I spent 6 weeks this winter in Iceland at an artist residency painting with botanical inks and shooting film photographs. Now that i'm home i've been scanning the film and dreaming of the long winter nights.
Today I had the opportunity to meet Laurie- the owner of Disdero Ranch.
Laurie is a farmer from the North Thompson region where she raises sheep, mohair goats, alpacas, and Pyrenees dogs. She has beautiful yarns made from the fibres of her sheep, goats, and aplacas- and I was lucky enough to get some of her Romney/Mohair and her Corridale/Mohair. If you're interested in getting some for yourself she has an online store.
I will be bringing this yarn with me to Iceland this January to design with- something warm and natural, but also something from home. Working with a local yarn will help with any homesickness i'm sure.
I was struck by her thoughts around local fibre farming and the idea of honouring the breeds of animals she raises. All of her animals are breeds that are on the Canadian Conservation List- they are breeds that are in danger of disappearing.
I am looking forward to seeing Laurie again at Fibres West in March!
I'm finally sitting down to write about my experience in Iceland in the summer of 2016. Upon my return back home I went full force back into my life and didn't have much time to sit down and speak to that trip.
I had visited Iceland in the Summer of 2014 with my partner- and we decided to go back for our 10 year wedding anniversary. There is something that still deeply haunts me about Iceland- I feel something that pulls on my heart from there. When we decided that we were going back in 2016 I figured I should write a book of knitting patterns to shoot while we were there. That's the strange thing about being a self-employed artist. We have to incorporate our work lives into our free time.
This was my second book- so I thought it had to be bigger and way harder than the first one. I started with 10 patterns (only 8 made the cut to the final book) and it was shot entirely on film. Medium format film. We didn't do any digital backup shots. Thankfully it all of the shots were great- I took a big chance!
But onward to the trip! We had a friend travelling with us for the first two weeks- and we were meeting up with four other friends along the way.
We rented a Jimni from Sad Cars - it was a tiny little thing that was a little worse for wear, but it fit the three of us and all of our bags. It also is a 4x4 vehicle with the ability to go farther than just around the ring road- so we were in love. This is something to note: you'll need a 4x4 vehicle to go onto many of the roads around the country that aren't the ring road. It's more expensive, but the last time we were here we rented a little car that really was a glorified go-cart! Also note that many of the cars for rent are standards (not automatics)
We landed in Keflavik at 6am which isn't a good time of day for anyone- but I hadn't slept on the plane due to excitement. We picked up our bags and vehicle and headed straight for the ringroad. Reykjavik is North of Keflavik (the airport) and we were planning on circling the country starting south, so we headed out knowing we wouldn't see a big city for quite a while.
After finding an open bakery in a tiny town (i'm pretty sure it was Grindavik) we headed off to the textile coop at Þingborg. I planned on buying a Lopi sweater this trip as I hadn't on the last one and regretted it.
And we were off again- just before we hit up the textile coop we were in Selfoss getting supplies. I knew it would be the last big(ish) town until we were in the east, so that was the place to load up on food and snacks.
The last time we had come we didn't hit up many of the places in the south as they're quite tourist heavy- but this time I wanted to check out some of the big waterfalls and pools.
The whole area in the south is dreamy and etherial- black sand beaches, glaciers, and long vast landscape. The last time we circled the ringroad we went clockwise- so this was the last stuff we had seen. Seeing it with fresh eyes as the first thing was pretty special. Keep in mind that if you're headed here that Vík and the surrounding area is incredibly rainy and windy.
Up next was Seljavallalaug pool- A pool built in the 1920's thats free of charge to go to. Note that it's a short hike up to the pool!
The pool is warm (not hot) and fed by natural hot springs- I try to throw myself into water at any chance, and i've been desiring to visit this place since I first saw a photo of it.
We then headed into Vík to set up camp and take a nap. By this time I had been without sleep for a day and a half and had started to get kind of weird. We slept for a few hours, but woke up to go look at Skógafoss. This huge waterfall is best seen at night in the summer. The sky is still light, but many of the tourists have left. Really all of the best places around Iceland that are tourist heavy are best seen at late hours to stave off other tourists!
The next morning we shot a third of the photos for the book. I had wanted photos with the black sand beaches and icebergs- so that was the perfect day.
We went down by the Dyrhólaey Arch and I saw puffins up close on a cliff. No lie: I cried. I love puffins. Baby puffins are called pufflings. For real.
We headed towards Jökulsárlón (The glacier lagoon) to shoot photos and look at icebergs. This place has a quiet magic- I can't explain how deeply I love this place.
My incredible friend Anna is starting a new brilliant project- A Canadian fibre CSA!
"A year ago (April 2015) I sold my community based local yarn shop (Baaad Anna's Yarn Store) and with my husband and two young sons, packed up our belongings and moved from the Westcoast of Canada to Manitoba.
In 6 weeks we found a beautiful piece of land - 140 acres east of Winnipeg, Treaty One Territory. Attracted to the land because of its mostly untouched landscape, forests and wetlands, but also its potential for a small flock of pastured sheep, we moved in June 26, 2015!
