This week marks the last of the first round of pilot sewing classes. I’ve been working with the same group of five Westtown clients (Yolanda, Cristina, Charles, Lawanda, and Santiago) twice a week for the last month. We’ve been focusing on getting comfortable on the machines, practicing foot control, and steering the fabric. We’ve been working on these spiral sewing samples, which is a great way to practice all these elements without getting caught up in or frustrated by construction.
Lawanda and the square spiral
Some folks (Yolanda and Lawanda) have experience sewing: Yolanda was one of the primary production sewers for the old weaving operation and is a really great sewer and teacher.
Santiago has taken to sewing like crazy: he is cranking out stacks and stacks of spirals
Others, like Cristina, have used sewing machines at home, but never anything industrial like this. This group of five self-selected, and there’s a full waiting list for next month’s class.
Cristina and the super spiral
They’ve been a great class: really excited and engaged, and more than patient as I myself get familiar with the industrial machines’ particular personalities. Also very willing and able to help one another. One of the underpinnings of this project (and my work with Envision) is a commitment to creating self-sustaining communities within and outside of Envision. This is so important in the context of Envision’s clients. So often things can fall into a client-counselor or student-teacher dynamic which minimizes the client’s autonomy and reestablishes the ability/disability distinctions. By creating a classroom setting where students and teachers are helping one another answer questions, these hierarchies can start to fade and reformulate.
The whole class
Starting next week, I’ll run a second intro class, working with another group of five, hopefully with Yolanda as TA. The folks from this first intro class will start the basic construction class: we’re going to work on a tote bag prototype. This class will introduce pattern cutting, pinning, seam sewing, and pressing. Updates to come!
Since our last post Emilie and I have finished the first portion of our fellowship in Manila, and have flown to Bohol where we’ve begun the second leg of our research with the Tubigon Loom Weavers Co-op. These past few weeks have been very busy finishing our research in Manila, and acclimating in Tubigon, Bohol. Aside from the sand flies and mosquitos, we have been really enjoying the island life and being apart of the loom weavers community.
During our final week in Manila we encountered some obstacles and set backs. Due to scheduling conflicts we were unable to do our 4-day long natural dye workshop with Nina and Patis Tesoro. We were also unable to begin conducting natural dye experiments at PTRI as quickly as we had intended. However, being flexible and open to readjusting our plans we spent the remainder of our time in Manila doing the following:
1.Foraging plants for our natural dye experiments. Using the natural dye book published by PTRI, we were able to identify and forage three local plants growing in our surrounding neighborhood. These three plants were talisay, bulago, and flame tree. During our foraging adventure we used our hunter-gatherer skills to collect three kilos of Talisay leaves, one sack of bulago nuts, and one sack of flame tree bark. Unfortunately, the flame tree bark and bulago nuts grew mold before we could use them but we successfully extracted dye from the talisay leaves.
2.Working closely with the incredibly knowledgeable natural dyers, Rudy Fenoy and Lucy Barrion, at PTRI. Although we were unable to use their dye facility as quickly as we hoped to, we were able to fit a two day training and two day open lab into our schedules. During those four days Rudy and Lucy taught us how to scour, bleach, mordant, and extract dye from talisay, atsuete, indigo, turmeric, sapang, and mahogany. At the end of our two day training, Rudy and Lucy awarded us with very fancy certificates from PTRI.
Using fermented talisay leaves, mixed with copper sulfate and ferrous sulfate, we were able to dye shades of rich black, grey, and yellow-green. The talisay dyed the raffia and abaca fibers very quickly and the results were incredible. Talisay is a very viable plant to use for natural dye because it grows wildly around the Philippines and can grow very easily in a variety of soils
Using the atsuete we bought from Divisoria we dyed the raffia and abaca a vibrant shade of orange. Although the color appears very strong, atsuete is not colorfast, which makes it a more difficult dye to work with.
Indigo powder from NTFP, Non Timber Forest Products, was combined with sodium hydrosulfite and sodium hydroxide to get shades of blue. We were able to get a darker shade of blue by dipping the fibers into the dye bath multiple times before it oxidized. Indigo is also a viable natural dye because it does’t require any mordant prior to dyeing, and is very colorfast.
