Sharon Kallis Common Threads

I recently received a copy of Sharon Kallis’ Common Threads (New Society Publishers*), a new book on creating community-based eco art installations. Focusing on empowering readers to rethink landscape art and its purpose, this book is a study in how we have traditionally used park land and green spaces, and provides suggestion for new ways to think about  ‘greening’ the landscape.

Sharon Kallis Mothers Dresses

Sharon Kallis’ Mothers Dresses. Final Resting Place of Kells, Kilkenny Ireland. Magnolia left skeletons, organza. Image from Sharon Kallis’ website.

Common Threads uses Kallis’ projects as an eco-artist as a starting point. It details her collaborative projects with urban residents throughout city parks, many of them here in Vancouver. In these eco-works, Kallis reuses what we traditionally consider waste – hair clippings, animal fur, organic debris, and fallen waste.

One of my favourite parts of the book is how she details her work with invasive species such as yellow iris or blackberries, which are typically ripped from the landscape, which she has braided together into artwork which will eventually break down, turning into mulch for other plants.

Sharon Kallis Ivy Boat

Sharon Kallis Ivy Boat

Full of interviews with artists, landscape designers, basket bombers, urban flax growers, graveyard celebrations, and community activists – there is a lot of inspiration here. Detailing how one might build their team with eco-interventionists of researchers, artists, connectors , and municipal champions, Common Threads also contains a whole section that outlines the basic techniques a burgeoning eco-warrior might need, such as simple weaving and braiding. And, there are also health cautions for working with poisonous plants, and suggestions for dealing different types of weeds. It is smartly put together.

While most of the book is in black and white, I’m glad that the publisher did include one section of coloured photographs of the works, as these are the images that truly do the artwork justice. If I could make one criticism, it would be that I wish that the entire book could have been printed in colour because the projects are truly beautiful and the book is photo-heavy.

Sharon Kallis, with community. Ephemeral Mosaic.

Ephemeral Mosaic. Made of salvaged flowers post day of the dead festival made by community members (year unknown)

Common Threads is a good primer to eco-art and the inherently political nature of making art with the land with our current environment. With an eye to impermanence in art as a way to dissolve barriers among people and make a statement, Kallis asks in her introduction, “How do we produce, consume and relate to the things we use in our daily lives? How can we be enriched both personally and as a community when we shift our thinking to allow the time for, once again, making for ourselves?

This book provides many compelling reasons as to why we should make collaborative art in an era of excess. I’d highly recommend curling up with it on your next quiet Saturday afternoon.

*Full disclosure: Sharon’s publicist sent this book to me free of charge but I was not paid for this review. 

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This weekend I decided to spend equal times working (e.g.: digging myself out from mountains of email) and playing (getting out my old sewing machine). While the garment that I sewed myself was not perfect (hello, wrinkly hem!), I have to say that forcing myself to try a project that stretched my boundaries in a weekend really set me on the path of wanting to sew again which is something that I haven’t spent a serious amount of time on in a few years.

Now I’m super-excited to try a bunch of new patterns, which lead me to thinking about how the writing and story process often starts the same way for me – you have to start with something small, like a sentence, to get to something much bigger, like a finished book. In the spirit of this, I thought I’d finally share the project that I designed to take to School House Craft earlier this fall – the Six Word Short Story Bracelet. If you are looking to start in textiles with story (or vice-versa), this is a very basic project that can get you started.

Can you tell a story in six words? This project is a great way to try. 

Ernest Hemingway was challenged in a bar bet to compose a story of only six words. He did: For sale: baby shoes, never worn. Since this time, thousands of people have written six word stories, and you should too!

