Monday, June 16, 2014

Intertidal Felt Piece #2

In the spring I was asked to create another intertidal felt table piece for Parks Canada. This piece will be used at the Vancouver Aquarium for outreach programs and educational purposes.
The request was made for a 2'x3' felt mat, with many 3-D sea creatures, from clams, sea stars and a moon snail, to a crab, a geo duck and a gunnel.
Some pockets were made for the clams to hide:
The table piece is wet felted by hand and created with Merino wool, silk, yarn and cheese cloth.
And last, I  was also asked to create a 3-D felt sea cucumber and gunnel for the local Parks Canada (Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve) to add to their intertidal felt piece:

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Taan's Moons at ArtStarts Gallery

How I wish you could all have been at the opening of the Timescapes exhibition, featuring Taan’s Moons felt artworks and drawings created by 70 young and talented Haida Gwaii students as well as five other projects created by students in BC, at the ArtStarts Gallery in Vancouver! 

The ArtStarts staff, notably Juliana Bedoya and Fran├žois Grenier, did such an amazing job to artistically display the pieces. With a team of volunteers they worked many long hours to make sure the artworks were hung with care. The display conveys the phases of the moon and suggests a cozy bear den. 

Selected drawings of the children are playfully displayed in the reading corner of the upper gallery:
Drawings by Isadore, Summer, Zackary, Anezka, Padma and Kingston 
The opening was a beautiful celebration. Joanne Yovanovich, Principal of Aboriginal Education, offered a blessing for the exhibition and inspiring words about the Taan's Moons project:

Nika Collison sang a beautiful hummingbird song: 
From left to right: Nika Collison, fellow artist Naomi Steinberg, Kara Johancsik from BYTE, Kiki, Alison and Joanne
Nika chose this song, which was received from the Nuu Chah Nulth in exchange of a Haida song, “as metaphor of cultures working together in art and knowledge to achieve something great. Additionally, bird songs left with the bird migrations and returned when the birds do – a Haida understanding and view of time and ties to our natural world.” Haaw’a to both Joanne and Nika for your gifts.

There was a great turn-out; locals, children, friends and even family members of some of the young (and older) artists showed up and were blown away by the work these young children made. 
Grandparents of Anezka (one of the young artists) in center,  my sister to their right and Tonya Martin, publisher of Taan's Moons book, to their left. 
Many visitors came out to the opening
Congratulations to all these young Haida Gwaii artists on your first exhibit at a downtown Vancouver gallery!

The Timescapes exhibition will be up till the end of August. I encourage everyone to visit the ArtStarts Gallery, at 808 Richards Street, when you’re in Vancouver next. It’s a wonderful gallery for young people and I’m sure you’ll come away feeling inspired!

The Taan’s Moons artpieces will return to Haida Gwaii in the fall.  We are planning an exhibition to coincide with the Taan’s Moons book launch before Christmas.
Alison Gear speaking, artist Sol at her feet
I would like to thank everyone who made the Taan’s Moons project such a huge success, from teachers, students, volunteers, ArtStarts in Schools, Literacy Haida Gwaii, Gwaii Trust Society, SD50 to the support team behind Taan’s Moons and of course to Joanne Yovanovich for sharing the knowledge, and to Alison Gear who created such a beautiful poem that inspired so many of us! 
To me this whole process is like watching a drop of rainwater fall in the ocean, merging yet creating a ripple effect, now reaching new shores, inspiring countless others. Haaw’a for your generosity. 

And haaw'a, thank you to Siobhan Rich, for the use of her photographs.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Taan's Moons Unveiling

After many moons of working, we unveiled the thirteen felted Taan's Moons at Sk'aadgaa Naay Elementary School on the day of full 'Bear Moon'. Teachers, students and their parents of three of the six participating schools, many Haida elders and other community members joined for a very special celebration of the finishing of the felt creations.

Ms. Ives, Principal of Sk'aadgaa Naay Elementary School opened the celebration by welcoming everyone to the school.

Ms. Yovanovich, Principal of Aboriginal Education, thanked the elders and language holders involved in this Haida version of the moons. She said: "This project is a good example of how to use knowledge and an excellent example of teaching practices. Our children were offered another view of how to use knowledge".

Gwaaganad (Diane Brown), former instructor at the Skidegate Haida Immersion Program (SHIP) and Haida knowledge holder, spoke about the importance of (Haida) language being brought to life and being used in the classroom.

Alison Gear, an Early Learning Coordinator and writer of Taan's Moons story, presented the Taan's Moons project to the audience with a slideshow of images taken by Jason Shafto during the months we worked at the school. 

