I welcome support from any of our friends for this new and exciting project to offer an introductory low tech water based screen printing workshop in Treaty 8 Territory.
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After bringing the field of yellow mini-stakes back from the Far Afield exhibition at Omineca Arts Centre (see the previous two posts), and after having it on display with “Reservoir” at Amazing Space Gallery here in Wells through the summer, it was time to dismantle it. The dried, unfired terracotta clay can be reused one day. I can cover the canvas board framed in reclaimed fir with fresh clay if the opportunity arises again to replant the stakes and add more to the many voices resisting the Site C dam on the Peace River. It can have another life.
Pulling up the stakes revealed a lovely pattern left by the donors and other contributors when they pressed their stakes into the wet clay, as well as the cracks formed by the clay as it dried.
Removing the chunks of dried clay from the supporting canvas board revealed yet another pattern, this time similar to a watershed.
Scraping and rinsing the remaining clay exposed a subterranean drainage pattern.
To keep up to date on efforts to stop the Site C dam, see this Facebook page (one of several), Sierra Club’s site, or follow The Narwhal‘s investigative reporting on this and other issues. And the stakeinthepeace campaign.
To learn about the BC Utilities Commission hearings on Site C, to attend a hearing or to make a submission, see their site here.
Like the “Stakes in the Peace” terracotta field with screen printed stakes in the group exhibition Disturbances in the Field (at the Omineca Arts Centre), “Reservoir” deals with the Site C. Since BC Hydro’s proposed dam lies within Treaty 8 territory – a treaty signed in 1899 – I visualized the reservoir submerging the treaty. So I screen printed a two page layout of the text of Treaty 8 on mylar, then cast it in resin in a clay mold shaped like BC Hydro’s renderings, with a small corner of the treaty remaining above the surface of the reservoir to represent my hope that we can still stop this project.
On the sides of the acrylic stand are Cree and Dane-zaa words for the Peace River, in tribute to the strength of these cultures and the power of their languages. And as a reminder that we are all treaty people, as our friends in the valley have patiently explained. Claire gave me a piece of painted canvas to place under the resin to catch light and colour – another element of hope to balance the daunting challenge we face.
The Stakes in the Peace campaign began when I heard that BC Hydro was drilling on Ken and Arlene Boon’s property in preparation for the Site C dam on the Peace River. Most of this work was way ahead of schedule and unnecessary; a form of bullying leaders of the resistance to Site C. I thought, if they Boons are getting drilled, we can pound a stake outside our house, too. So Claire and I pounded a yellow stake into the ground, then posted a photo.
Wendy Holm and others took this idea and transformed it into a brilliant solidarity campaign in which people (singly or in groups) could pay $100 to have their name on a yellow stake outside the Boons. It took off, and now there are over 600 stakes forming a forest of solidarity which has raised over $60,000 towards legal costs for resistance to Site C.
In the group exhibition Disturbances in the Field (the inaugural exhibition at the Omineca Arts Centre, ) I have made two pieces about Site C, one of which is a 15″ x 48″ terracotta version of the real field, plus seven inch tall yellow stakes, all hand silkscreened with stakeinthepeace.com and various anti-Site C hashtags. I’ve made about 600 stakes 😉
At the opening on Friday, May 12, I began inserting the stakes (short video here). People attending had the opportunity to put their own stake in the Peace for a minimum donation of $5 (all funds will go to the stakeinthepeace.com campaign). For anyone outside Prince George who’d like to participate, they can contribute via the PayPal button below.
In the course of the exhibition, we raised enough money to pay for six actual stakes at the Boons, thanks to the contributions of many generous people.
The clay has now hardened and dried, so it’s no longer possible to insert mini-stakes in the “field”. But it will still be possible for people in the Prince George area to buy stakes to take home to plant in their own gardens, potted plants, cactus gardens, terrariums, etc. (If you live outside Prince George, feel free to contact me through the “About & Contact” page on this site; I might be able to mail you a stake or two 😉
(PayPal will display Amazing Space Studio & Gallery ~ William Horne ~ Reference: Stake in the Peace donation.)
