Planning for Spring events heats up

Early warmth has brought everything out of hibernation- including us. Just because you haven’t heard much of late from Urban Cloth doesn’t mean nothing is going on- just the opposite, and thought it time to post a bit of what we are up to.

fall workshops…

For our Hastings Urban Farm  component:

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The results of various community fibre processing, blending, and spinning workshops have now been dyed with natural dye made from various pollinator friendly plants- all shades of yellow keeping to our bee theme… then we began waxing the line with wax from the Hasting Urban Farm hives- OUR OWN WAXED LINEN LINE AT LAST!

Spool knitting on handmade frames

Spool knitting on handmade frames

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first little beeskep sculptures completed at the downtown east-side women’s centre

workshops are taking place in the area  to  crochet and knit the waxed line into ‘pollinator-friendly-zone markers’

Our next workshop happens with the Hastings Urban Farm community hive-keepers on March 23- and a few workshop dates are yet to be confirmed.

We have settled on June 6th as the final celebration for the Hastings project component– when the markers will be up along Hastings Street. Sarah Common from Hives for Humanity will led us that day on a walk of the street, sharing why certain areas are noteworthy as pollinator friendly zones. We will end up back at Hastings Urban Farm for tea  and a special presentation that features some of the performative research that has been a part of this project.

Mirae's new dance shoes- the final fitting

Mirae’s new dance shoes- the final fitting

Events are also planned now for this Spring at Trillium North, specifically as the dance and fibre research finds a rooted connection literally through our feet.

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cedar bark and daylily- a hybrid of traditional and introduced plant fibres…

This began back in a early winter group studio date- when Tracy took off on the idea of weaving a pair of shoes…

Suddenly shoes seemed full of potential.

I pushed my weaving skills, and woven a pair that fit Mirae with the idea she could dance in them- then leave them somehow in the landscape as a trace of our actions.

daylily, stinging nettle, new zealand flax and willow bark- the fibers from Means of Production Garden

daylily, stinging nettle, new zealand flax and willow bark- the fibers from Means of Production Garden

Now, we push to find a shoe design and method that can be taught to new weavers in a limited amount of time for use with community dancers who will make their own for wearing and dancing. Rebecca Graham has led me to a traditional Japanese style flip flop that looks promising- using rope we would make, and simple weaving in a method similar to  a back-strap loom… more research  to come!

our able & expressive hands – a report from the dance process

eucalyptus leaf dye on wool

eucalyptus leaf dye on wool

As we have been working in the gardens this summer, we have been investigating the properties of our hands to both do work and express. And now that we are nearing the end of the season, a series of gestures have collected into a dance for our hands, one that tells the story of our process so far. Yesterday, September 1, With the help of Wilson Liang (dancer) and Mr. Fireman (music) I shared this short hand dance at our celebration event at Means of Production Garden.

Some of the gestures come from working with tools – both general gardening implements and tools specific to fibre production.  I have become particularly interested in the aid tools give us to build, deconstruct, manipulate and ground our intentions and goals – and I’ve begun to think about how tools are a way to connect, transfer, and distribute the energy of our bodies with the environment.  As extensions of our hands, tools accomplish goals and do work in a kind of energetic transfer with the land.

Wilson makes a skein

Wilson makes a skein

As we construct a gestural dance, one that focuses on the relationship between our hands, arms, and head and eyes, it becomes really interesting to see what happens when the tools are taken away.  How do our gestures transform when the focus is on our bodies and our connection to environment, memory, and intention?

At many of our sessions so far, I have introduced a warm-up gestural dance by Irene Dowd, which was taught to me by a colleague, Hailey McCloskey.  I have been thinking a lot about why it fascinates me so much. It is both functional and imagistic. It provides the hands, arms, and shoulders with a really good stretch.  And, it focuses on the connection between our two hands as we press our fingers or palms together and spiral our fingers in and out of connection with each other.  It is this play between our two hands that I realize is an interesting starting point for Terroir because it is the connection that grounds the two halves of our bodies with each other, circulating energy to find balance.  Without tools, our hands are brought in relationship to each other.  We internalize the opportunity to ground and connect with our environment, expressing balance, connection and exchange.