The children of each class had been patiently waiting in the hall until it was time to bring in their felt creations. They proudly carried their pieces in the gym, while Joan Moody's drumming resounded in the space.
Once their pieces were up on the wall, the pieces of the other participating schools were unveiled. 
Many 'oohs' and 'aaahs' were heard.

With every moon up and unveiled the Taan's Moons story was told, moon by moon, in Haida by Jiixa (Gladys Vandal), Haida weaver and teacher, and in English by Alison.

Guujaaw, carver and teacher, shared a song that "way back when was given to the people on Vancouver Island, when stories and songs were valued higher than material goods"; a song he is working on to accompany the calendar of moons. 

Kiki spoke about the sharing of these beautiful traditional Haida descriptions of the moons being like a drop in the water, and how all creations inspired by that drop - from Alison's story, to the creations of the children, to the creation of the upcoming Taan's Moons book - are like ripples in the water, moving further out and out, reaching old and new, known and unknown shores, perhaps inspiring new and unknown people.

After handing out handmade felt gifts to Jiixa, Guujaaw, the students and a book documenting the process to the teachers, it was time for the audience to get a closer look of the felt moons.
The book documenting the Taan's Moons process and felt playmat were on display and engaged  young and old.
As this celebration was part of a PALS (Parents As Literacy Supporters) session, Alison had a fun story-making activity planned for the children and their parents. With lots of materials to play with and a cardboard storyboard, they were able to create their own stories. 
A special cake, resembling 'Migratory Geese Moon', made for a festive treat at the end of an inspiring afternoon:

Monday, December 2, 2013

Taan's Moons project - Session Three

Migratory Geese Moon
November has been a busy month for the Taan's Moons project. Alison and I went back to each of the six schools to continue our work with the Kindergarten (some mixed grades) classes. Thirteen large circular felted pieces, incorporating Alison's story of each moon, have been created with the children of the six elementary schools of Haida Gwaii.


This session had a different flow from the second session. Instead of working together with the whole class on each activity, we worked simultaneously in small groups on different activities. While I worked with three or four students at a time to create the felt pieces from start to finish, Alison, the teachers and volunteers worked with the other groups of students on related activities. Rotation of activities would happen quite naturally, when children were done an exercise or when the activity would not hold their attention any longer.

Familiar activities

We brought some activities we had used in session two, like the felt board story and the memory card game, to deepen the children's understanding of the story and embedding new words. But before we started with any of those activities, we began each day with 'warming up our imagination'. As this was the third time the children moved through the story with their bodies, we could really see how much they had learned in those sessions. For example, they remembered and understood the newly introduced words and concepts like 'hibernating' and 'migrating'.
The Haida youth dance group under guidance of Tyler Crosby returned to the schools and this time the whole school participated:

New activities

And we brought new activities to the classrooms. One of these was a creative writing exercise where the children were invited to create their own bear story.
 Paper weaving was an activity for the class that created 'Cedar Bark Weaving Moon':

Another activity was based on the felted berries the children had made during session two. We brought the book 'Wild Berries' by Julie Flett, a beautiful story about a little boy who goes berry picking with his grandmother. Story time is such an important part of the Kindergarten daily routine, and this book fitted perfectly into our project. After listening to the story, the children were invited to sort, count and string the felt berries.
Song and dance were incorporated into the day to release energies or when attention spans scattered:
In the afternoons we introduced the Taan's Moons felt playmat, which has each month/moon represented and is created with wet- and needle -felting techniques. This became a popular play station for the children.

Creation of the Felted Illustrations:

While Alison engaged the children in the above mentioned activities with the help of teachers and volunteers, I continuously worked with small groups of students to create the felt moons from start to finish.
We based the wool designs on the sketches created for each moon, which were inspired by Alison's story and the children's drawings (see 'Taan's Moons drawings' in previous blogpost):
We started out by laying out the wool and creating designs:
The felt roots and squares that the children created during session two were incorporated in the design:
Once the design was complete, we covered the piece with a polyester cloth and poured hot soapy water on top and started to rub with circular motions. A lot of rubbing was required.
Once the piece was firmly felted, we rolled it in a large bamboo mat (blind) to shrink and make it stronger:
Happy with the end results:
So much fun! I will post finished felt pieces once the photos have been taken by Jason.

We're sad the collaboration with the children has come to an end. But the project is far from finished. Many more stages are to follow; from creating a process book for the teachers to exhibits of the felted moons at ArtStarts Gallery (from March - August 2014) and at Haida Gwaii venues in the Fall of 2014. We are also in the process of working with a publisher to create a story book, to be published in the Fall of 2014!

Lots of exciting Taan's Moons events in 2014 to look forward to.

We are so grateful for the support from ArtStarts in Schools, SD50 and Literacy Haida Gwaii to make this project a reality! Ha'awa!