Thanks to: Caitlin Chaisson, Curator, for her enthusiasm and support; Denis Gutiérrez-Ogrinc for photodocumentation; John Howarth for plinth construction; Khast’an drummers for performing at the opening & Kym Gouchie for welcoming all to Lheidli T’enneh territory; Claire Kujundzic for all-round support, including technical; Denise Dauvin for hospitality; Randy Hadland for feedback; Yvonne Tupper for the hashtags; Art Napoleon for the Cree translation; Verena Hofmann and Treaty 8 for the Dane-zaa translation; the peoples of the Peace for their courage and persistence in the face of adversity.
Anne Kelly, Rita Neighbor, Holly & Julie (Vancouver), RanD Hadland, Elizabeth & Aashima Mathias, Gail Noonan, Colette Chisholm in memory of Joe A Chisholm, Jennifer Iredale, Caitlin Chaisson. Thanks, everyone!
Claire has extensive experience with presses and traditional printmaking processes, so she offered a Collograph workshop during our time in Tolosa. Collography is the low-tech cousin of etching, with cardboard or matte board plates, leaves, feathers, string, sand and other materials that create printable textures. Typically we ink the plates with a roller, then rub off the excess ink with a rag so that we can print the ink remaining in cracks, hollows and scratches in the plates. Usually a thin residue of ink will persist on the flat areas of the plate, which results in a thin unifying grey throughout the print.
Garikoitz made arrangements to do the workshop in the ceramics studio upstairs in Tolosa’s Casa de Cultura – Kultur Etxea (Culture House) where a small press was available, and designed another beautiful, bilingual poster:
Claire only had one participant, Gurutze, an aspiring landscape and garden designer, but I assisted and the three of us did a lot of printing and had many good laughs.
Gurutze & Claire laughing & working on their plates.
Here are some short video clips from the workshop:
In addition to our exhibition at GKo Gallery, Claire and I offered to present two low-tech printmaking workshops while we were in Tolosa. Since I shoot almost all of my silkscreen photostencils in sunlight in Wells (sometimes overcast, often with snow around!) instead of using an expensive, electric-powered exposure unit, it made sense to share what I’ve learned about this process over the years. The best place to do this was at the studios at BoxA Arte Elkarte where Garikoitz and others do screen printing and mural project preparations, as well as other activities. He put together this nice poster in Euskara and Castellano for the workshop:
BoxA is about a 15 minute walk from GKo and located in an old warehouse. It’s operated by a collective – the Association of Young Creators of Tolosa – and has a performance space and bar on the ground floor, as well as a patio and an area that the collective has gradually been developing as a garden. There are always people working in and around the building, and lots of workshops, events and jam sessions; energy radiates from within and without.
Earlier I had attended an excellent workshop at BoxA on photo transfers that Joseba Mercader, a local photographer and collective member led, and met more artists who became good friends during our stay in Tolosa.
I wasn’t familiar with the extremely sensitive photoemulsion they used for screen printing at BoxA, and the sun was much more intense than in Wells at this time of year, so our first test screen was completely overexposed! Oops.
The second attempt worked well enough and from then on, everyone succeeded in making a stencil they could print. What a fine crew of people! I’m grateful to Garikoitz for having organized this, to BoxA for hosting, Claire for assisting, and of course to Izaskun, Jorge and Nader for their participation.
A few weeks before leaving Canada, I emailed Juantxo Garmendia, a metal fabricator and sculptor I had met through master papermaker, Juan Barbé in the fall of 2013. I had seen some of Juantxo’s work first hand, and also knew that he had built a remarkable “Naginata fabrication” fibre shredding machine for Juan. We wouldn’t have room in our luggage for the two metal rings we originally wanted to use to hang Claire’s work, so I sent Juantxo technical drawings and asked him if he could make them, and if so, how much would they cost. He said sure, easy, but he wouldn’t charge for this! So I decided I would return the favour by designing and printing some shirts for him, using copper ink as the base.