Turmeric gives vibrant yellow shades, but is not very colorfast.
The hardwood from sapang, also known as sibukow, was boiled to extract red dye. Depending on the mordant you use sapang can give red or purples shades. Sapang also dyes vibrant shades but is not colorfast. It is also a difficult dye to harvest because only the hardwood is used for the dye extraction.
Using Mahogany bark we were able to dye rusty brown shades. The mahogany bark is Rudy’s favorite plant to dye with, however he explained that it is not as color fast as talisay and indigo.
While we left PTRI with a lot of new natural dye knowledge, we also left feeling a bit confused on how we would be able replicate our results in Bohol. A majority of the natural dye recipes involved chemicals and minerals such as acedic acid, sodium chloride, soda ash, copper sulfate, and ferrous sulfate to fix the dye to the fiber and make the colors brighter. Not only were we unsure we would be able to find these chemicals on Bohol, but we also questioned how “natural” this process was becoming.
4. Bought indigo powder produced by NTFP, Non Timber Forest Products in Quezon City. During our collaboration with the Tubigon Loom Weavers, we plan on teaching them how to use the Indigo powder. Indigo is a viable dye because the indigo bath can keep up to 1 year, requires no mordant, and gives a wide variety of blue shades.
3. Attended the opening event of FITE, The International Festival of Extraordinary Textiles. The opening was a lively event with a fashion show, exhibition of traditional textiles and contemporary creations, and some fancy hors d’oeuvres. During the week long festival we attended a bamboo weaving workshop given by master weaver Ueno Masao, and a lecture by Anna Paini, Professor of Cultural Anthropology – University of Verona, on the re-appropriation of mission dresses by Kanak women.
4. Packed our suitcases with our natural dye experiments, two kilos of Indigo powder, measuring tools, and small bags of chemicals curtesy of PTRI, and flew to Bohol, an island south of Manila!
For the second portion of our fellowship we are living on a small island 15 minutes from the Pandan port in Tubigon, Bohol and working with the Tubigon Multi Purpose Loom Weavers Cooperative. Tubigon is a small fishing town on the northern coast of Bohol. The Tubigon Loom Weavers Cooperative was established in 1993 by the Department of Trade and Industry to provide wives of fisherman, who would normally wait for their husbands to come home from sea, a steady source of work and income. Now due to overfishing and the destruction of coral reefs from the earthquake in 2013 this alternate income is vital for these families.
Our journey traveling to co-op is always an adventure. We begin the journey by waking up early in the morning and taking a 10 minute boat ride to the Port of Pandan. From the port we walk 15 minutes through the Pandan Barangay (neighborhood, pronouced ba-rahn-guy), often welcomed by the excited children of the neighborhood. Once we get to the main road we take a tricycle (the local taxi, a motorcycle with adjoined metal seating enough for four people) to the Loom Weavers and start our day of weaving and dyeing. Each day at the co-op is full of new and exciting surprises.
Since our arrival in Tubigon we have:
1.Met with Trina, the manager of the Tubigon Loom Weavers coop, to see what the weaving and dye facility look like and discuss our schedule for our five week collaboration. Trina welcomed us with great enthusiasm and eagerness to begin the collaboration. During the next five weeks we plan on working with the cooperative’s dyers (husband and wife duo) and teach them how to dye raffia with atsuete, talisay, young coconut husks, yellow ginger, mahogany, and sapang. We will also be teaching weavers various techniques on the four harness looms such as twill, repp weave, inlay, fringe,and herringbone. Our hope is to put these fabrics into application as tote bags. However, our main goal is that by the end of our stay in Tubigon the weavers will be empowered to incorporate new techniques into their weaves and continue to explore the potential of natural dye.
2.Went to the Tubigon market in search of weaving, dyeing, and foraging supplies. During our shopping excursion we bought two large knives, a wooden chopping board, and fishing nylon (monofilament thread). We plan to use the fishing nylon as our warp thread to incorporate materials familiar to the fisherman and community in Tubigon. Although the fishing nylon is not “organic” it is a material that is readily available in the fishing town of Tubigon.
3. Presented our student portfolio to the weavers at the cooperative so they could see the various textiles we’ve created at RISD. We felt this was an important exercise in building relationships and sparking new ideas among the weavers. Although the language barrier created some complications, it was also a good exercise for Emilie and I to present our work using non “art school lingo”.