It has been a great learning curve, as neither of us have actually lived on a farm, let alone had livestock to care for. But it's been an exciting, challenging, rewarding, hilarious experience and we are eager for the next step!
I am passionate about building community, challenging injustice in our world and creating alternatives, Long Way Homestead is the next step in pursuing these passions. A fibre farm and CSA model is not just about selling fibre and yarn, its about clothing security, understanding the land both ecologically and historically, its about respecting animals, and understanding where and how our clothing and food is produced.
I also intend for this farm to be a place where learning, community and connection thrives."
Anna is a brilliant and inspired person- I am so proud of her!
In my work/creative life I wear two hats. The first is the natural dyer/knitwear designer/textile maker and the second is a sculptor/painter/drawer/artist. I truly am in love with the first as it is the most brilliant work i've ever had. It is a way for me to support myself and to I can't believe i'm lucky enough to be self employed. The second is what honestly drives me to love and wake up in the morning. It is a burning desire to create new things every day and these things are often never shown to others- they're just a way for me to express something that I feel.
Today i've been reflecting on the idea of pushing myself to make more small artworks that are solely to further the creative process- and I decided to give myself a weeklong challenge and see what comes of it. I invite you to work alongside me if you'd like- or just take a look at what i've come up with. I'm going to be sharing photographs of what i'm making on my Instagram this week and I will be using the hashtag #cominginspiration .
Wednesday April 6- Something sculptural. Something that takes up space and has interesting shape.
Thursday April 7- On paper. Today's project will be on paper- whatever that means.
Friday April 8- Inspired by text. Today is to be made from written word.
Saturday April 9- A self portrait.
Sunday April 10- Past thought. Looking back at old notes or sketchbooks to glean inspiration- and to make something from this.
Monday April 11- From song. Find a song, listen to it at least three times, and make something.
Tuesday April 12- Vessel. Make something that can hold something else.
Yesterday I scoured and mordanted 5 meters of 100% merino wool jersey in preparation for this afternoon.
I will tell you more about them tomorrow when they're open- for now you just get to see them bundled!
Spring is here! This means that the time of harvest is upon us- and one of the first plants to awaken from the earth in the spring is rhubarb.
This plant is brilliant becasue it has 3 uses: Food, Mordant, and Dye! We all know that rhubarb stalks are wonderful food. My harvested stalks will become pie later this week- I just have to set them in a bowl with water in the fridge for the next few days until I get around to making pie. The roots of the plant can make a beautiful dye- my first encounter of this as a dyestuff was with Gudrun Bjarnadottir in Iceland. her naturally dyed Icelandic wools are to die for- and I ended up taking a bunch home with me!
Today our focus is on mordants- a necessary thing to get dyes to stick to fibres! Here is how I make rhubarb mordant:
Step 1: Harvest the leaves. Be mindful to either wear gloves, or wash your hands after harvest. These leaves contain oxalic acid (a poison!)
Step 2: Weigh the leaves, and write down the weight in grams. Mine today was 714g.
Step 3: Chop up leaves and place in a dyepot. Please note that you need a dyepot that is no longer food safe- once it is used for making mordants or natural dyes it is no longer safe for food!
Step 4: Fill pot with hot tap water to completely cover chopped up leaves.
Step 5: Place pot on a stovetop in a very well ventilated space. Outdoors is best. Oxalic acid is toxic! You don't want to cook this around small humans or small animals. (Kids/cats and dogs)
Step 6: Cook at approximately 180°F or 80°C for approximately an hour. Stir every 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat, and let sit for a few hours.
Step 7: Strain the leaves from the liquid, and pour liquid into a glass jar with lid. Label the jar with the information you'll need later. This means what the mordant is (rhubarb leaves), how you cooked it (stovetop for one hour), and the number of grams of leaves you used (I used 714g). Since I ended up with 9 litres of liquid at the end each litre had approximately 80g of leaves in it- and I had 3- 2 litre jars and 1- 3 litre jars so the 2 litre jars amount to 160g and the 3 litre amounts to 240g. Each jar was labeled as such. I'm going to use the 1:2 ratio of this liquid- 1 part liquid to 2 parts protein fibre.
Step 8: Use as you wish! Make sure to only use this in a well ventilated space or outdoors!
At the start of each year I do a tarot reading for myself of the year ahead, and I reflect on the one from the year past.
This one was done with my deck from The Wild Unknown- and it looks like it's going to be a good year.
I've spent the past few days staring at the computer getting 4 new patterns ready- Before they can go out live into the world they have to be test knit. So today has been spent listing them and emailing them out to the testers on the Free Pattern Testers group on Ravelry.
I'm pretty excited about these ones-
And I even conned my partner and one of our buds into modelling this one for me- such babes!
We are plotting our next big adventure- This summer coming up we are planning on heading back to Iceland. It is our 10 year wedding anniversary, and we want to renew some sort of vows in Seyðisfjörður.
When we went to Iceland a year and a half ago this was one of our favourite places. There is some sort of brilliant magic here, and I feel like I left a large part of my hear there. I tend to do this thing where I leave large parts of my heart in places and then I will want to go back and visit those heart pieces as often as possible.