The dance we have been working on contains hand movements from clearing undergrowth, using a drop spindle, drafting fibre, winding skeins … and rather than organize them in a chronology, they are linked together by a play between our hands. Sometimes this connection is very close as we press our palms together; sometimes it is taken to its edge along specific lines in space.  In this way the dance plays with balancing energies between both halves of our bodies, distributing intention to the furthest edges, to interact with our environment and community, and bringing it back to our centres, when we join our hands at our midline in various ways, to bring our left and right halves together.

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Wilson, Mirae, Mr. Fireman – Means of Production Garden, Sept 1 2014

August Collaborations

August evenings have found lots going on in the various  project sites as we become more familiar with each location and take new steps forward in how this collaboration  is unfolding.

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At Means of Production we did a solar dying workshop and harvested more willow bark and partially harvested the flax crop.

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At Trillium North we are learning about our new space and experimenting with the old wheels that were donated to us by the West Point Grey Community Assoc. ( long term loan) and Martin adapted them so we can drum a beat while we spin…

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And at Hastings Urban Farm we have been exploring the movements of spinning labour and connecting these actions into movement phrases. It feels like a place of honour, to sit at my wheel and witness the actions I do without thinking as a spinner – being dissected and studied into these elegant and poetic moments!

We have had a small but dedicated group of local community members that have been coming out on a regular basis and participating in both the spinning and fibre gathering/processing as well as dancing and movement research. As witness to how Mirae leads a group of dancers, I enjoy hearing how supportive the group is of each others movement exploration. The group shares ideas and gets excited about possibilities they see in these actions while Mirae brings it all together, gently keeping focus for the group. It is a pleasure to be a part of these evenings

In  a few weeks time we are doing our first sharing of work to date- at both the MOP and Trillium sites, and I look forward to where this shall all lead as we launch after this into fall workshops of  fibre blending, spinning and more dance.

As in every creative process, the first steps are always about gathering. Gathering ideas, possibilities, building visions.

Soon we begin to  play more with what we have now gathered and editing will happen, a honing of direction. For now, we sit briefly in this place of beautiful potential.

gathering our gestures – a report from the dance process

The world turns around us – the world of sight, sound, texture, smell – and when we stop to listen, it is inside us after-all. The dance is stillness – or at least quiet – as we are always resonating, a community of sensation.

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Apples at Means of Production: traces of human activity in the garden

A few years back, my husband and I arrived home to Vancouver after three years of travel. We had been literally around the world, always travelling east from our point of origin.  It had been a whirlwind trip and a very necessary adventure.  Arriving home, I had a deeper context with which to reform my sense of this place.  And, as a dancer, I had to ask myself: what are dances that come from this place, this land? Terroir is a rich opportunity to begin this investigation, and in these early stages we have explored a variety of dance activities: using sensation as a means to map place, cultivating gestures based on the movements of labour, listening and moving in resonance with sounds, gathering textures and drawing traces of their rhythms.

As we engage with gathering, spinning, cultivating and processing, I am especially fascinated with our hands – their articulate ability to work and express.   So, at our weekly sessions, we have been creating gestures based on natural textures and environmental sounds.  We have also been learning to spin with wheels and drop spindles, and assisting with some general garden maintenance.  Working from the memory of these tasks, we have been creating expressive movements with our hands and transforming them into new gestures through improvisation.   These gestures will be gathered and combined to form a dance for the hands, one that tells the story of our process.

Texture mapping at Hastings Urban Farm

Texture mapping at Hastings Urban Farm

We are now moving past the first harvest and into the late summer and autumn, we will begin to investigate our footsteps and pathways through our garden spaces as we tend and collect our crops. And, we will start to look at patterning based on weaving. We have some spun fibres to work with and when stretched-out between two or more people, there is lots of potential for a weaving dance that displays the length of fibre produced by our wheels.