4. Set up three four-harness looms with fishing nylon warps from the local fishing store in town. These looms will be used to demonstrate various four harness weaving techniques using the raffia that we naturally dye. The warp set up became an exciting communal event when the weavers and fisherman on the island both got involved. The fishing nylon we bought did not come pre-wound on spools so we had to hand wind the nylon onto handmade bamboo bobbins made by carpenters at the weaving coop.
With help from the fisherman they devised a more efficient process of hand spooling, which involved putting the skein of fishing nylon around the back of a chair, and looping it over a ceiling beam. One of the fisherman became very interested in what we were doing and visited us at the weaving co-op to help with winding warps. With his and the weavers expertise, they invented an ingenious system of feeding the handspun spools to Emilie while she wound the warp. Using fishing nylon as warp material became a direct way to link the fisherman to weaving and get them interested and involved in the weaving process. It was really exciting to see the men show interest in a craft which is normally dominated by females!
-The second edition of winding spools and warp making, instrumented by the fisherman. With their help we were able to wind a warp in half of the time it took us the first time!
7. Traveled the Cebu, a neighboring island in search of chemicals, as well as to meet with Kenneth Cobonpue, a Filipino Industrial designer who makes furniture using natural fibers and weaving techniques. Kenneth Cobonpue shared with us his experiences while studying at Pratt, and the obstacles he faces while working in the Philippines. He gave us a tour of his factory, where we were able to see the manufacturing process of his furniture from start to finish. While in Cebu we also visited Interlace, a textiles company that hand weaves high end fabric made with raffia and abaca. The designer Francis Devigny was out of town but we were able to talk with Meme, the manager, and Jon Rae, the head of research and design. Meme and Jon Rae gave us insight into how they organize and create an efficient, healthy and happy working environment. Although we were unable to source any chemicals, we had some really interesting conversations that helped us further understand the challenges and benefits of working in the Philippines.
8. Helped Trina design the TLMPC booth at the Sandugo Trade Fair in Tagbilaran, Bohol. At the trade fair we were able to see other local textiles and craft products made in the Philippines, and talk about our natural dye research to anyone wishing to listen. While we were at the trade show we met a woman who runs an NGO and eco bed and breakfast on Bohol. She was so excited about our natural dye research that we are meeting with her next week to talk about how she can be involved.
In addition… heres a preview for our talk at the MET Manila
Poor WIFI, but good vibes…
A major part of this summer’s project is cleaning up the weaving workshop space. This past weekend, we organized a series of volunteer days to tackle some of the dust, mystery machine parts, and miscellaneous furniture objects and start turning the workshop into a functional work space.
i invited pretty much everyone I know in Chicago, and we had a surprisingly good turnout.
Westtown Center has been hosting meetings for the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) on evenings when the building is empty, and I stuck around for one of those earlier in the week. Westtown Center is right up next to the 606, a new rails-to-trails project which opened this spring. It touches Wicker Park, Humboldt Park, Logan Square, and Hermosa neighborhoods. The LSNA is working on a canvassing project this summer, letting home-owners along the 606 know their rights concerning property tax assessments. This is part of a larger campaign to preserve affordable housing and ethnic and economic diversity in the areas along the 606. It was great to meet the folks from the LSNA. especially their youth team. The canvassing project and the greater campaign are important ones, and I’m really pleased that Westtown and the LSNA are sharing spaces and resources.
Luckily for me, the LSNA youth team’s plans on Friday fell through, so they all came by Westtown to take part in the volunteer day. 25 16-20 year olds jumped in on an incredibly hot July day, and wasted no time painting tables, moving furniture, hanging drywall, and hanging out with Envision clients.
LSNA youth crew (and me on the right in green)
We now have a nice selection of orange worktables
Keyondre painting a chalkboard wall
On Friday, we had a crew from Friedman Place, a residence for blind and visually impaired. My friend Judith teaches in their weaving studio, and brought some of the residents over to help. Showing the workshop to handweavers is always really exciting, because the elements are all familiar: we know what a warp looks and feels like. We know how the loom works. But to see this scale, tucked into a building in a Chicago neighborhood: there’s really no frame of reference for it.