I had assumed that we would pick up the rings at his shop or rendezvous in Zizurkil or Billabona, then train back to Tolosa. However, when we rolled our two suitcases of art to GKo Gallery on April 8, the rings were already there; Juantxo had driven to Tolosa to drop them off for us ahead of our arrival! How very kind.
After getting settled in our room at Garikoitz and Kizkitza’s a few blocks away, we unpacked and laid out our pieces around the room according to the miniature maquette we had made back at home; Garikoitz had sent us very accurate wall and ceiling measurements, so there were no surprises; everything fit!
We first hung Claire’s green fabric column with her torn, stained canvas trees encircling it. Then we anchored her larger pieces and my larger prints before devising an arrangement for my miniature prints in between.
Garikoitz had milled up a few wooden cleats for some of Claire’s paintings that “float” off the wall; we cut a few more wooden bars at the BoxA Arte Elkarte studio. Other pieces could hang from the gallery’s heavy duty nylon with adjustable stainless hooks – nice system!
It took all of Thursday and most of Friday to hang everything, and we were very pleased in the end with how everything looked. Garikoitz was incredibly patient and calm throughout! He and Kizkitza generously provided refreshments and lots of local people showed up for the opening. It was great to reconnect with Juantxo and a pleasure to meet his wife, Eli, and their daughters, Araia & Laiene, as well as Garikoitz and Kizkitza’s mothers! Plus Alex, Joseba & Xabi from BoxA Elkarte, Sonia from the Casa de Cultura, Brian Cullen from the Tolosa visitor centre, and Ura.
Garikoitz organized several interviews which resulted in two articles in Castellano (Noticias de Gipuzkoaand Diario Vasco) and one in Euskara. We really appreciated the interest and attention to detail of all the journalists who wrote about our exhibition.
From Deba we took one, then another Euskotren east and transferred to the north-south RENFE line in Donostia. The Euskotren platforms are almost all level with the trains; easy to haul our suitcases on and off. Not so with RENFE Cercanías, whose cars have steep steps to climb up and down. But it was a beautiful day to travel by train.
We texted Garikoitz Murua of GKo Gallery when we caught the RENFE southbound so he could meet us on arrival in Tolosa and help us take our suitcases to the gallery. As a surprise, we put on our red and black plaid wool toques with brown beards (we got them from CANFOR’s warming hut at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George) as we disembarked the train. He laughed and took a few photos of us as we left the platform.
GKo Gallery is only a few blocks away from the train station, so we took everything there, dropped off our art, then rolled our personal belongings back a few blocks to Garikoitz and Kizkitza’s apartment. We’d then return to GKo to start unpacking the art and doing some preliminary arrangements to start the process of hanging everything.
Garikoitz and Kizkitza have a beautiful place on the fourth floor, overlooking the central commercial district which is designated pedestrian-only from the next block over to the Oria River. It was extremely generous of them to accommodate us, and we felt very fortunate to have our own room right in the centre of town, just ten minutes’ walk from the gallery, the market, the Casa de Cultura; five minutes from the TOPIC puppet museum; fifteen minutes from Box.A Arte Elkarte studios. Wonderful.
Just up the street is a classic millinery store that has been in business for several generations. Drawers and shelves and boxes of buttons, threads, needles, pins … we would be there soon to buy some special pins for mounting matted prints on the gallery walls!
Central Tolosa is full of every kind of shop, all independent – we never saw any chains. Each block seems to have several bars, a bakery, shoe store, jeweler, deli, maybe a fish store, toys. It would take weeks to visit them all. There are several plazas with bars and shops facing onto them, and people of all ages wandering about.
The Garia Bakery is half a block from GKo Gallery. Operated by Raúl and Amaia, they make a variety of delicious levain breads (traditional sourdough), including whole grains and some pastries. They were always welcoming and generous, especially having learned that I had worked at Uprising Breads Bakery in East Vancouver – originally modeled on the Basque Mondragon cooperatives – for 11 years. What a pleasure!
