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Volunteer Days–Emily Winter, MFA Textiles 2015

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)

Table painting

We now have a nice selection of orange worktables

Keyondre painting

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.

Friedman volunteers

Jean cleaned the tool cabinet, Wally sorted screws. Good sports.

Tristen vacuum

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.

Big sort

Kristin and Phyllis get the whole sorting thing going

William sorting

William Clayborn: psyched to sort

Ellis palette jack

Ellis tackles the pallett jack

Phyllis dustmask

Phyllis prepares for the workbench’s mysteries


Nick and Anne vacuum demons

Yarn stacking

Hope and Elizabeth stacking cones of yarn

Big table move

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:


Pre Trip excitement– Kate Aitchison MFA 2016 Printmaking

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 )

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 🙂


Home – Drew Ludwig ’15Photo

Accidents suck. Accidents suck even more when they involve your face and pavement. This is a little story about my return home at a high rate of locomotion.
I was looking to hit the ground running. This was three weeks ago and the day was perfect. I was home which already put the day in a positive direction and the clouds were out wearing their fluffy cumulus attire. The sun was low in the sky, and I had just woken up in my tipi near Colorado’s largest waterfall. It sounds whimsical because it is around here. Its silly gorgeous and it only got prettier during my time in Rhode Island. Not that Providence doesn’t have its charm, but I am a mountain boy and there is far too little open space or anything mountainous to look up to in the ocean state to keep me from here. We all have a place we call home so imagine your happy spot where you just want to put your hands in the soil and Telluride, CO is that place for me. Yours I imagine is amazing too and please feel free to describe in the comments below.
View from tipi deck the evening before fateful crash:
So there I was on my bike pointed towards town with not much on my mind beyond a contented curiosity about the name of the wild flower I had just passed when my bike tire froze and bucked me off. It was cinematic. It was traumatic. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion unless acted upon by an equal or greater force or at least this is what wikipedia has to say on the matter. The greater force in this case was friction and the oppositional parties included most of my body (hands/face/knees/elbows but mostly my left pinky) and the road.
I was heading to town to start something. The reason you are reading this blog post was my target; the Maharam Fellowship and it was my first day on the job at our local arts non-profit, Telluride Arts. Side note: I do not blame you nor any interested parties for my fate as it was I who found it more fun to not use my handle bars and it was I who had forgotten to attach the coaster break to the frame of the bike. You reap what you sew and consequence is something I have been courting for years. Granted, I am usually on the lucky side of chance, but that day found me crumpled and looking to bath in a pool of triple antibiotic ointment. I lost a little skin and some momentum but three weeks later I am well on my way to a full range of motion in the hands and the scar on my face looks like a shark, so I have that going for me.
Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 1.16.27 PM
But why am I telling you all of this? I have no idea, but lets just say that if you don’t have your health you don’t have much of anything. First health then space to grow. Literal space. Multiple squares of feet of it. You have to have the room to be healthy, to practice your art, to eat dinner with your family and to just be. Telluride, my home town, and where I was speeding that morning, has an abundance of space but its outside our town limits. National forest, BLM lands and all sorts of privately owned reserves surround our town of 3 thousand. These great expanses are the Great Nothing Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 9.58.30 PM Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 9.53.30 PM
that drew all of us here in the first place. The mountains have a gravity and we feel this pull every moment of every day. It even finds its way to our dreams. You may think of this as homesickness but its deeper than that. Its like if Homesickness met Romantic Longing and they had a love child named Home. And imagine if Home weighed 9lbs 6oz with a full head of hair. So what is one to do if you love open space, need room to grow but don’t have the means to find a pot big enough for your roots?
I think it is important to jump in here and touch on the subject of wealth disparity. Telluride is a resort town. People from all over the country and world treat this place as an investment. A safe place to visit their valuables (property). Their money is made elsewhere in amorphous, non substantive places called “markets” and our town lots have become their safety deposit boxes. They prefer to view their valuables around the holidays and over the fourth of July holiday. FREEDOM! We have defenses against these liberties and they are the first wave of locals who felt the pull of this valley thirty years ago and stayed long enough to raise their family, grow some gray hairs and generally make this town an amazing place to live. They may have done too good of a job as this place is far to good for the general public. They still hold some of the keys to this place, but they are selling out and leaving at an alarming rate.
We call this phenomena the demographic cliff. The moment the long time local stops quietly subsidizing the younger generation of locals through below market rents, higher than expected hourly wages and access to their storage space in the back of their undeveloped properties. They are aging and the harsh reality of the mountains is that no one wants to be here when they are 70. Its just a fact. We all will feel that pull to the mountains weaken and we most definitely will eventually wander off to the lowlands. But HOW the older generation chooses to exit will determine the character of this town for decades to come.
Ok so here we are today. My fingers are healing, my shark scar is awesome, and I need a space for my offset printer to make the art! Bad news: can’t find a space for my printer. Good news: I am working with the Telluride arts to develop a partially collapsed building in the center of town as an artist maker space. Bad news again: it will take years for this to be developed but yes this space became available by the good graces of a long time local family who held onto it for the past 40 years. Yahoo for localism! That said I wouldn’t say they are giving it to us but a buy in by the arts community is a good thing. We will be invested. Now to raise the seed capital for Art Space’s (if you don’t know about this non profit check them out here) consulting fees, architectural fees, lawyer fees and all sorts of other fees before we get to the real millions it is going to take to acquire, stabilize and then build out the space. One step at a time and there have already been thousands of jogs to get us where we are today.
My first job as intern was to make our first fundraising party fabulous. Artist tend to be good at this. This was the first time the Transfer Warehouse (the building mentioned above) had been open to the public since the roof collapsed in 1979. To learn more about this space check out this website. The party was last Friday and we spent a week cleaning, building and transforming the space into an open air bar. There was live music, dancing, wheat pasted photos and just about everyone in town. We had 700 visitors and raised 20K. All in all a great evening under the open sky. Check out the trees that have grown in the center of the space since the 80s.
Yes these were shot with a drone and yes I want to shoot down every drone I see:
Ok so check in next post as I talk about how difficult it has been for me to find one of those maker spaces under the current environment here in Telluride. I am traveling to California this week to pick up the offset press that will produce our underground arts publication, The DUMBSAINT. Sad I do not have a place to put it when I get back next week but I have faith some space will turn up, and I am guessing it will probably be because some old time local hears from someone who heard it from someone else that there is someone looking for a space to keep this town weird and arty. Three cheers for weird and arty. Oh and three more cheers for health and space. Those are the first two things you need before you can even think about being weird and arty.