On a walk this autumn I came across a stand of trees in my neighbourhood that I hadn't really noticed before. I'm still not the greatest at identifying deciduous trees that aren't indigenous to this region, so seeing the random trees people have planted around their properties sometimes gets me puzzled.
This type of tree in particular had red 5-pointed flowers and blue/black middles that look like blueberries. I picked one of the centre fruit bits and crushed it against the side of a basket I was carrying. (I often carry a basket- not a purse or bag) and the fruit produced a bright teal colour. I left it there for a month or so to see if the colour would change when exposed to sun/rain- and the colour didn't budge!
There are 6 or 7 trees where I found the first, so I harvested from each- I took 6-10 fruit bits from each tree. I took very little for a few reasons. 1- The trees are on a patch of land that I can't tell if they belong to the city or to the home owner. 2- I wasn't sure about the dyestuff yet, or even what it was at that point. 3- When doing a small dye sample you don't need to dye hundreds of grams of fibre- dyeing 5-10g is fine! You're just trying it out!
So I took the fruit bits home, crushed them up in a small dye pot, and cooked up the stock solution. It turned out to be a bright blue- but I still had misgivings about it. Finding this type of blue in nature is almost always not lightfast and I didn't want to get my hopes up. I added in a small bit of wool yarn and a piece of cotton that had been pre-mordanted with 9 mordant samples. (I prepped a bunch of these while in a workshop with Michel Garcia)
At this point I still didn't know what the tree was- so I took to Instagram. I posted a photo of the tree on my Instagram page with a plea to help me identify this tree, and within an hour I had the answer! Clerodendrum Trichotomum- or more commonly known Harlequin Glorybower! And it's a traditional dye plant in Japan!
This was one of those AHA! moments as a dyer.
I didn't feel the need to go harvest more of these fruits to dye with for a number of reasons- one was that because I was unsure of who owned the plants, another was that I can get similar dye results by using indigo which is much more available to me, also that it would take so much fruit to dye a large thing that I would be taking too much from such a small amount of trees (Even though each tree had thousands of blooms), and finally that it was late in the season and the tree was starting to drop its fruits.
So there it is- the brilliance of investigation! For more on this check out this blog post from the Barefoot Shepherdess.
The first part of this story is that in the last year and a half I learned that I can push myself alongside my partner and drive really long distances. REALLY long.
We first learned this when we drove from Toronto to Seattle in 45 hours. No, we weren't speeding. Yes, we were driving a 22 year old VW van. We had just flown in from Iceland and were trying to get to a big gathering of a ton of our friends- and we made it! After a 45 hour drive through the top half of America I figured we really could drive anywhere.
I really think the previous 2 photos show just how I was feeling. My partner was feeling the same- I just didn't subject him to being photographed.
A few months later we were invited to Las Vegas with two of our friends that were eloping. There were 5 of us total that were going to drive there- it was supposed to be a short drive too. (Short being 18 or so hours). It ended up being 24 hours due to a huge show storm, but we made it! We flew home from Vegas so the two that were just married could have a honeymoon drive back up the coast.
So this all lead up to my birthday this past year- the year pervious we had gone on a canoe/kayak camping trip with 10 friends in the seriously rainiest and coldest time i've ever had. So this past year I wanted to go somewhere south- somewhere a little warmer. I asked my partner if he wanted to go to south Washington camping, and he agreed- then I figured that the Oregon coast was really only a short drive more, so thats where we should go. My partner agreed again. Finally I checked google maps- and it said the Redwood forest in north California was only 10.5 hours away. It was settled. I was going to the giants for my birthday.
We asked two of our friends to go with us- one also lives in Vancouver, the other in Seattle. The Vancouver friend knew the whole plan- and was super excited. The Seattle friend knew nothing of the plan. All that he knew was that we were picking him up after work, he needed his hammock and sleeping gear, and that we were taking off for 5 days. I love these kind of friends- the ones who don't say "why on earth are you doing that silly thing!?" but instead will not question you when you say "i'm going on an adventure- get in the car!".
We did it.
We drove to the giants.
There is seriously nothing I can really say that will let you know just how I felt- everything was just surrounded by a quiet brilliance.
We played around the forests and slept amongst the trees and along the coastline for 4 nights- it was a trip that really struck a chord somewhere in me.
This past year my partner and I have been spending more time with out film cameras-
There seems to be something tangible and real when you take film photos. The sound of the shutter going is something that makes my heart happy- and it's funny that many digital cameras try to recreate this with digitized sound- but there is no replacing the feeling of a shutter.
Arlin likes to do his best to get the dust and bits off of the image when he scans them- But I feel some sort of magic comes with the dust bits.
We will continue on this journey-
Finding new inspiration in old things.
Last night was the longest night of the year.
I have a tradition in my household to honour the longest and shortest nights of the year. On the summer solstice I harvest the best and strongest plants from my garden and make a wreath from them. I hang it to dry in my livingroom until the winter solstice- then it is taken down at sundown and set on fire. I do this to recognize the bounty of the long summer days, and to acknowledge that the light will return from the darkest night.