Warning: as posts go, this will likely be a weeper- reader discretion is advised.
In 2002, freshly back from a holiday in Ireland and the completion of the project Mothers Dresses I was figuring out where my art should be focused, how it should be contextualized- and in fact, what it was I was doing exactly… I was working with found materials- shed things like hair clippings and fallen leaves creating indoor based works.
Through a series of events I found myself the new human of a 2 ½ year old rescue dog- 70 lbs of fur and affection ready to tear my arm out at the first sign of movement from the grass- or roadway.
We fell in love.
JayDee introduced me through daily walks to the dog park- and the greenwaste pile. We met the gardeners and became friends. At some point -frustrated by the amount of fur I had to sweep up daily from my floor (about a Pomeranian size amount)- I had an epiphany.
All this fur should be good for something,- can I change how I think about this task from a feeling of eck, more housework to a feeling of yeah! I get to gather fur now or use!- Was that even possible?
My spinning wheel had sat gathering dust as a piece of useless furniture for over 10 years, but I swept up a bag of fur and sat down and began to spin. I spun the sweepings into yarn that became a sculptural pair of shoes used in an art installation.
I was hooked on the idea of making shoes- wanting to make wearable ones, but I never seemed to get around to making more.
The shoes have long since been discarded after becoming a moth buffet. But the principal JayDee inadvertently taught me of changing how I view a certain kind of labour by changing the task to a form of harvest for creative endeavors has stuck with me and become a huge part of my creative process and philosophy.
I had to say good bye to Jay Dee last week. It was our twelfth anniversary (plus a day) of when she came home with me and I think it was the hardest day of my life.
JayDee was a matchmaker, I was her primary focus.
She pulled David into my life through the ruse of needing a dogwalker. She introduced me not just to my life mate and main collaborator, but to an entire network of friends in the neighbourhood and I can actually count two other couples that might not be mates had David and I not met through JayDee- there is also a really good friend who is also a fibre geek right in my neighbourhood, and to think we might have never met if not for the dog park… my work with Vancouver Park Board can also be traced back to early days of meeting that first greenwaste pile, meeting one gardener, eventually formalizing that relationship to the park board itself…oh, for the power of dogs!
I found myself the last few weeks while JayDee declined rapidly suddenly making shoes again.
It happened in the most natural of ways, I had tried to make a pair of shoes when I first met Todd DeVries about 4 years ago and started weaving with him, but my skills were really rudimentary, and I couldn’t manage what I wanted to do and abandoned the project.
Then a month ago, Tracy Williams was in the studio with a group of us one day as we worked on the urban cloth next phase. Tracy saw the abandoned shoe project and the shoe forms on a top shelf and was excited to try weaving shoes, so began to weave, and we brainstormed shoes as a part of the dance work with Mirae. I went home fired up to make shoes again and quickly set to work and found it a wonderfully intuitive process I could do! Certainly several steps I had never done before, but I could intuit my way through the process, and then would realize I had seen weaving done in a similar way- connecting me to other maker’s problem solving turns or endings as I had. A moment of connecting to other makers past and present.
This pair of shoes are made with materials from the Means of Production Garden, one of JayDee’s favourite places to nap and be admired while we worked and she watched.
Daylily, New Zealand flax and Stinging nettle.
Mirae will wear the shoes as a part of the Urban Cloth Project and whatever remains might be hung up somewhere in the garden, oddly now that will be a personal memorial of sorts to JayDee. As I look on these shoes I can’t help but see the skills I have learned in the last 12 years literally woven into the fabric of them. Somehow they encompass the journey I have been on of learning from, and with, other people. And I trace it all back to the dog park, those early days of discovering my world through the eyes of a dog.
If my life were a made for tv movie, I can’t help but think there would be a parallel plot line running alongside my life. the plot where I decided to not bring JayDee home, where I didn’t find the greenwaste pile, meet the gardener, meet my life mate, find my creative community.
Who would that woman be?
It is hard to imagine she could have the wealth of friends, opportunity and richness in life I have been lucky to experience.
Sure, it is a stretch to attach so much significance to a 4 legged companion, but these are the thoughts I mull as I say goodbye to 2014, and to an incredible, fur-filled era of my life.
JayDee’s legacy is surely the richness of community and creative opportunity that she constantly herded me towards. We never did figure out what kind of mutt she was, but she was the best damn matchmaking herder I suspect I will ever meet.
Rest in Peace sweet friend, and thank you.