Sometimes You Eat the Bear, Sometimes the Bear Eats You- 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 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.

Dust storm Moving on From the Northern Liberty Gate Access road

Fig 1:Dust storm Moving on From the Northern Liberty Gate Access road

Dark clouds moving South over the Dune Field

Fig 2: Dark clouds moving South over the Dune Field

Rain Drops start to speckle the Pristine sand, as a storm chases me down the dunes

Fig 3: Rain Drops start to speckle the Pristine sand, as a storm chases me down the dunes

Hail falling on my head as I make my retreat

Fig 4: Hail falling on my head as I make my retreat

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.

Fig. 1: Great Sand Dunes Tiger Beetle, endemic to Great Sand Dunes National Park

Fig. 5: Great Sand Dunes Tiger Beetle, endemic to Great Sand Dunes National Park

Red Shafted Northern Flicker unusually taking a perch, normally Northern Flickers are found pecking about the on the ground looking for food.

Fig. 6: Red Shafted Northern Flicker unusually taking a perch, normally Northern Flickers are found pecking about the on the ground looking for food.

Yellow-Headed Black Bird in Alamosa Wildlife Refuge.  Despite the arid climate of the valley, wetlands are a key feature of the area that attract a vast diversity of birds.

Fig. 7: Yellow-Headed Black Bird in Alamosa Wildlife Refuge. Despite the arid climate of the valley, wetlands are a key feature of the area that attract a vast diversity of birds.

Black Billed Magpie Fledgling

Fig 8: Black Billed Magpie Fledgling

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.

Mahogany Obsidian Knapping Shard

Fig. 8: Mahogany Obsidian Knapping Shard

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.

Colombian Mammoth Tooth Scan Sample

Fig. 9:Colombian Mammoth Tooth Scan Sample

Black Bear Track test scan surfaces ready to print, adult front paw (left) Juvenile hindfoot(right)

Fig. 11: Black Bear Track test scan surfaces ready to print, adult front paw (left) Juvenile hindfoot(right)

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.

Spadefoot Tadpoles in a pond filled temporarily by rain water, from the wettest year in the San Luis Valley in 30 years.

Fig. 12: Spadefoot Tadpoles in a pond filled temporarily by rain water, from the wettest year in the San Luis Valley in 30 years.

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 – Harini Gona ’16 FD

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):

  1. 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
  2. Eat! It might seem contrary as food helps in producing heat and slumbersome feelings.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?

Bhikaji Cama Place

Bhikaji Cama Place

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.


First days back at Westtown– Emily Winter, Textiles MFA 15

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.


USGS Citizen Science Video- Kate Aitchison, MFA Printmaking, 2016

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.

kiln           laguna1

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.

Tesoro           Tumeric

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.

Divisoria-fabric    Divisoria-abaca

divisoria2    divisoria-alum

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.

PTRI website

PTRI-3    PTRIdye

PTRI-machine    PTRI-4

Further thoughts
-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.light trap 3 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!

 IMG_5604 Angel Lichen Moth lifecycle in progress

cisthene angelus

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!