Swaps! Back to school swaps wrap up 2021
Well, that was fun. We hosted 3 clothing swaps in three neighbourhoods over 3 weeks of back to school swapping of kids clothes. Despite some stress over weather, we had three beautiful Saturdays, plenty of volunteers hosting, putting up posters, storing clothes between swaps (thanks Amy!)
Each neighbourhood had a primary lead from Works-in-Progress (Marnie in Hamilton, Tanya in Davisville, Leah in Moss Park) who worked with volunteers and co-hosts. We kept the swap time limited to three hours- enough time to visit, not too tiring for volunteers.
The Westdale community in Hamilton was new to us, so Marnie reached out to the local Buy Nothing Group and found enough hosts within walking distance to her home to host in their own yard, and a few extra people to help co-host. Each host was hosting the size they wanted, and everyone got some good finds. We had a car load to start: clothes from last year's swap and a LOT of classroom shoes from the 2019-2020 school year. Hosts all reported that donations came and they had a steady series of "shoppers" at all locations. We ended up with more than we started with for the next swap, and some neighbours added to the fun with a lemonade stand and tunes.
The following Weekend we were in Davisville, Midtown Toronto, where we have been co-hosting swaps for many years, and had many return hosts and donations as well as some new participants. People are generous and community minded and we had enough yards that we were able to keep the event to a couple of blocks, making it easier for families with multiple children to go from yard to yard for different sizes, and gave it the feel of a street fair. With increased traffic and enough yards, we were able to add on a repair and upcycling station to demo and encourage people to seek ways to extend the life of their clothes (either through repair or by sending them on a new journey as a basket or doll.) We were VERY busy at all stations all day, with many donations coming in AND going out. Based on host estimates, an average of 20 bags/yard went out over 6 yards... so about 120 bags of clothes found new homes and AGAIN we had more than we started with. As well, reports back from hosts saying that there were other less quantifiable measurements of change: kids had an opportunity to help AND shop, and families witnessed that you can just share your clothes and get new ones and help each other this way, without shopping. Also, many people will be back: we plan to do this again in the Spring, with the support of our local councillor, perhaps expand it to an eco fair in the park and add adult clothes.
The final weekend, October 2nd, was in Moss Park, where we partnered with Building Roots as part of their (extended) Summer animation in the park. This is a food scarce neighbourhood and Building Roots runs a weekly market (Moss Park Market at 260 Queen Street E.) We have worked together in the past, hosting a Winter clothing free market in 2019 and co-hosting up-cycling and repair workshops in person out of the market in early 2020 and virtually online during the pandemic. The Moss Park Market has remained open throughout the pandemic, and they have used this public facing space to bring extended food delivery but also books, games for kids, and activities in the park; we were pleased to be part of this tradition. Building Roots provided tables and blankets and a volunteer network, as well as a co-lead, Mac, and Leah brought signs and bags and our remainders from the week before. The event ran 12-3, and for the most part it was well received, many families took part, and the clothes were very welcome. We still had remainders but less than we started with this time.
All in all, a lot of clothes found a good home. We made about $280 in donations altogether from all three swaps, this can go to pay our poster artist, Treya, and cover the costs of shlepping (gas for cars) and printing posters. We want this to be a regular event in these neighbourhoods, so people can plan and save outgrown clothing donations for it, and plan to shop used rather than new.
This was an expansion of the work we have been doing for years, and the bulk is still done by volunteers, but we we able to pay for administration hours through a Waste Reduction Community Grant from the City of Toronto's LiveGreenTO program. For these swaps, we had no central location to collect clothes, so everything had to be dropped off the night before or day of the swap- this disperses the work and makes sorting and packing up manageable. There is little management needed- one person can run point as long as there are hosts on the day. This is a replicable model- we shared resources and passed on signs and tips from swap to swap. It builds on a circular model of giving, rather than donations to a central charity for redistribution. Neighbour to neighbour to neighbour and back again. AND it was fun and low stress, which is what we aim for in all our endeavours. .
Second-hand clothes come with their own history, stories, smells, and sometimes...bugs!
