. (Though as many of you now experience, the whole house is a learning space). It's also a works-in-progress ;-) We're hoping to share what we have, to give back, to have fun. To be a place to go to on a walk with your kid to discover what's there, then see what they can create with what they find.
Oh, and there will definitely be a few Works-in-Progress kits and Extember issues in there. Gotta spread the love and the walk ;-) There is enough if we share.
Many people across Canada (and the world) are just learning about the 215 children found buried in an unmarked grave outside of a residential school in Kamloops BC. Works-in-Progress artist Jiyoon Moon made this image as a way of processing this information.
"Those moccasins..." she writes. "I can't imagine what it would feel like to have my kids taken away from me..."
It is not new information, but it has brought home the findings of the TRC. In 2015 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission completed a process begun in 2008 with the apology by then PM Stephen Harper to all First Nations, Inuit and Métis people whose lives had been affected by residential schools. There was a thorough report based on the witness stories of thousands of former students and staff of residential schools across Canada, and 94 calls to action for schools, governments and individuals. You can find out more here on the TRC site: http://www.trc.ca/about-us/trc-findings.html
As artists (writers, musicians, performers) you need to process. Making images, writing poems, singing songs, helps us to internalize information, seek the truth, true relationships with the truth, a way to communicate your truth and best medium for making the truth felt. Another artist in our collective, Marnie Saskin, tried to understand the recent renewed conflict in Israel and Palestine, as someone who has no skin in the game, and she felt it helpful to consider the settler relationship to this land. I will add that when I find it :)
And me, i am a video artist and painter (here's my video site) my daughter and husband are writers and speakers and I can use my tech skills to share their voices. Ursa is now 18, but she gave this speech back in 2015 for a grade 6 speech arts contest at her elementary school. It is a fantastic summary of the tragedy of residential schools in our shared history. (turn on Close captioning, the audio is a little like it was recorded in a gym, which it was.)
It was 6 years ago this week that the TRC issued their calls to action, including a demand for churches and governments to release their records so we can know about the unreported deaths like these 215 lives in Kamloops.
We all need to understand our shared history. Inform yourself, whatever your process.
Our stereotype of the artist, the entrepreneur, the scientist, the explorer is of a person alone, creating, competitive, secretive. We embrace a different model- while we need to spend time on our own work, we all benefit from working together, sharing our work and knowledge and funding and networks.
We have worked in the same arena as Helen Frank, aka local mender and "craftivist" @HelenMendsto, taking part in Eco Fair last Fall, and then made a video of her workshop at the Textile Museum of Canada this Spring. And when we saw that she was bringing her workshop to Yonge street Mission, we offered to make a video to share, so here it is.
We are excited to have connected with the work being done by Yonge street Mission through their storefront Double Take. We hope to work with them further, via swaps, mending kits with Building Roots and maybe programming or art initiatives. Yay!
Great workshop on May 23rd. It is great to have so much experience leading us, and invaluable to have nice close images of each step. We really enjoyed seeing Abby and Gomo (it's been too long) and, if you couldn't make it, we have resources available for anyone who wants to make their own kite: a how-to video, a fabulous pamphlet as reference and a few remaining kits. Here's the video, the pamphlet is on our resources + useful info page and there are a few remaining kits at Moss Park Market if you get in touch.
This was a true group effort. Inspired by thekite making workshop we did for fun last summer between grants, we asked artist Gomo George and his daughter Abby Bird-George to get the band back together and host another workshop, with the financial support of the Ontario Arts Council and the City of Toronto through their Live Green To Waste Reduction Community Grants. We were able to be part of the Do it Together workshop series curated by Kate Hamilton and ask artist Treya Beaulieu to put together another "Make your own____" pamphlet from the material list and video provided by abby and Gomo. And we recruited a teen artist to take on putting together physical material kits to be distributed through the Moss Park Market location on Market day before the workshop. I fell like we are ready for lunch 'n' learns in the future!
Having these grants makes it possible for us to offer these workshops for free to participants, to support our community partners with materials, give the workshop proper material support and make sure the artists involved are paid.
This workshop was a joy. Making the kites was so fun, and seeing an artist with this much experience is a priviledge. It also took me, personally, three or four tries to get it right. Some of the participants snapped the frame when they tried to bend it. As I said at the top of the workshop, watch, listen, pay attention, take your time with each step. Be with the kite. and then pray for wind and be grateful when it comes. I have been running out whenever I see the wind in the trees.