Here’s some examples of other six word stories (from the excellent website www.sixwordstories.net):

Left handed woman seeks Mr. Right (by Amber)

Nerdy Kid. Rocket Launcher. Bully Gone! (by Captain Doom)

Three Blind Mice, Cat Had Lunch (by Joe Douglas)

Sharp New Yellow Pencil, Limitless Potential (by Melissa Wilson)

Here’s How to Make It: Supplies:

    • a pen and paper
    • Cotton twill tape or a natural fibre ribbon 6-8 inches in length, 2-3 inches in width. If you will ever launder the bracelet, you should pre-wash the twill tape.
    • scissors
    • sewing needle
    • thread
    • snaps are specified in these directions, but buttons, Velcro, and jewelry clasps work well too.
    • tiny rubber alphabet stamps (smaller in size than the width of the ribbon) or fabric markers which will dye the fabric. I purchased my stamps at Michael’s in the party favours section, and each set only cost me $1.50 for the full alphabet.
    • fabric-ink (I purchased a brand called Momento Luxe, but any fabric paint will work)
    • an iron and a pressing cloth
    • pinking shears (optional)

 

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 Step 1: Write your Six Word Story/Poem – Take a pen and a scrap of paper and WRITE! Don’t hesitate, just try! (turn this page over and use the back!) Write the first thing that comes out of your head. Usually we have something in our subconscious that is dying to get out. Go with it. Not sure? Read it aloud to another person  and get their feedback. There’s no right way or wrong way to write a six word short story, but it might be easier to think that your six words have a ‘beginning’, a ‘middle’, and a ‘end’. Don’t like it? Write another – just six words. Keep going until you come up with one that you like. Go as fast as you can – eliminate your inner editor! Have a story that you like? Good! Now, pick your favourite one and transform it into a bracelet! Don’t like it? Start writing again!

Step 2: Make Your Bracelet ­– Cut a length of ribbon to fit your wrist (6-8″ is standard). Pinking shears will give a semi-finished edge, but I also recommend finishing ends with binding tape, or hand sewing a finished edge. Using a flat ribbon is recommended but pieces of linen, binding tape, and twill tape, in a natural fibre, will also work for printing. Attach a clasp to the wrong (non-shiny side) of the ribbon.

Step 3: Print Your Poem – Using rubber stamps and archival ink, your poem will be stamped onto the ribbon. I suggest planning where each word will go (words longer than 10 letters may take some creative placement) before you stamp, and then stamping one letter at a time. It may be erratic and look a bit messy, but both life and stories are like that, so embrace your mistakes. Don’t have rubber stamps? Handwrite your message onto the ribbon with a fabric ink pen. Decide what kind of handwriting works best for your story – is it script or block printed? Fine penmanship, or stylistic lettering? FInished writing or stamping it out? Ta-da, you now have a six word story bracelet!  

 

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Step 4: After Care – For longevity, I recommend heat-setting your ink with an iron once the ink is dried. Cover your bracelet with a ‘pressing cloth’ (a scrap piece of cotton or old pillowcase will work well) and iron the right-side (the inky side) for a few minutes with an iron set to medium heat (do not use the steam setting).

Step 5: Share Your Story – Stories are meant to be seen by others. I’d love to see a photo of your finished project or hear about your experience making it! Send it to me at info@leanneprain.com or @leanneprain!

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East Coast Book Tour – Wrap Up

November 5, 2014

Our epic book tour came to a close tonight, with free cake from our bartender. I can’t believe that it is over. I am going to miss @kpwerker & @craftivista so much! #dc #Washington A photo posted by Leanne Prain (@leanneprain) on Oct 10, 2014 at 8:59pm PDT Phew, has it really been three weeks since my […]

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Chat with me!

October 24, 2014

Let’s talk about fibre, textiles, gender, craftivism, design, art, high-brow vs low-brow, and story-telling of all sorts! This Sunday, October 26th, I will be the guest artist/author at FibreArts Now online chat FANFARE! I hope you’ll joining editor Cami Smith and I for a lively discussion, and I will be answering questions live via the […]

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West Coast Book Tour Finale: Portland, Seattle & Vancouver

October 12, 2014

Kim, Betsy, and I wrapped up the West Coast portion of our Make Your Voice Heard tri-author book tour on Tuesday night. I’ve been resting, repacking, and recalibrating every since. It was my intention to write about Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver separately but we didn’t have many moments of rest in the last two cities […]

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