At the beginning of this summer’s artist residency program at Kuusisto Art Manor, I came up with the idea of creating ‘Secret places’ around the manor gardens and the nearby nature reserve area. These places would have to be found, because there is real joy in the surprise of discovering new things. I wanted visitors to spend some time in unique natural places and perhaps remember some memories associated with that place or similar places. Perhaps also to be fully present in that one moment. These spots also had an activity to try; weaving.
I built earth looms to suit each place using linen thread for warp and the natural forms of trees and bushes as the frame needed for weaving. They were very simple, so no previous experience in weaving was needed. Everyone would have the skills to build something out of the materials found in the nature around them. I also included little notebooks near each loom to record ideas and thoughts in. I made three ‘Secret places’ and two of them were successful. These were located in the nature reserve area, quite near the main path. They were easy to find and built in such way, that they would not permanently change their surroundings. The one located in the manor garden was perhaps too difficult to find, as people did not weave much on the loom there. The weavings that resulted in the other spots were very interesting. Although they were not perhaps aesthetic to every eye and certainly not usable, they were unique and had the marks made by many people who took a moment in the flow of time and spent it without hurry or stress. The thoughts written in the notebooks were wonderful reading and made me feel like this project has potential to be developed further to reflect different natural surroundings and express the thoughts, memories and stories associated with them.
Where are all the ravens?…Someone is cutting the grass. The sound of summer. Reminds me of childhood home and summer days. Taste of new potatoes in my mouth…This artwork looks like a harp…Surrounded by the trees, it is good to rest and listen to bird songs. A blackbird is telling stories…Here the air is fresh and wonderful…This place reminds me of sacrifices and beliefs…We saw white tailed deer…I heard the grasshoppers…
Last weekend I officially opened my studio during the local village festival, ‘Koroisten kyläjuhlat’. In my open studio the visitors could try weaving on a traditional floor loom. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas on how it would go, because the surroundings were quite different to those in Kuusisto, where I held my summer workshops.
It turned out that a lot of people, especially kids, were interested in weaving. When they had their parents with them, it was much easier to approach the big loom and have the courage to say hello to me. The thing about floor looms is that they have not been designed for very short people (ie. children) or people with certain disabilities (you have to be able to use your arms and legs). However this was not a problem, as the children discovered that by working together with their parents, they were able to enjoy weaving. In practice this was done with the mother using the pedals and helping to throw the shuttle, which gave the child (who was too short to reach the pedals – very cute) the opportunity to just have fun with building the actual rug structure by moving the beam and choosing materials. I had trouble getting them to leave at the end of the day.
Clearly weaving could be used as a way for parents to spend some quality time with their children. The one negative thing I noticed was that many parents feel that they have to control the weaving process by insisting on making a rug that is actually ‘correct’ and usable. In other words it would have to have specific matching colours and straight edges. What’s with the perfectionism? It’s the child’s vision and it doesn’t matter if the edges are wonky. The end result is still functional, beautiful and unique, not to mention the importance of the experience.
I will definitely develop this concept further. The weekend’s end result was happy kids and one small rug made by many hands.
And nothing shall get in the way. I have to work or I will go mad. Also I desperately need a space for my materials and there is a lot…Anyway, here are the before shots of my cheap and dingy studio:
It was really horrible. I have lived in places that were marginally better, but at this point in my life, this was really horrible. It was dirty, dark, cold, damp and dusty. The previous tenant had left a van load of his stuff to rot in there. None of it was worth salvaging. And yes, that is styrofoam covering the walls. I don’t even want to know what is growing under that stuff. And there had been rats.
However this was all I could afford, so I decided that I will make it work. How hard can it be?
Turns out not very difficult, but certainly laborious and the process did require some imagination. This is the end result:
I painted and covered every surface with something and now it at least looks ok and is fairly clean. The styrofoam is still there though…The things I do to work.