Since the pandemic began we have been experimenting with online programming, and an early partner was the Textile Museum of Canada. We have entered into an agreement to provide programming and produce materials with them, and we just made a video as part of this agreement, with Repair activist Helen Frank of @helenmendsto from a March 3 workshop at the TMC. This is supported by grants from the Ontario Arts Council and a Live Green Waste Reduction Community Grant from the City of Toronto. The same grant will help us present a DIY pattern making workshop with WIP artists Gabrie Mills, Marnie Saskin, Jiyoon Moon, Leah Sanchez and Tanya Murdoch on April 21st (Earth Day eve) as part of the same Sustainable Textile series hosted by the museum.
This past weekend we were invited to contribute to a community barbecue in Moss Park, co-hosted by our friends at Building Roots and the Encampment Support Network or ESN, in support of their unhoused neighbours. The gathering was part of a series of gatherings to show support for the unhoused people living in Toronto parks, under threat of eviction by the city.
I was, frankly, worried about attending a group event at this stage of the pandemic. We have been staying mostly at home and as a group, the majority of our meetings are online or on the phone. Plus, we were not sure what role Works-in-Progress could play, without knowing the players, but it seemed like the only way to know was to go. I was free to go, and my friend (and occasional collaborator) Leslie is an enthusiastic social justice activist (check out her recent blog post on being a pest) and was willing to come along for the caper, so we loaded up some basic supplies (needles and thread, cutlery wraps, big dog) and biked down to see how we could contribute.
The latest stay at home order took effect Friday night, and the gathering kept the spirit of the order, a gathering of small islands of people on tarps and blankets, supported by musicians, cooks, artists and others, including a communal art project lead by another artist that works with Building Roots, Stevie Driscoll.
We declined the offer of a table and kept it low key, spread out on a loooong blanket from Building Roots, and worked on a row of bunting. We were joined by two other attendees, a librarian and a teacher who, like Leslie, are part of the Bike Brigade, a group of volunteers who make and deliver food to the underfed across Toronto. Together we made an 8 foot long row of bunting from repurposed fabric samples. The idea was to create a gift for the residents of the encampment as we sat: bunting flags signify an event, a celebration, and delineates space, a sort of welcoming fence. The volunteer at the info table gracefully offered to pass it on to a resident of the encampment.
Tech note: we were able to work together to create this while keeping our distance by sewing the flags onto on a looong piece of twine, and then pushing them together at the end. If you want to make your own bunting, we strongly encourage it! You can download the pdf (created by Treya Beaulieu) below... this is part of a larger project with Building Roots.
We are very happy to be working with Building Roots. Throughout the pandemic they have maintained their market at Moss Park, and worked to ensure (as they state on their website) that "no one is left behind by ensuring emergency food provisioning, at-home resources for children and families, and other innovative programming to enable social cohesion during these physically isolating times." For example, the Building Roots staff and volunteers in this picture are managing the Bookshare program they established to distribute books to residents in the buildings behind the market.
Where we began working together... (doodly doo)
We started working with Building Roots in Moss Park at the end of 2019, with a clothing swap/ winter clothing free shop. In early 2020 joined the Do it Together workshop series lead by Kate Hamilton out of the shipping container market on Queen street and once the pandemic hit, we took part in some online skill sharing workshops, plus offered physical support for a mask making project started by one of the workshop participants. Last May I worked with Dustin from Building Roots to make this video collaboration celebrating the work of staff and volunteers through the early months of the pandemic.
Present day, working on the up-cycling kit project.
We continue to find ways to work together, using the Building Roots distribution and volunteers to help up reach more people and help them make things. Our latest project is to redistribute a generous donation of material from the Textile Museum of Canada by creating physical project based kits from this donated material. We collaborated with Works-in-Progress artist Treya Beaulieu to create some beautiful "How to Make it" pamphlets for these kits, and then in March Leah, Ursa and I masked up and joined volunteers Mary and Lindsay to put together sewing kits, plus kits to make shopping bags from your own T shirt, and a bunting kit.
These kits are available through Moss Park market, and can be ordered either on their bookshare system or when registering for workshops. Or you can download the pdf below and make a shopping bag from your own T-shirt. We co-hosted a workshop on March 28th and will share a video from that and other capers soon.
Equinox is a day to celebrate cycles. The growing part after being fallow is always exciting! This is our first tiny shoot of garlic coming up in the raised boxes we put on our driveway, which we planted late in the fall. We hoarded some garlic bulbs from groceries to plant, so we're really excited it worked (so far!)