Jean cleaned the tool cabinet, Wally sorted screws. Good sports.
Tristen vacuuming cones of yarn
On Saturday, we had a few more folks from the LSNA group, as well as a smattering of old friends, new friends, and total strangers.
Kristin and Phyllis get the whole sorting thing going
William Clayborn: psyched to sort
Ellis tackles the pallett jack
Phyllis prepares for the workbench’s mysteries
Nick and Anne vacuum demons
Hope and Elizabeth stacking cones of yarn
This big-group-moving-enormous-workbench was the climax of Saturday’s labors
It was really great to have all these people coming in and out of Westtown over the weekend, seeing what goes on in the building, meeting Envision clients, and learning more about the programs. A major part of what we’re trying to do with the weaving workshop is open up the building to neighbors, artists, and friends. These volunteer days were like informal shopwarmings or barnraisings maybe. The turnout and excitement were mindblowing: I was absolutely moved by the people who showed up and helped out.
We made huge progress on the workshop over the weekend. And shockingly enough, it seems like people had fun. We provided plenty of coffee and donuts.
And weaving demos:
Tomorrow I launch on a Grand Canyon River trip. That means 16 days without cell phones or internet. Just me, 4 other guides, a scientist, and 12 youth with varying degrees of visual impairments. Our task is to collect scientific data for the Aquatic Food Base lab at USGS, to discover the magic of the river, and of course, to have fun. My task is to row the more than 150 rapids as safely as possible, facilitate stewardship of place, and to encourage everyone to be themselves, rise to the challenge, and break the boundaries of what and who they thought they could be. It’s going to be an exciting trip, filled with adventures, stories, laughter, and of course art and science. But every trip is different, that is the beauty of it, and while I can plan for what the future holds, possibilities abound and we will just take it all in one day at a time.
getting all my rigging together for the trip (rigging are all the nylon straps that will hold the frame to the rubber raft and hold all the gear to the frame)
My fellowship has been going well– very well in fact. I’m working on a few different projects right now, but my main focus for the river trip is going to be to figure out the best way to explain all the pieces of the puzzle vying for the resource that is Grand Canyon. There are ecologists, hydrologists, and conservation groups, there are recreation groups, states, tribes, and the National Park Service. There are groups whose focus is irrigation, hydropower, and water rights. And there is The Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, whose job it is to do the science that shows whats going on in Grand Canyon and how the Glen Canyon Dam is affecting the ecosystem as a whole. All of these stakeholders, as they are called, form a group called the Glen Canyon Adaptive Management group which reports directly to the Department of the Interior making recommendations about how the dam should be best operated in order to serve all the various interests at stake. All in all its a complicated and important system, and one that not a lot of people know about. I want to make a visual representation of the puzzle to allow anyone and everyone to understand whats going on, especially the youth on these science trips. (if you want to know more about the stakeholders and what they represent you can visit this website http://www.usbr.gov/uc/rm/amp/ )
I will also be working on art and gathering inspiration for my second year of grad school. More on that when I return.
Wish me good runs and keeping the black side down (that means not flipping the boat)!!!
See you in August :)
Sometimes You Eat the Bear, Sometimes the Bear Eats You, and Sometimes Neither of Those Things Happen So You Just Continue Eating Canned Tilapia – Joseph Fellows, Sculpture BFA 2016
For the last few weeks I’ve been working at the Great Sand Dunes Oasis in exchange for a campsite. Most nights were nice and cool, and I could fall asleep to the sound of fires crackling quietly in the distance. Other nights, namely July fourth, there were other things crackling (and exploding no less), and a few murmured conversations from off in the distance late into the night. But one night, at about four AM there was about an hour’s worth of grunting and groaning from east to west. Without a doubt, I knew that there were two Black bear roaming either end of the campground. It wasn’t until I smelled my breath that I started to get a little bit nervous. Upon doing so I got a whiff of the incredibly potent canned fish that I have been eating with rice for most of my dinners. My toothpaste didn’t stand a chance. The evening before I had eaten rice and ‘Tilapia with Mango Chutney Sauce’ from a can. As my pesca-paranoia began to settle in, I thought back to earlier that week when one of the employees here at the campground had kindly offered me eight rainbow trout as she couldn’t really cook them with her current set up. At the time, I couldn’t exactly refrigerate them so I had to gut, wash, filet and cook all of them right away, while fending off a swarm of piñon flies that shared my enthusiasm for fresh caught trout. My fear was that maybe I had gotten fish smell on something that I hadn’t noticed and that a bears keen sense of smell would. Or perhaps, none of that would come to matter and they’d just be curious about the peculiar smells produced by the pile of un-showered human that I happened to be at that very moment. In any case, lucky for me they were’t interested in any of those things, just another camper’s garbage. In the grand scheme of things, it was nothing but a knock in the night and thankfully fish has continued to make regular appearance in my diet despite my ever wary attitude towards the local population of hooligan Black Bears. It seems the natural world has made sure that I don’t forget who’s really in the drivers seat.
