Two weeks ago I had the privilege of showing and teaching my recycled textile crafts at the Maker Extravaganza, held at the Toronto Reference Library - the perfect place for it.
The Maker Festival itself is a month-long exploration of traditional craft/new technology, and invention in Toronto. It is volunteer-run. The event at the library was fascinating; there were more than 100 displays and hands-on activities - everything from robot wars, 3-D printers, a drone cage, and all kinds of new uses of the computer technology, including 3-D printed topographic maps, to recycled craft like mine, pottery, model train clubs, model ship clubs, paper craft, puppetry, innovative uses for LED lighting, jewellery, and so much more. An event for everyone, it was really well attended. A huge inflated silver jellyfish was suspended two stories high from fishing line attached to weights. I had watched them put it together Friday night - they lost a grip on one of the tentacles, and it floated to the ceiling high above the main floor. When I arrived on Saturday morning the makers had been able to recover it and attach it to their piece - but I am still curious about how they managed to get it back down. Throughout the show two puppeteers swam a giant blue whale through the aisles. The movement of the puppet was astoundingly realistic.
My daughter set up my display of finished products for me on Friday night. She has quite a talent for display. My friend Kate, an amazing artist, helped me demonstrate the techniques on Saturday after I showed her how to do the cutting. Volunteers were sent around constantly to check and see if any of the exhibitors needed a break, a snack, water, or anything else. One young volunteer, Chris, sat down and learned to cut the yarn and tried the finger-knitting - and he and Kate helped draw in a crowd of fascinated people, while I got a chance to stand back and observe for a little while.
A very small girl who looked to be perhaps five sat down and tried to show me a really complex pattern of finger-knitting that she knew, but she could not slow down enough for me to figure it out! Now I will have to rise to the challenge and fumble my way through the learning process!
I was so busy teaching people to make yarn out of old T-shirts and clothing, and finger-knitting and needle-felting recycled felt scrap, that I barely had time to eat lunch - never mind get to see the rest of the exhibits or chat with friends who dropped by my display. What I did get to see has inspired me to further explore the ideas and possibilities of using some of the technologies - light, sound, movement - working them into my gallery art in the future. I would love to find a way to animate and light sculptures made with recycled and repurposed materials.
And it was so much fun with the T-Shirt yarn-making and simple finger-knitting - I felt like a magician on stage, pulling scarves out of ears, rabbits out of hats. I loved the surprise of showing people that an old T-shirt with a stain or hole can have a different use, can magically turn into something totally different for at least one more "life" before it is given to a recycler to break down the fibres. And all you need is a sharp pair of scissors, your hands, and perhaps crochet or knitting needles. You can make a rope with your hands. No other tools needed.
Being part of this event was a great way for me to explore the market for both sales and teaching of new/old skills! One of the outcomes was finding that there is definitely an interest in classes for learning new creative ways to recycle household stuff that would normally go into trash. I am now working on finding a location to teach the classes, and all of the other logistics that go with that. Hopefully I will be set up and running these by the fall.
It also gave me a chance to talk about one of my other passions - the environment, waste management and diversion, and ways each of us can make a small practical difference. So many people are concerned, and looking for ways to make a difference in their own lives. If we cannot stop climate change, perhaps the ripple effect of individuals changing their own consumer habits, and attitudes, will at least slow the speed of the changes.
I arrived home afterward, thanks to Andie and her truck, (she got me there and back!) she stacked my bins in the living room - and I have been so busy since that I have not had time to unpack and put things away.
Next - an Art Exhibition
Two of my piece of mixed media sculpture were accepted for a juried show at Propeller - an artist run gallery in West Queen West. The opening of The Politics of Art was last night.
I arrived at the gallery to find that the pieces were all beautifully displayed - including the fact that my piece Trafficked was hung from the ceiling on a chain by the window - allowing her to sway and move and come to life as people touched and read the tags that make up her skirt (I had added a sign that said people were encouraged to interact with the piece). The other piece - Detained - was centered on a large white wall, and given lots of space.
I was very moved by the interest in both pieces, the time people took to observe and take in the meaning, their supportive comments.
Both pieces are very hard to look at and absorb, speaking to the hardship and violence and suffering that refugees and other vulnerable people go through. The interconnected issues of human trafficking and the refugee crisis in our world are something I cannot ignore, and I am striving to help people take in the meaning, the despair, the appalling inhumanity of the situation and the heart-breaking treatment that people go through - treated as other, as alien, as less than human, a problem to be solved, dangerous, and in the case of Trafficked - as commodities to be bought and sold. In creating these works, I am also working through the disturbing emotions the issues bring up in myself.
The show continues until July 30 at Propeller, 30 Abell Street, Toronto.
Next on my agenda: a multi-cultural, community grant proposal application. More on that later.
Photos by Diane Slawych