“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” (Mary Oliver)
I hope this note finds you in a good place. I am writing during a residency at the Bloedel Reserve in Washington State. Here, the plants are in a frenzy of growth since the warm weather has arrived. Opening the door, stepping outside and breathing deeply, is all that is required of me this day. Time without a checklist is a rare and valuable privilege.
“There is no reciprocal relationship if a checklist is involved.” (Chris LaTray, An Irritable Métis Blog, June 5, 2023)
I am grateful to be here. This dedicated time in a beautiful, quiet place, allows me to focus on designing a gift I’m attempting to make, a “companion in hand”, to help those who wish to understand more about the fiber gifts of Pacific Northwest Native plants. There is much to discover, and the plants really can teach us important lessons about living in a good way. The Coast Salish Peoples who have inhabited and cared for this land since time immemorial have always known this. Native plants have been, and are, valued, tended, cultivated, and utilized, in far more ways than just for their fibers. I don’t know exactly how I’m going to make this object, or what it will look like. But already, as I awaken into my eighth day here, forms are coming to life. Forms taken from nature. Forms involving participation and movement. Surprising forms. Fun forms. Beautiful forms.
For this project, I’ve been influenced, taught, and encouraged by Carolina Veenstra, a Book Restorationist and Bookmaking Artist and friend. Another friend, Kathy Dickerson, is exploring her many art forms through innovative bookmaking, and she is a great example for me to learn from. I’m studying how traditional books are built, and how non-conventional alternatives are welcome. I’m taking internet courses through Domestika from Spanish Book Designer, Susana Dominguez Martin, who is painstakingly detailed and thorough. I wish I understood Spanish. Fortunately, the course is subtitled. I’ve read a great many bookmaking books, the most recently being a book by Heidi Kyle and her daughter, Ulla Warchol: HOW TO MAKE INNOVATIVE BOOKS AND PAPER STRUCTURES, which gives helpful instructions and tilts towards fusion with the art of origami. I’ve been watching a valuable series produced by Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, featuring Cynthia Sears’ extensive collection of artist’s books. It’s on YouTube, and you can subscribe to the ongoing library of short videos that explain the interesting concepts and stories of selected books. It’s called: ARTIST’S BOOKS UNSHELVED, made by filmmaker Katie Jennings of New Canoe Media. The curators are fantastic, and I’m learning so much from their carefully chosen words. Lastly, during Covid isolation, I found some inspiring kindred spirits in the arts. I didn’t know then that I’d be trying to build a non-traditional book, but I found this persons work and way of sharing it so freely to be fascinating and wonderful. So here’s a shout out for sarah_grace_dye on instagram. I don’t think there is a material that she can’t make a book out of.
So here is a small tour of the Quiet House which is my uncluttered studio, and short term home. The trails, and the privilege of walking them is hard to convey….but here’s a peek.
The house is a beautiful craftsman-inspired. I practically live out on this pier.
The place of sleeping is cave-like on one side, in the trees on two sides. I don’t know how they built these cool rock walls!
Place of eating. Although I pretty well turned the kitchen counter, not visible here, into my work station.
View from the front entry through to the woods.
It’s not the Indianola Dock, but it’s like a dock in the trees. I’m getting good Tree Showers.
One of my many favorite spots to feel the sun, smell the Nootka Roses, and listen to the buzz and the birds.
One of many lovely ponds.
At the edge of the marsh.
Cattails in the light.
Cattail, Horsetail, Common Rush, Willow, Red Osier Dogwood, Wood Ferns, Salmonberry, Osoberry…oh so many happy understory and riparian plants that live at the edges.
Birds Heard or Seen With Friends Today…And Later
Between us all
We recognize the familiar
And the less known.
Red Breasted (Red head for sure) Sapsucker
Red Wing Blackbird
Some type of Brown Duck with a long graceful neck, (ok, it’s a Mallard)
And it’s ducklings
Cedar Wax Wings
Common Merganser with Merganserlings
Chestnut Backed Chickadee
Canada Geese with goslings
We watched a spontaneous performance of a solitary Junko luxuriating in a dust bath,
pressing itself into the warm soil, just so,
Flattening it’s body and splaying out it’s wings against the moss-clad velvet.
Then, it turned it’s head, as if enjoying the audience
And carefully cleaned off each of it’s grayish-brown flight feathers
With it’s pale pink beak.
I’m in the Nootka Rose Bird Blind now