Working everyday in a place where it seems like thunderstorms are a sneeze away, and sand is the driving force behind most technological and mechanical issues. 3D Scanning, and even photography present as risky undertakings. So In the interest of my equipment, surveys have become a necessary operation for me to be able to employ my scanning equipment precisely. What I mean when I say surveys, are essentially day hikes that help me to understand exactly how far I’d have to go, under what kind of exposure, and what elemental challenges I would have to be prepared for to get the desired scan. So far this has been a great excuse for me to bolster my photographic practice. Through these surveys, I have been able to document a wide array of wildlife, and it has given me another resource to approach park staff with. It has allowed me to generate conversation with them that has proven to be extremely valuable.
Most mornings, I’ll stop into the visitors center to check the weather report. In the mean time I’ve gotten to know some of the Interpretive Rangers there as they’ve been outgoing and welcoming to me. Some mornings I’ll take my scanning equipment with me to my unofficially assigned cubicle, and begin scanning different objects. Other mornings I’ll find myself flipping through photographs with one of the Rangers, as they describe to me aspects of what might be happening in my photographs that I hadn’t been aware of. For instance in this photograph (fig. 5) I was able to take an image of the Great Sand Dunes Tiger Beetle, but didn’t realize it was displaying a behavior known as stilting. The beetles developed this behavior along with their unusually long legs to try to cope with the heat of the sand, which some days exceeds 140 degrees on the surface. They use their long legs to hold their bodies up off the sand to keep slightly cooler. They will also dig holes to escape the surface conditions. Some insects on the dunes avoid the issue of the surface temperature altogether by burying themselves during the daytime, and saving all of their shenanigans for the nighttime.
Another day, I came across a rock that looked like it had been napped off, while walking along the southwestern base of the dunefield, and out of curiosity, it took a picture of the stone and showed it to one of the interpretive rangers, and he told me it was a shard that had been flaked off an arrowhead or a spear head as that particular mineral is not found in the park and was often brought in by Native Americans for tool making.
Lately I’ve been scanning as many things as I can and have been able to create 3D models of each of the animal track castings they have collected in the visitors center. From those I’ve been able to create a series of track samples, that will be 3D printed. My next project will be animal skulls which I’ve found can be scanned with relative ease using an xbox kinect, and a program called Skanect. At the moment, I have the free software which only exports to broad faced polygonal nothings. My hope is to add more detailed surfaces with my other scanners and use the Kinect model as a digital armature once I am able to get my hands on the pro version of the software.
Despite the fact my primary scanner was designed to scan surfaces and small objects, I wanted to see if it could do something more challenging. Going through the interpretive objects, I sorted through boxes of minerals, looked through their collection of fulgurite, and finally came across something I felt would be the right object to try: a Colombian Mammoth tooth. It was challenging because it was larger than normally works for this particular scanner, and contained protruding forms which can be challenging for it to capture. However, it’s redeeming qualities, being that it was highly textured, and had an acceptably dull color to it that wouldn’t confuse the software, I decided would allow for enough registration points for me to put all the pieces back together. I decided that I wanted to try to create a reconstructed form using separate scans as formal reference to piece together like a puzzle. Basically my hope was to create a to scale model with slight proportional variability, but high resolution, detailed surfaces. I found this challenge offered many insights into how to make this scanner work for me.