Fence at Means of Production: an inspiration for movement following weaving & natural rhythms

Fence at Means of Production: an inspiration for movement following weaving & natural rhythms

And of course, we are accompanied by our spinning wheels. We are currently working on ways to transform them into percussive machines – the sound of spinning becomes a gentle and meditative noise, highlighting the cyclical and repetitive nature of work, peppered with human variation in speed, and our need for mistakes, discussion, breaks … With more than one wheel going, the syncopation becomes a kind of free-jazz machine song.  For me, the sound invokes images of slow and deliberate movement, dances which are meditative and connected.

We will see how our dances shape-up in the coming month of August.  There are an exciting number of themes to explore as we trace the activities associated with urban cloth production.  How they begin to form will be shaped by our collaboration – with each other and with the sun, rain, plants, animals, tools, passers-by, traffic … all those elements which create the social and environmental fabric of Terroir. – Mirae

working with Community Arts Council of Vancouver!

I am thrilled to announce that CACV has chosen our Terroir project  as one of the downtown eastside community art projects to support, yippee! Funding received from CACV will go specifically towards the support  of our activities at the Hastings Urban Farm and engaging local  community members in creating the performances and installations that  echo from the farm with the fibres we spin… And on the fibre front, we have had our first date of experimenting with the spinning wheels as drums thanks to Martin’s ingenuity .. to make an  appearance at Hastings Urban Farm as a part of the Heart of the City festival on November 9th. So, calling all spinners! want to join our drumwheel band?IMG_1860

foraging and gardening update

Last week when Katrina and I were at MOP we cut back some of the Oregon grape as a part of the site work we were doing. I was struck by the colour of the inner bark- knowing the roots were a dye, but I had no idea the bark was as well. I brought home the branches, and scraped of the bark for a dye test.

the branches are worthy of saving, the scraped pattern of colour is so stunning!

the branches are worthy of saving, the scraped pattern of colour is so stunning!

I poured boiling water over the bark, let it sit overnight, then simmered about an hour before pouring the bark and water back into the jar and leaving it to sit for another few days to pull any remaining colour from the bark. The water now feels quiet thick and viscous, and a short dip of a linen strik shows  great promise for a strong clear yellow.

linen test strik with dye in the background- not a urine sample in case you were wondering....

linen test strik with dye in the background- not a urine sample in case you were wondering….

the grey fibre is 2 ply linen roving I spun that I am going to do a dip dye with- hoping to get a multicoloured skein to try a backstrap weaving experiment.

Meanwhile things grow in the gardens- or in most of them. I actually had to reseed at hastings urban farm, I think the seed was all eaten by the birds. This time we have netting in place, as well as a sign so the local gardeners know to help us with watering- in case the seeds just dry out too much in the current heat.IMG_1685

but the milkweed at hastings farm is easily 3 times the size as at the other two sites…

milkweed fibre in progress

milkweed fibre in progress

at Trillium North it is curious to see how the Marylin seed variety has come up so much faster then the elecra seed- you can see the green corner where the Marylin grows.

And last night at trillium we processed fireweed from the stalks for future use as well as harvesting some green nettle fibre.

nettle fibre, green  freshly harvested and green fibre hackled a few weeks back

nettle fibre, green freshly harvested and green fibre hackled a few weeks back

and the night ended on the high note of Tracy and David collaborating on making an ancient glue stick of sorts…. Tracy brought pine pitch, heated it up and David provided some wood ash to mix in, and it was stirred and rolled onto a stick. This would traditionally be used to waterproof a basket or waterproof the seam in a canoe.

pine pitch+charcoal= glue stick, who knew?

pine pitch+charcoal= glue stick, who knew?

Amazing! I am cherishing my nights with Tracy, every time we meet I learn so much. Now I get to go spin and try drumming using the rhythm of my spinning wheel for Mirae’s dance workshop at Hastings Farm- good fun!