The Underfoots are a collection of creatures from various places around the world. They are all manifestations of the overlooked, mossy intricate worlds underfoot.
Often these plantings are originally grown in nurseries who focus on maximum yield since plant growth is tied to profit, and so they are flooded with fertilizers. These are then planted out, and the odd original shape obtained by the greenhouse growth of the plant stays with it as it matures, and therefore the shape of this plant as we now recognize it is misleading. dogwoods and willows have evolved to be stimulated by cutting/burning especially when the leaves have fallen and the energy of the plant is stored under the snow, in its roots. the form of a coppice stump, as it grows straight long shoots, is a beautiful thing to behold. often trimmed by beaver and muskrat, these long shoots are ideal material for basketry, and so are a living free renewable resource, who’s value can be added to immensely when planted close to an environmental center like the Evergreen Brick Works has become.
see the video of youth harvesting the black willow:
by planting species which have the highest yield of environmental and economic functions, we can work towards rekindling understanding of the role of ‘coppice’ plants and trees in responsible urban business practices of the future.
through experimentation in the pilot brickworks artist residency program, the dogwood and willow baskets will annually be available for sale in the Evergreen Garden Market for the holiday season, under the name: Winter Solstice Basketry.
This project is about discovering the natural community of the Brick Works, orienting participants in public programs to the yields of the naturalized space, and creating a culture of storytelling around it. All of these specimens are artifacts that in the future could become fossils, but they are able to be the inspiration for stories today that are shared and used to facilitate a deeper connection to place. By physically connecting the map space and specimen display, there will be an open invitation to experience nature, history and storytelling from every individual experience (whether or not visitors are directly participating in formal Evergreen programs). The culture of the Brick Works will continue to grow and evolve as these stories, artifacts and places become interwoven in this artistic interactive display.
Installed in with funds from Evergreen’s Interpretive budget in 2011, the interpretive display was crafted by Charles Jevons (Swordcraft.ca) and the slate map sandblasted by Cobalt Fabrications. the Concept of a personal/public nature museum is well articulated in the book: coyote’s guide to connecting with nature. This project is a collaboration with Lee Earl, outdoor educator at Evergreen Brick Works.here.
with sticks grown purposefully in a garden of willow and dogwoods, or as the forester’s of the early british countryside would call, a coppice, this wee beasty overlooks visitors upon entering.
see a video of the teens who helped harvest the willow here:
the earth science of this art lies in the ability of willow and dogwood to reproduce through any dormant (leafless) cutting or twig. then specific rods are chosen for structural form and placed as to fill in the sculpture as they grow.
thereafter individual willows will leaf out and change the form of the sculpture as it grows in the most unpredictable shapes, which can then in later years be trimmed or further woven in as a seasonal project. kind of like farming pretty trees, but in inspiring shapes. think bonsai.
check out other willow work here:
while creating more work in terms of seasonal trimming can seem like adding inputs/chores/more energy into yard maintenance, willow actually is one of the most productive crops that can be grown in an environmental education center/school-ground. i hope we all know by now that there is a clear disconnection from the seasonal nature of land based activities, meaning that many urban dwellers wouldn’t, as common knowledge, know that garlic should be planted before the first frost outdoors to get that jump on spring it needs. it is therefore productive to plant and cultivate species of easily maintained willows, who benefit and are encouraged to grow if cut in the winter, since this helps children and adults to reconnect to seasonal work and gain memorable insights into reproducing plants and trees to foster an understanding of how to become more self-resilient. can’t argue with that. ha.
next onto ‘the beaver’ at the other gate.
as seen on:
from the last post, about making children’s spaces for the ymca in brampton, i had many opportunities to articulate the challenge of bending cedar saplings into a tunnel, using the inner bark to re-mediate head entrapment worries (as per csa standard) and getting to grip with this eastern white cedar, i recollected something.
sometimes one needs to be in the position to say things out load to really absorb them. i said to a number of people, “i had no idea if it would work, but had already invested days in harvesting, energy in transporting it to the childcare space, and it was not until the moment of bending the first two over and around each other, using unknown muscles to form and shape the poles and distribute pressure so that they would not break, that i knew it would indeed succeed. ”
along with this tirade about cedar, came the shortened version
“i have not worked with cedar in this way, so intimately, since i was 15. ”
it is this second phrase, uttered for humor, and possibly to solicit interest in the tree-too often we are wandering in a grey landscape without differentiation, seeing only colors and hard surfaces, patterns, as when you blur your eyes looking out of the subway, and i would love to bring at least one or two beautiful things in focus a day-that inspired this post. the pictures that surround and follow this post are from a humble and beautiful place, tucked back near a couple of lakes on the southern lower steppes of a dormant volcano in the interior of B.C. near a little town called Salmon Arm, where i grew up. The farm which housed this ‘first nations outdoor classroom’ was the stage which, i am now slowly realizing 14 years later, the primary experience which drew me into the intricacies between the living environment and our relationship in deriving use out of it. long story short, it is the small property where it all started for me, as an artist, educator, and whatever else i am.
one reason for me attaching significance to this place and these images is that this are taken in december of 2011, meaning that the structure pictured, and the little birch bark ties inside of it were made when i was 15, and have been holding the space together for the last 14 years. This is in stark opposition to conservative reality. one would not think that the work we do to fill the summer when we are 15 will last through the coming decades, and have other youth, children and the community in general glean learning an understanding from the ‘recreation’ of this native winter home. one would expect that the time you spent washing dishes when you were 15 would be remembered for roughly the next 14 minutes, not years. this has been a consistent ethical litmus test, to determine the usefulness of my work, and of myself in a community setting…….is it still standing and who interacts with it now.
there are few more soulful activities than wandering through a space you have effected, and seeing that effect still in place years later, standing still and steadfast through numerous seasons and outside and removed from the affected pace of modern north american human culture.
“Land design and management informed by permaculture principles tends to regard naturalized species of plants as assets that should be managed to stabilize water and soil, build biomass, fix nutrients, ameliorate microclimate and provide habitat, fodder, fuel and food in the early stages of system development.While naturalized species may be given a lower value in permaculture design than species regarded as indigenous to the site and region, the typical designation of naturalized species as ‘invasive species’ or ‘environmental weeds’ is typically rejected as anti-ecological thinking.”
David Holmgren quoted from “Weeds or wild nature: a permaculture perspective” in