Additionally I’ve been able to find ways to collaborate with some of the park staff. For instance, recently I asked one of the rangers, what it is he felt like the focus of the interpretive program was, in terms of how they describe the park to the public. He said he felt Medano Creek, the River that runs across the southern edge of the dune field, was the feature that ties all means of life together in the park. The water starts in the high alpine regions as snow, melts in the spring and flows out into the subalpine, to lower elevations, eventually making it’s way to the Riparian zones below, eventually finding it’s way out past the dune field and soaked into the Sand sheet. Later, the water returns to the Surface in upwellings. This f form places like Indian Spring which have been enveloped in Native Cultures before it was discovered by American settlers. it was thought to be the place where life begins, and will crawl up from the earth. San Luis Lake State park is another wetland area that is directly affected by the Medano Creek drainage area. Here, migratory birds from all over the continent find themselves at different times of the year. A vast array of species from White Pelicans and egrets, to Canadian Geese and Sandhill Cranes. In other cases the water will form ponds near the dunefields, where a multitude of insects will thrive for the brief life of the pond, and where spade foot tadpoles will emerge as frogs in sometimes less than two weeks, to make use of the short-lived life of the pond. In few places on earth will you see tadpoles swimming around submerged prickly pear like in fig. 12. In any case, I’ve been working on developing a photography series that might capture the different ways that the river brings life to the different parts of the park that the interpretive staff could use for reference. So I will be working on a weekly set of pictures to bring to them to have informal discussions about so maybe I might be able to see what they observe, that I might have missed and vice versa. So far photography seems to be the most prominent way that the park identifies itself publicly and I’ve been able to offer my work as a way to affect that presence.
Moving forward the most daunting challenge it seems, is taking the next step in pushing my results even further. So far I have mostly hesitated at the prospect of scanning too far away from shelter or doing as much underwater photography, as I have been nervous about the possibility of damage coming to the equipment. The first test I did with my submersible SLR case, produced cause for concern as there was water in the case towards the end of my session shooting at Zapata Falls. However it would seem I’ve located the leak, the next step would be for me to hike up to Medano Lake above 11,000 feet, and try to photograph the newly reintroduced Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout. However the prospect remains intimidating as the lake temperatures normally hover just above freezing. As for my scanning efforts, my next order of business will be to scan the different types of patterning left in the sand by Medano Creek as it flows past the base of the dune field. My hope is to use string to grid out the sand plane to be able to more precisely piece the surfaces back together. However, the prospect of bringing a $1500 tool near a gigantic pile of sand, and a flowing water body provide more than my recommended daily serving of anxiety, though the fact that it scares me, is a sign that maybe it’s something all the more important for me to pursue.
Intro to sun strokes and my summer’s journey
It took the slowly numbing effect of a sun-stroke to remind me to begin this first blog post. Leaving Providence with its 64.4F temperature for the 104F to 113F temperature of New Delhi has been wearing me out- so it is time for a short break from work.
How to handle sun + Strokes(do not rely on this):
- Drink enough water- implies that the amount of water you consume everyday should possibly be enough water for a small swimming pool that can submerge your body entirely
- Eat! It might seem contrary as food helps in producing heat and slumbersome feelings.
- Walk to the Nimbu Pani Stands and ask for Cheeni(Sugar) and Namak(salt) with the lemonade- a very good rehydrant if you are daring enough to risk the consequences of street based food and drinks.
- Wear appropriate clothing. If you are a female- this might be a little tough to manage, as you do not want to incite potential interest in your exposed skin from random men.
- And of course sleep.
When I first got back to India my realization was that I had never lived in such a large, hugely populated Indian city before(except an year that was spent mostly in the vicinity of the Indian Institute of Technology and Social Sciences, Madras). My shift from Providence, RI- a wonderful, but a relatively small city on the east coast of America to New Delhi- the capital of India was quite a shock. I was expecting the noise, but I wasn’t quite ready for the explosion of blaring horns and street vendors. I called it reverse culture shock. How was I to work towards road safety, when almost every speck of road was covered up by traffic and people?
The organization that I’m working with- SaveLife Foundation is located in a huge sprawling building (Bhikaji Cama Place) and is a central workplace hub for small businesses and larger enterprises, all at once. Finding my way around was an adventure in itself. Signage, in the few spaces that it exists in has been quite an interesting exploration- and I may in my next blog post share some of the amusing ones. Moving onto the actual fellowship work- there is far too much to really speak of.
