Sunday, July 1, 2012

Loo Taas Felt Canoes

During the "Landscapes of an Inner World" exhibition at the Haida Gwaii Museum in February and March of this year, I was asked to help create 6 large felted stories for the Loo Taas book by Amanda Reid, daughter of Bill Reid who designed and carved the Loo Taas.
The felt canoes turned out to be 6 feet long and have felt water pieces to set the stage. They will be used by 6 different children's organizations in our communities on Haida Gwaii.
Dana Moraes laying out wool
Angela Grosse, Tawni Davidson, Kiki rubbing felt
Dana Moraes, Angela Grosse and Tawni Davidson worked with me to create large sheets of felt, from which we cut the canoes, paddlers, paddles and cedar hats.
Figuring out the movement of the wool
As we used two different types of wool (Shetland and Merino), and each shrinks at a different pace, we created texture in the felt that turned out to look quite neat for the wood of the canoe.
Checking length for canoe
Once the felt had shrunk and was strong enough we let it dry and I sewed patterns into it to make it more durable, as it will be handled by small children.
Then we cut the canoes, paddlers, paddles and cedar hats

I needle felted the 'wave eater' (whale) designs on the hull of the canoe

Several months later, all 6 canoes and water pieces have been completed. Coming September the pieces will be presented to the organizations involved. Thanks to Dana for asking me to be involved in this exciting project and thanks to all the helpers involved in the project, with special thanks to Angela who was always ready to provide space, support and strong arms and hands for felting!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Discovery Day

On Tuesday June 19th it was Discovery Day at Sk'aadgaa Naay Elementary School. In each class room there was something different to discover, and some activities were held outside in the forest and the field. I was invited to be part of the 'wool discovery day' in the Kindergarten classroom.

Adolf Bitterlich from Blacksheep Farm in Tlell brought his two sheep, Coco and Cream, to the school. The children could watch how they were hand shorn in the field.
Adolf and Coco

Once the wool was shorn, it was brought to the Kindergarten classroom, where it was sorted and cleaned of twigs, straw and other debris.
The children got a feel for the lanolin in the wool. Most didn't like the smell of the wool and quickly moved on to a different station.
Touch and Smell
I had washed this wool after Coco's first half was shorn a few weeks ago. The children got to 'tease' the wool and try the hand carder or the drum carder. 
Hand carding demonstration
Drum carder

Once they had a bit of wool carded, the children brought it to one of the spinners. They could try the drop spindle with Carey, or try spinning at the spinning wheel with either Christine or Dorothy.
Drop Spindle with Carey
Travellers Wheel of Dorothy


Once the wool was spun, the children brought the yarn to the loom

Thanks to everyone involved in this fun wool day!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Giving Trees of Haida Gwaii

For eight weeks, from March till May 2012, the students of four classes (Miss Karrow, Miss Jung, Mr. Lagasse and Mr. Reid) were part of the Giving Trees of Haida Gwaii art project.
Sk’aadgaa Naay Elementary School is surrounded by forests and a trail that leads to old growth Cedar and Spruce trees and an eagle nest. This area formed the inspiration for the Giving Trees of Haida Gwaii project.

Each class was assigned a tree to work with for the period of the art project. Miss Karrow’s Kindergarten class worked with the Cedar tree, Miss Jung’s class learned about the Spruce tree, Mr. Lagasse’s class explored Hemlock and Mr. Reid’s class had Alder trees as their focus.

Students had the opportunity to learn about native uses and life cycles of the trees on a guided hike by Linda Tollas, Interpretation Officer at Parks Canada. They learned how the trees are part of an unbroken, interdependent circulation of water, air, plants and beings.

The students worked with Kiki to explore and express their connection to the earth, through individual painting exercises.

Each week they combined meditation, yoga and art to develop sensitivity to the natural world and access their creative source

Childs pose

The students were introduced to three-dimensional felt making by creating seeds out of raw wool fibres, wrapped around a rock. Then with warm soapy water and friction (rubbing), the wool shrinks and the fibres interlock, creating a solid fabric.

Watering the seeds

The next week students rolled wool into felted roots to be incorporated into their large felt mural. Here they are laying out the roving for the roots
Rolling the roots

The students created stories and sketches for their trees.

An important part of the art process is making design and composition choices.
After listening to the stories and looking at all the sketches, one main sketch per class was created as a guide for the large felt murals.

The students created ‘pre-felt’ details for the large felted murals. Pre-felt is a partial felted piece, that can easily be incorporated in larger felt pieces.

Wool laid out for Pre-felt

Then at last we created the large felted murals. Two to three students at a time would work with Kiki to lay out the wool, and create the design of the felt mural.

Working with pre-felt in the large mural

Then a group of students would help with the wetting and rubbing of the pieces.

We rolled the piece in a large bamboo curtain

We went into the janitors room to shrink the piece some more, squeezing and agitating in a large bucket.

Finally the water would be wrung out of the piece and it would be laid out flat to dry.

Felt Mural, ‘Young Cedar Tree in Spring’, by Kindergarten class, Miss Karrow

Felt mural, ‘Spruce Forest in Summer’, by Grade 1, Miss Jung

Felt mural, ‘Old Hemlock in Fall’, by Grade 4/5/6, Mr Lagasse

Felt Mural, Young and Old Alder in Winter, by Grade 6/7, Mr. Reid

For a wonderful video of this project, created by ArtStarts in Schools, please check:

This project was made possible with funding by:
Artstarts (BC Arts Council, Vancouver Foundation)
Opus Art Supplies
Haida Gwaii Arts Council