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 🙂
For the last few weeks I’ve been working at the Great Sand Dunes Oasis in exchange for a campsite. Most nights have been nice and cool, and I could fall asleep to the sound of fires crackling quietly in the distance. One night in particular, 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 as they’d been known to poke around from time to time. It wasn’t something I was entirely concerned about until I reflected for a moment on the entirely potent canned fish that had been my dinner that evening. My toothpaste didn’t stand a chance against the canned Mango Chutney Tilapia I had eaten with my rice that night. As my pesca-paranoia began to settle in, I thought back to earlier that week when another long term resident in the campground kindly offered me eight rainbow trout as after realizing they might spoil before she’d be able to filet them properly. 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 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 matter, 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, they were’t interested in any that, just another camper’s garbage. In the grand scheme of things, it was nothing but a knock in the night. For better or for worse, fish has continued to make regular appearance in my diet in spite of my wary attitude towards the local population of hooligan Black Bears. It seems the San Luis Valley intends to make sure that I don’t forget who’s really in the drivers seat.
Working everyday in a place where it seems like thunderstorms are constantly rolling through, and sand is the driving force behind most technological and mechanical issues. 3D Scanning, and even photography present as finicky undertakings. In the interest of my equipment, I’ve learned to plan my outings more precisely. Packing light to understand the conditions before I ferry a heavier pack I think has saved me some headaches.
Most mornings, I’ll stop into the visitors center to check the weather report. Its been a great excuse to get to know the Interpretive Rangers here who have been kind and welcoming to me. They’ve kindly given me a workspace in the interpretive offices to scan objects in their collection. Thumbing through photographs from my outings with the Rangers has been a great way to learn more about the wildlife here. 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. They use their long legs to hold their bodies up off the sand to keep cooler as it may exceed 140 degrees at times. 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.
My next focus is to push myself further into the field. So far I have been hesitant to do anything that might damage my equipment. I brought a submersible case for my DSLR and my first test produced cause for concern as there was water in the case towards the end of my session shooting at Zapata Falls. Fortunately I was able to repair it. Weather permitting, I’d like to try to hike up to Medano Lake above 11,000 feet. There with any luck I might be able to photograph the newly reintroduced Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout. As for my scanning efforts, the 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. I’d like to capture as wide a continuous surface as I can, and will test different techniques towards that goal.
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.
Dying to Dye: Introductions and Meetings in the Philippines – Emilie Jehng + Lyza Baum, BFA Textiles, 2016
Our first two weeks in the Philippines have been a confusing-yet-exciting mishmash of business and pleasure. Business meetings with collaborators become intriguing conversations with friends, and fun turns into productive ideas for our project. These two weeks can perhaps only be described through a haze of citronella oil, multiple cups of coffee, pan de sal as merienda, and a long mealtime discussion which we will conveniently be calling a meeting. And while the idea of trying to encompass what we’ve experienced thus far is nearly impossible, we will try our best.
Lyza and I have decided to delegate our blog as such: I (Emilie), will be posting this week about our activities these first two weeks and Lyza will be supplying the photos for this post. In two weeks, when we post again, our roles will reverse. At the end of each blog post we will both be reflecting on our experiences thus far.
Since having landed greeted by ninety-degree weather we have:
1. Traveled to Laguna, a town an hour south of Manila, in the hopes of further understanding local cottage industries in the Philippines. There we visited and toured the home/studio of local ceramic artists.
2. Had a lunchtime meeting at the Patis Tito Garden Cafe with Nina Tesoro to discuss our 4-day long natural dye workshop with her and her mother, Patis Tesoro. Patis Tesoro is considered the “Grand Dame of Philippine Fashion”. Believing that ethnic wear is integral to the Filipino identity, after the Marcos regime Patis decided to revive pina fabric production. Pina fabric, composed of pineapple fiber, is one that is reflective of the Filipino culture and used in special occasion garments such as the barong. Working with pina weavers, Patis began conducting workshops to pass on methods of producing this fabric.
During our four days with the Tesoros, we plan to experiment dyeing abaca, raffia and pina fiber, using fresh tumeric, dried atseute, and talisay.
3. Went to Divisoria, a dizzying labyrinth of stalls with bolts fabric, stacks of kitchen supplies, multi-colored plastic toys, large bags filled with spices, and hangers full of clothing. We were in search of materials for the dye experiments, and we were going to find them here. Three hours later, we left the market exhausted and sweaty, but with fibers to dye, spices/plants to extract dyes from, and our mordants of alum and citric acid.
4. Met with the Philippine Textiles Research Institute. PTRI has been able to identify 100 native dye plants, 30 of which have been successfully been turned into powder, and 6 which have been turned into paste. PTRI holds an entire library of research on native dye plants and they have granted us access to this information. After our meeting PTRI also agreed to allow us to utilize their dye lab. These next few days will be spent conducting dye experiments at PTRI.
-our successes and failures will be closely linked to the relationships we are able to form here. learning how to connect in a culture different than our own will be key to our time in the Philippines
-while PTRI holds a library of info for us to use, perhaps more knowledgable are two people, Rudy and Lucy, currently conducting these experiments for PTRI
-citronella oil is a godsend
Getting acclimated to a foreign country always takes time, but I believe that Emilie and I are beginning to understand the complex culture of the Philippines. Upon our arrival, we were welcomed by our collaborator and mentor Clara Balaguer, head of OCD and Project Coordinator of Class Act. Within the past two weeks she has introduced us to Manila, Filipino culture, and key resources and people for our natural dye research. In just two weeks we have had a handful of adventures that have brought us closer together as collaborators and friends.