SLF(SaveLife Foundation) is made up of a small, yet intimate team of lawyers, Students of humanities, administrators, and ex-businessmen who are all incredibly competent- whether they work with the actual drafting of policy and intimating conversations with influential politicians, celebrities and journalists, or finding ways to implement this policy. Road Transit safety is a large issue to tackle and often the intricacies of it are gruesome and hard to ignore. A jovial atmosphere with the camaraderie of men at arms gets them through some gruelling work. It did take me a little while to find a space in their community, but I have found it and have learnt an incredible amount from them.
Look in in a few days to hear of my introduction of the lack of road safety- the processes of reaching out to the Police and other governmental officials for information(and dealing with huge amounts of data and analyzing it), reporting violations to the police(not quite as easy as calling 911), working with policy- which is incredibly time consuming and a lot of back and forth. But I shall talk about the understanding I have gained of the on ground situation- some of it novel, other a clarification and the grounding of some of my prior assumptions.
I arrived in Chicago late last week, and started working at Envision on Monday. Envision is a social services agency here in Chicago which serves adults with developmental disabilities in a number of day programs and community homes. I worked in their art studio at the Westtown Center for two years prior to grad school, mostly working on textile and fiber based projects with clients.
Having been gone for two years, it’s pretty incredible to come back and see the progress some of these clients have made. Lillian Davis, pictured above, is a great weaver and a lovely lady as well. When I was last here, I often worked with her at the loom, practicing the basic steps of raising different harnesses, getting a sense for the weft thread’s tension, and so on. It was always a one-on-one collaborative weaving event, often with both of our hands on the shuttle or me moving her feet across the treadles. I came into the studio today to see her sitting at the loom, winding a shuttle, and weaving by herself at her own pace.
This summer, I’ll be working in a different part of the Westtown Center: the weaving workshop. Several years ago, a local weaving business partnered with Envision to bring more production work into the day program. In recent years, that business has ceased operation and the mill has been sitting quiet. My project this summer, simply put, is to get it going again. Learning how to run the industrial weaving equipment, designing new fabrics, finding potential partners, and developing sewing workshops for Envision’s clients are all a part of this.
Clayborn, Timothy, and Santiago
Mario, Timothy, and Santiago
The workshop has become a de facto storage space recently, so my first task is to clear it out and make it more conducive to production. Lamont, Clayborn, Matthew, Santiago, Mario, and Timothy helped me move many boxes of files to a different part of the building and had some great ideas about reorganizing some of the fabric stock we have in the building.
So much of the success of the art program is the way in which the studio director, Monika Kimrey, has this uncanny ability to make spaces inviting. To create a space which asks something of an individual is so much more powerful sometimes than asking them to do it outright. I can ask a hundred times for someone to work with me on a sewing machine, or to sit with a canvas, but they are so much more likely to do so if the space asks them to as well.
The lovely warper
I was thinking about this while vacuuming the pin warper. This piece of weaving equipment is from 1919, it’s an incredible hulking cast iron wheel, onto which you wind the many hundreds of warp ends. You pull dozens of threads off the creel onto the pin warper to wind the warp with (hopefully) even tension. I was vacuuming this oily dust off the legs of the warper, and thinking about what a beautiful piece of machinery it is, and how it really is just an enlargement of the weaving tools I use in my studio, and how this dust has been collecting on it, and how excited I am to start winding warp threads onto it. And I was thinking about all this in the moment of vacuuming, because I was reminded of how the space of this workshop is so important. Before we start producing fabrics which contribute something new to the many heaps of existing fabrics, this space has to get dusted off, the machines need to be attended to, and it needs an infusion of attention and care.
The looms, behind the warper
Tomorrow I have my first loom training session, and will continue working on the sewing program curriculum. I cannot wait to see this space in operation again.
Check out this video on the citizen science project I’m working with this summer! Its a great way to better understand what’s going on in Grand Canyon ecology management and to learn more about how citizens (a.k.a river guides, private boaters, and youth partnership trips) are critical to the gathering of data for USGS.