After much anticipation and preparation (see “Peace River Screen Printing Project” post below), Claire and I packed up the car and drove to Fort St John on May 11 – about an eight hour trip. This is a fine time of year to drive north, not just because there’s so much daylight at our latitudes, but also because the remaining patches of snow in the northern Rockies delineate the contours of the mountains that tower over the Pine Pass in their undulating folds.
Verena Hofmann welcomed us to the Treaty 8 Tribal Association building in FSJ upon our arrival and helped us unpack. The T8TA building has wonderful spaces for meetings and we set up in the back where we could access water, as well as the back parking lot for sunlight photostencil exposures. We were honoured to be able to hold the workshop there and very appreciative of T8TA’s support, as well as Verena’s organizing assistance.
In addition, we were given permission to stay at the Tse’K’wa house above the cave at Charlie Lake. It was an enormous privilege to stay in this very special, significant place. To see the cave is a powerful experience and we’re grateful to have had that opportunity.
We had a small, but enthusiastic and extremely productive group in the workshop, with various friends dropping in over the course of the weekend. On the Saturday, we explored hand-cut and torn wax paper stencils, simple registration systems, printing gradients, and then coated screens with photoemulsion so they could dry in a dark closet overnight.
On Sunday morning, the weather was still perfect for exposing these in sunlight outside the back door. The first exposures took about 12 minutes, but we shortened that gradually to 8 minutes as the day progressed. At one point we were able to test three kinds of film positives: a retouched photocopy on acetate, hand-cut rubylith film & hand-painted Fotostrip masking fluid. The weekend went by very quickly and the participants gave some really helpful feedback and ideas for ways to improve on it if we have the chance to do another. Thanks again to Verena and T8TA for hosting and helping to organize the weekend, to Matt, Donna and Claire for their participation, and to Nathalie and Reg for dropping in!
Once we finished packing up, we drove 15 minutes south to Arlene and Ken Boon’s farm at Bear Flat on the Peace River where they generously treated us to a lovely supper, breakfast, overnight cabin stay, and tour of their land and buildings. We hadn’t realized they had worked in the log building business, so having a chance to see some of their handiwork – especially their creative renovations and reconstructions – was inspiring. Their museum houses many precious items, including a photograph of a horse-drawn plane for planing logs into timbers. We didn’t take any photos inside; you have to go there to see it!
Arlene and Ken were planting corn when we left – a crop not possible to grow in many places north of Quesnel! From Bear Flat we drove back through FSJ and east of Pouce Coupe to Demmit, just inside Alberta to visit Teresa and Peter von Tiesenhausen. Just as we arrived, they plugged in a brand new 10 KW array of solar panels on a new timber frame structure. Very exciting to watch their electrical meter start to go backwards!
Teresa kindly took us on a tour of the Demmit Community Hall. She and Peter were instrumental in the planning, fundraising and construction of this beautiful timber frame & straw bale building. An inspiring, successful project on every level.
From Demmit we made our way back to Gundy for an overnight visit with Verna Savor and Rick Broswick who moved there several years ago from Wells. It was a pleasure to catch up with them as well as enjoy their usual big-hearted hospitality.
After a short pit stop in Dawson Creek, a visit to the art gallery and a short chat with the Curator, Kit Fast, we were back on the road in time to return to Wells at sundown. In our last hour on Highway 26, we saw five black bears and one porcupine – a beautiful ending to a wonderful trip.