Our Air France flight landed in Paris on Easter Monday morning. After being thoroughly frisked when my Mountain Equipment Co-op backpack tested positive in Charles de Gaulle airport’s security, we shuttled our way to another terminal for our afternoon connecting flight to Bilbao. The small number of banana-shaped couches were occupied, so we tried sleeping on the floor, but general noise, cell phones and announcements made that difficult.
It was a relief to land in Bilbao, bus downtown and check into the family-run San Mamés Guesthouse. Ekaitz helped us haul our suitcases up a couple of short flights of stairs to reception where we were able to leave the larger items containing our exhibition pieces, and took our lighter luggage up the elevator to our room.
The Zumardi Pentsioa is only a few blocks from the train station and just a few stairs from the street to reception. Deba is a lovely, quiet town on the coast with a sandy beach and a pedestrian zone in the old downtown. After such a long time in transit and a nine-hour time difference, we were keen to walk, rest and recuperate. There were plenty of places to shop for picnic items, as well as many bars with tantalizing pintxos.
The display of hand made slippers in one store window caught our eyes, and there we met Mikel. He has been making shoes for over 31 years and produces much of the traditional Basque footwear used in festivals and folkloric events throughout the region. He kindly gave us a tour of his workshop which was filled with rolls of various kinds of leather, templates, tools and shoes of all sizes. He also makes beautiful stamped leather boxes.
We chatted about what it’s like to work as an artisan or artist, the risks of repetitive strain injuries, and making a living in a globalized economy. It was the first of many encounters with people who generously welcomed us into their lives.
Last fall Claire Kujundzic and I received an invitation from GKo Gallery in Tolosa in Basque Country to exhibit our work in April. I had been wanting to return to Tolosa and the surrounding area where I had been in October, 2013 while apprenticing in paper making with Juan Barbé at his Eskulan studio in Zizurkil (see blog posts from that period). While there, I had met Garikoitz at GKo, thanks to a tip from Brian Cullen at the visitor centre. After discussing the invitation for about one minute, we decided to go, even if we weren’t successful accessing some travel assistance from the BC Arts Council or the Canada Council.
In January I started making inquiries about the best way to deal with bringing our art through Spanish customs and back to Canada. Melissa Gruber at CARFAC National kindly wrote the Canadian Trade Commissioner in Spain to ask about proper documentation, taxes, etc. Susan Madsen, Richard Tetrault and Gregg Simpson shared their art travel experiences, which was helpful. In the end, following the advice of a customs broker in Bilbao, we paid the Canadian Chamber of Commerce $315 + a deposit of 40% of the retail value of our work in order to have an ATA-Carnet document. Supposedly this is the simplest way to deal with temporary imports.
Preparing our artist’s talks took a couple of days. I saved some time by editing previous versions, but it still took a long time going back and forth between QuarkXPress, Illustrator and Acrobat to finalize our PDFs 😉
Claire took charge of packing our artwork. Except for two larger prints, I was showing small and miniature silkscreens, all matted with archival backings and ready to pin to the gallery walls. Claire’s canvas paintings and “trees” could roll up, and everything fit in our suitcases. We didn’t have to carry any wooden cleats for her paintings, as Garikoitz had offered to cut them at Box.A Arte Elkarte’s workshop. And we didn’t have to squeeze any metal rings into our luggage, because Juantxo Garmendia’s website was very kindly making two custom rings for us, complete with little hanger loops, at his workshop in Atseasu. He is an artist-wizard with steel and iron!
A week before leaving Wells, where we had had the mildest winter in 20 years and the least amount of snow anyone could remember, we changed our tires back to summer treads from winter. Naturally, a few centimetres were waiting for us when we left home at 6 am, and a bit more on the plateau south of 100 Mile House!
We reached Vancouver in time for a short, but lovely visit with Alan Zisman and Linda Read, who generously loaned us Kate’s old (new to us) smartphone, plus a nifty charging expansion cable. Then Susan Madsen and Stephen Mitchell generously hosted us overnight with a delicious supper and breakfast, then driving us to the airport. We are so fortunate to have such fine friends!
After visiting customs with our ATA-Carnet, we boarded Air France Vancouver-Paris-Bilbao.