Tag Archives: weaving

Planet in Focus 17th Annual Environmental Film Festival

My Short film “The Urban Cloth Project” will be screening at the Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival in Toronto on October 22nd, 2016 at Innis Town Hall at the University of Toronto. It will precede the feature “Frightened – The Real Price of Shipping” by Denis Delestrac. I’m very happy to be attending the festival, which runs from October 18th to 23rd.

New Urbanism Film Festival

My short film “The Urban Cloth Project” will be screening at the New Urbanism Film Festival in Los Angeles on Saturday October 8th at 2:00pm in a program of shorts called “Growing Community”  at the ACME Theatre.

urban_clothnuf

Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival

My short film: THE WEAVER’S CIRCLE is playing at the KUALA LUMPUR ECO FILM FESTIVAL this coming weekend.

Weaver'sCirclePosterThe screening is at 11:00 am on Sunday, October 19th, 2014 at the Black Box. Many thanks to the organisers and volunteers who make this festival happen. For information about the festival, check this link: http://www.ecofilmfest.my/

Poster-KLEFF-A1-Standard1200

Commissioned Films

Over the past year I have been commissioned to produced several short films documenting the activities of local ecologically minded art collectives. At present, I am working on another group of similar shorts, all with the purpose to highlight the small, but significant activities of grass-roots, community based artists, particularly those that work outside the consumer/gallery model of western art. Most recently, I completed the first of three films that document the CONDUIT project, by the ART IS LAND NETWORK, an artist collective “whose shared connection is the use of natural and repurposed material to engage with the landscape.” The year long project at the DR. SUN YAT SEN PARK in Vancouver, involves three separate groups of artists, working with the public in different ways within this stunning urban park. The first component is called CONTOUR.

Another project that I covered in the past year stems from my previous involvement with URBAN WEAVER, a group formed by Sharon Kallis and Todd DeVries, working out of the McLean Park Field House in East Vancouver. YEAR TWO follows the many projects that the group undertook, including growing and processing flax into linen, traditional Haida cedar weaving, and erosion control methods using culled invasive plant material.

A YEAR AT ABERTHAU follows three artists in a community based project entitled FLAX = FOOD + FIBRE. Artists Caitlin ffrench, Mirae Rosner and Sharon Kallis held numerous public workshops that focused on the growing, processing and spinning of flax, and the ways that this ancient practice spill over into other art forms, including weaving, dance, music, and earth sculpture.

These projects embody a contemporary trend in the arts that highlights local landscapes, skills, and history over the monolithic forces of consumer culture, the international art scene and mainstream media-based culture. Participating in communal, hand-based art forms can be an awakening to another way of living and seeing the world.

Willow Snake

Willow Snake by Alastair Heseltine in Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden

Willow Snake by Alastair Heseltine in Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden Photo by Sharon Kallis

In 2013, the Community Arts Council of Vancouver commissioned artist and weaver Alastair Heseltine to create a green willow sculpture in honour of the Chinese year of the Water Snake. The piece was built over a period of five days in January behind the Firehall Theatre in the downtown east-side of Vancouver with the help of numerous community members.

The 60 foot snake was then paraded through Chinatown before being installed in the Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden. As the willow was still living material, the snake began to sprout new shoots as spring weather arrived. Eventually, it was removed from this location and placed in the Means of Production Garden where it now is gradually returning to the earth.

I was present for the entire process and was able to document the project for a short entitled “Willow Snake”.

Snake-filming

Immersive film making. Photo by Sharon Kallis

This year, Van Dusen Garden followed up the Earth Art show of 2012 with “Touch Wood”, curated by Celia Duthie and Nicholas Hunt. I was interested in following the process of Alastair Heseltine again, documenting the process of building a large willow sculpture on site. I am now in the editing process of this short film.

Filming Salix Iterum in Van Dusen Gardens photo by Alastair Heseltine

Filming Salix Iterum in Van Dusen Gardens – Photo by Alastair Heseltine

Urban Weaver Project

In recent months, I have made several shorts which document the Urban Weaver Project, a group dedicated to finding uses for invasive plants as replacements for traditional weaving materials. Based in the Strathcona neighbourhood of Vancouver near where I live, the group has transformed the McLean Park Fieldhouse into a studio/research facility/community meeting place.

Shooting Joy at Lost Lagoon iris pull

Urban Weaver works in conjunction with the Stanley Park Ecology Society and has focused on three invasive plants that have become established in the park: Himalayan Blackberry, Yellow Flag Iris and English Ivy.

Working closely with environmental artist Sharon Kallis, I have learned not only about the threat of invasive plants, but of their potential to bring people together to share skills, artistic vision and a sense of community. Learning about weaving, fiber production and the historical significance these technologies have had in different cultures has been eye-opening, particularly in light of the global monstrosity the clothing/fashion industry has become.

Sharon harvests Himalayan Blackberry

Blackberry weaving by Joy Witsche

The Weaver’s Circle

While at Capilano University  I made a ten minute film entitled “The Weaver’s Circle”about environmental artist  Sharon Kallis. In it she articulates ideas about the importance of sharing knowledge, working with local materials (particularly green waste) and building community through shared projects and goals. I was interested in the idea that this kind of community engagement can act in opposition to the consumer lifestyle that so much of the world seems locked into. Learning how to make something, sharing the results with others, finding out some history about materials, traditional techniques and the cultures that surround them is like opening a window into another way of thinking and living.

Sharon working on willow fence around the Women’s Memorial in Crab Park

Much of the film plays out in the downtown eastside of Vancouver, a place in the midst of much change as old neighbourhoods are being displaced with new, high priced developments, and local history is paved over. The willow fence weaving project around the Women’s memorial in Crab Park is an important image for the film. The location has many layers of meaning and history that are visually present, most notably, the proximity to Centennial Pier where gantry cranes unload thousands of containers of consumer goods, marked with brand names of luxury products. Close by, are the older buildings of neighbouring Gastown and Japan-town, where single occupancy hotels stand next to newly renovated lofts, flanked by highrise office towers and the mountains of the North Shore. This location frames the story of Sharon in the larger context of a neighbourhood and a city in a time of globalisation. Living steps away from the park, she is a resident who has a vested interest in her community.

With Ken Matheson and Robyn Thomas interviewing Greg Ferguson of Stanley Park Ecology Society

Also important to me is the chain of people involved in the Urban Weaver Project, from biologists, to Parks board officials, to First Nations artists and to people living in the area. This is not a story of a guru, but rather a person who wants to make connections with others, in a series of small, positive steps. It is largely about hand made objects and processes using non-manufactured materials, taking place in small pockets of activity and green space within the city, part of a network of people involved in overlapping visions of a better world and their part in it.

The story I set out to portray is local with global implications. It concerns individuals and small communities in the shadow of larger forces which threaten to swallow local knowledge, traditions and history. The message I would like to put forward is that this humble practise can be a catalyst for community engagement and an antidote to consumer culture and urban alienation. Sharon is an artist who has begun a journey of rediscovery of traditions from past cultures, who valued things made by hand, by people who understood the land and the things that lived around them. The central motif of the film is the idea of weaving – of natural materials, ideas, traditions and history, and how this has a quiet, political force.

Willow fence around the Memorial for Missing Women in Crab Park

I worked with a terrific crew again on this film: Derrick Daniels, Robyn Thomas, and Ken Matheson, with Marina Dodis doing a special stint on camera. Michelle Mason was my supportive and encouraging faculty mentor.