Lice like fastidiousness, bedbugs can be ubiquitous, moths are voracious, and fleas are rambunctious. This is not a moral judgement of people's cleanliness 'cause doing that is icky; it's more like physics - things that you can't deny and just have to deal with :-)
So how to reap all the benefits of keeping clothes in circulation without also keeping the bugs in circulation?
If you are running a swap, requesting that all clothes come clean, bagged, and labelled is a start. But what if you're on the yay! bringing-clothes-home end?
A couple of handy guidelines:
First, make no assumptions. Let's not be prejudiced with our clothes. Assume all second-hand clothes have teeny hitchhikers.
Second: Quarantine. What? We all know how to do that now and how effective it is. Whatever bag your recent-to-you clothes come in, it's a good idea to keep it separate from other clothes until you can do laundry. Walk your haul straight to the washer if you have one, or keep them by the front door if you don't. Obviously the dreaded plastic bag is good for this, as it can be tied closed and is a complete barrier. Paper bags can be folded over and tied or elastic banded. If you really want to use cloth bags, tie them tight and make sure they are washable on hot. Do. Not. Put. Second-Hand. Clothes. In. Your. Dirty. Laundry. Pile! Bedbugs will say thanks! and moooove right in ;-)
Third: Wash. I try to only buy or swap second-hand that can be washed in hot water. 60C kills everything, but it's really the dryer (on hot!) that kills things like bedbugs. Heat (and slightly higher electricity bills) are your friend here. Save the eco-friendly cold water wash and line dry for after.
Last: If you fall in love with a woolly sweater, a sweet suit jacket, or find yourself with things that can't be washed (like shoes) the freezer is your friend. If you've got one of those mini-fridge freezers you might have to eat all your icecream first (oh nooooo), but it should do in a pinch (it will probably be cold enough for moth larvae, but probably not for bedbugs, sadly - you might have to borrow a friend's big fridge or chest freezer).
Freezing infested woollens can work to kill clothes moths if there is an abrupt change from warm (70° F; 21° C) to freezing (0F; - 18° C). Leave the items for at least 72 hours once the material reaches - 18° C.
Putting infested items in a freezer can kill bed bugs if some particular conditions are met. Freezing causes ice to form inside the bed bug, causing injury or death. Freezing bed bugs is easy to do. All it requires is:
For more details here's a helpful link:
Fleas and lice are more susceptible to cold. The same treatment definitely works for them as well. Honestly, I often bag things, put them in the freezer, and forget about them. When I I come across them later, it's like finding money in your pocket - always fun!
Over the past twenty years, my family has: moved into a house only to discover it had bedbugs, fought off a lice cycle (or two...or three) in the kids, and, when my studio in was in our basement I mis-stored some fabric only to find that a mouse family had moved in after. Cute but sad. Once was enough for each of those (especially the bedbugs!)
I hope this helps eveyone go forth with confidence! It's so important to keep clothes in circulation for as long as they have life. Getting into these habits makes the experience so much more comfortable for everyone involved (except the beasties, I guess ;-)
Gorgeous day learning about how angora goes from bunny's back to the softest two ply yarn. Safiya spins her own yarn- some sourced from other raw/dyed wool, but some from the family angora rabbit, Foofy. With the reopening of the Textile Museum of Canada this fall, they are opening an upcycling centre, where you can purchase donated material and tools, take a workshop, and learn about the life cycle of textiles through displays and videos. So I went to Hamilton with family to record Safiya spinning wool and produce a video for the museum (visuals only). It was such a gorgeous day and light and ambieance and I haven't made a video for a while where I was outside, taking part... I forgot the pleasure of engaging in the world in this way, with someone who is immersed in what they are doing. So this video is a sidebar, made for pleasure, about the pleasure of a late summer day outside, making things... and the sounds of katydids. Also, the whole process is super compelling and hypnotic and something that must be seen. she makes it look easy.
Artist Approach to Repair and Reuse
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 email@example.com
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.
A Sharing Work-in-Progress
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!
Kite making with Gomo and Abby
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.
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.
art experiments turning waste into beauty