Works-in-Progress is all about making closed loop systems beautiful and fun. This little baby garlic is part of a cycle at our house that we've slowly been working on for a couple of years, and best of all, it includes bunnies!
These are Foofy and Sherlock, who are the angora bunny members of our family. Sherlock sadly died last year, but her buddy Foofy is still munching away, shedding so much angora fibre, and, very importantly, pooping.
So much bunny poop.
Foofy's litter (yes, bunnies can be litter trained!) feeds into a part of our household cycle: our compost. I was so excited when we built this!
Other things that go in our compost: veggie scraps. Being vegetarian, there are lots of those. Things that don't go in our compost: dairy, fat, grains (the rats and raccoons around here already have plenty to eat!) We keep our eggshells, dry them and grind them once or twice a year to add as well, to get some calcium in there. Looking at waste as a resource starts being habitual the more practice we get. Start with upcycling your sweaters at a Works-in-Progress workshop and next thing you know there's a container of eggshells on your counter ;-)
After the compost sits for a year, magic happens. The hay, the rabbit poop and the veggie scraps turn into gold:
Our first crop last summer was greens. One of the surprise benefits of using your scraps as compost is random old potatoes that survive the winter cozy in the compost then decide to sprout and grow more potatoes!
We use that deliciousness food for energy to brush Foofy, and he also gives us soft soft fibre that my daughter turns into yarn.
Which I turn into:
So happy equinox and happy thinking about the cycles in your household too!
Anna Borstad is an artist and mender in Hamilton; she has been experimenting with mending and repair for many years. During the pandemic, Anna started offering her repair services to her neighbours as a way of giving back. Anna views mending as a Revolutionary Act, taking pride in making clothes last, the visible mend is a badge of honour, worn on your butt.
We have no desire to, as they say, reinvent the wheel. There are literally gazillions (gazillions!) of people who know how to weave, sew, felt, full, quilt, darn, knit, hook and otherwise manipulate fabric and many of them have generously shared these ancient media techniques in the modern fashion online (we have posted a few on this website under"useful info" ) But sometimes trying to do things "right" can keep you from starting.
We are interested in the artist's approach, the experimenters who learn through doing, researching and questioning. We are interested in works-in-progress, and want to join the journey.
Part of the Works-in-Progress manifesto is to share skills and encourage makers, so when Anna wanted to run an online mending workshop, we offered to host the workshop online if she advertised and ran it- and it worked out great! The workshop quickly filled up with neighbours and friends (about 20 people) and Anna led a fantastic, inspiring mending session, which we recorded. She came to (metaphorically) teach us to fish; to share not just how to mend clothes but encourage all participants to join the mending revolution. She is inspired by the problems of each mend, and has years of experimenting under her belt- her enthusiasm for repair is infectious.
This first video Anna clearly lays out the basic rules you need to know to approach your mend-: knits vs. weaves, patching vs. darning- and gives you permission to ignore the rules.
If you want get some more specific tips and steps, the two videos below are step by step approaches to a simple top patch and a simple woven darn. Settle in! Grab those PJs or socks you have been meaning to fix and press play.
Gomo George is an artist and storyteller working in paint, sculpture, performance, a part of the Works-in-Progress collective of artists. Part of being in a collective means that when we can help each other out, we do, and working with artists with diverse stories, experiences, and mediums means we learn from each other. This is a video we made together, at a storytelling event for Black History Month, at a school library that doesn't exist anymore. I was there to document and create a video from the event; the stories are all from Gomo.
Storytelling is a political act- the act of remembering and adapting and keeping the past alive. Political doesn't mean adversarial, it just means there is an agenda, a reason to tell stories beyond the enjoyment of a good tale. Gomo explains that people who have to leave their home bring it with them, in stories. They adapt those stories to keep their home alive in their new home. By hearing stories of Black experience, Black history becomes becomes our history, all of us. Play the video, he says it better. Happy Black History Month.
A (very) little more about the artist:
Gomo George emigrated to Canada many years ago from the Caribbean island country of Dominica, and he has drawn on the rich history of his country of birth through his intricate paintings of Carnival. You can read an article about these paintings in Moko Magazine here.
Gomo and his daughter Abeyomi shared their kite-making passion with us in the summer in an online workshop for Father's day, You can see more about that in our blog here. He is preparing new work for a show at the Art Gallery of Ontario in August, and will share another workshop with us once the weather warms up and we can get together more.
-posted by Tanya Murdoch
More Gomo George works online:
art experiments turning waste into beauty