Clara, Emilie, and I have begun a nightly ritual of drinking tea after dinner and discussing the agenda for the following day. Often this after-dinner conversation turns into an enlightening and thought provoking dialogue. Through these conversation we have begun to discuss topics such as indigenous appropriation of textiles, the politics of sharing knowledge, the “nothing goes to waste” mentality in the Philippines, and the meaning of community art. These topics will be important elements of our research as we move forward.
The Filipino “nothing goes to waste” mentality is especially important as we begin to think about how natural dye can be a sustainable way to fully utilize natural by-products such as onion skins, mangosteen husks, and coffee grinds.
Although a majority of our time was spent adjusting to the 12 hour time difference, getting stuck in Manila traffic, and meeting with collaborators, I feel positive that we are moving in the right direction. After a successful meeting at PTRI I am excited to have access to a fully equipped dye lab and the opportunity to work alongside people who have an incredible amount of natural dye knowledge. I am looking forward to being fully immersed in our research and seeing where it takes us in the following two weeks.
Lyza + Emilie
The art of aquatic insects and how bugs keep the world on track– Kate Aitchison, MFA Printmaking, 2016
As I walked into the Aquatic Insect Lab at Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research/ United States Geologic Survey in Flagstaff, AZ, my first thought was– this is no art studio. However, in its own way, this laboratory covered in microscopes and full of lab technicians affectionately called “pickers” (because they spend their days picking apart bug samples and identifying and quantifying species and numbers) it is a place with a lot of exciting, innovative, and creative work going on. This is my main spot for the summer, working with biologist, Anya Metcalfe, to bring art and design into a place where science reigns supreme. There are two other labs at GCMRC, the Fisheries Lab, which looks at (you guessed it) fish, and the Sediment and Geomorphology Lab which looks primarily at sediment movement through Grand Canyon. All three are a part of a research and monitoring plan to learn about and look at the health of an ecosystem altered by Glen Canyon Dam.
But lets get back to the bugs. Hundreds and hundreds of small sample bottles filled with bugs sit in a storage unit outside the building: these bottles are the data the Aquatic Insect Lab is working with. These samples are all a part of a massive citizen science initiative happening in Grand Canyon that asks commercial and private boatmen on Grand Canyon river trips to collect samples of aquatic insects for one hour each night of their trip. USGS provides the instructions and materials necessary, and the boatmen provide the leg work. Here’s how taking a sample works: each night, within an hour of sunset, a small tupperware is placed along the river’s edge with a black light balanced on top of it. Then a small bottle of ethanol is poured into the tupperware and left out for one hour. The bugs are attracted to the light and fly into the ethanol (then the bugs die, but it is a quick and painless death, and its all in the name of science!). After one hour of collecting, the ethanol is poured back into the bottle and the time, date, weather, and river mile are all recorded and placed with the sample. After 14-21 days on the water, these samples come back to USGS, a wealth of knowledge for the scientists who wouldn’t be able to get this much data any other way. All of this data goes into a huge data set that can them be analyzed to look at numbers and types of aquatic insects during specific times of year, when hatched of specific insects tend to happen, etc. A light trap in action!
But really, bugs? Who cares? Why should we put so much effort into studying aquatic insects? The larvae are so small that you can barely see them and when the bugs themselves become mature you only really notice them when they bite you or fly incessantly around your headlamp. Believe it or not, aquatic insects are essential to the ecosystem. In their egg and larval form, they are the main source of food for fish. In their emergent form (airborne form) they are a food source for bats, birds, lizards, and spiders. They are a very key aspect of the food web and without them, things have the potential to become very problematic.
So now that you have a little background info– back to the art. Where does the art fit into all this data collection and bug picking madness? It fits in two different places. Firstly, it fits into the illustration of different insect’s lifecycles and the food web cycle as a whole. While general insect lifecycles have previously been illustrated there are insects specific to Grand Canyon that have never been studied before that can now be discussed in scientific papers thanks to large collection samples. To go along with those papers, illustrations must be made that can visually represent the data in a clear, concise way. My internship advisor, Anya, and I have been talking a lot about the power of an image and what it can do for science: a good illustration can give all the information in the paper in such a way that the key knowledge is effectively and accurately communicated without needing the paper there at all, while a bad image only serves to confuse. You add good design to a good illustration, and great things start to happen!
Angel Lichen Moth lifecycle in progress
Finished Angel Lichen Moth lifecycle
In terms of the food web, there hasn’t ever been a food web illustration made specifically for Grand Canyon. Making an effective and elegant Grand Canyon food web illustration means that it will become a resource for all the ecological scientists working at GCMRC, not just those in the Aquatic insect lab. Very exciting indeed!
Now, back to the second place the art fits in: Art also fits into the public outreach part of the program. Anya and I are working with USGS partner, Grand Canyon Youth, to develop ways to better integrate art and communication into their science river curriculum. Grand Canyon Youth already does light trapping on all of their youth river trips however, the reasoning behind the light traps isn’t always made clear and often it feels more like chore than an exciting opportunity to describe the ecosystem and all of its components. It’s also difficult for youth to understand how something so small can fit into a much larger picture of public land management and public policy. So, we are beginning to develop some ideas of how to visually represent where the science goes once it’s collected, and how science fits into the bigger picture of Grand Canyon Stakeholders and how stakeholders drive critical policy decisions. We are also creating block print kits to take on the river to help kids make personal observations, connect to the place on a personal level, and start to feel a personal stewardship towards wild places that can carry far beyond their river trip.
I think that’s enough overload of information for now. It’s been an exciting beginning and the momentum is really picking up. More coming soon!