still more rope- big and small

OK, not over my rope fixation yet…. as a technique it is just so darn multi-purpose, pragmatic and full of creative opportunity to go  in so many different directions. The more time I spend making rope, the more ideas occur to me of what is possible. The other night I realized fully the extent of my current rope obsession when I sat down to sort photos from what I have been doing in the last few weeks- and rope/cordage making seems to  dominate everywhere I turn… here are a few of the prize moments- big, medium and small.

Big: working with Stanley Park Ecology Society on our ongoing invasive plant re-purposing /park bio-remediation project we have a site on north creek trail that we need to do an intervention- something to stop feet from trammeling the root system of a tree in a compromised position- it hangs over a cliff to a creek, and stopping root compaction will give it a longer life before the cliff drops into the creek.

Over two afternoon sessions with volunteers we  twisted up a sizable amount of ivy rope that bifurcates into smaller and smaller sections, resembling a root or river system.05-IMG_824713-IMG_8069

This was such a great way to get a group working together quickly and had lots of collective problem solving moments- and I was thrilled with both the quantity and quality of our results. I will come back to this method again…meanwhile,  our Branching Root River is going to dry so it does not actually root when we put outside again at the end of March as an art installation.

Medium: I had the chance to do an interesting collaboration last month. Peter Bauer from ReWild Portland  and I  decided to collaborate on a submission  for a  show called the Multi-Species Salon. The plan was for me to make rope and yarn and mail it to him, and we would skype weave a piece together ( OK-at that point, Peter was doing the physical work,  I offered encouragement, conceptual ideas while I did my own work…and he wove) What we came up with is called the Migration Pack and looks like this:


photo credit: Peter Bauer

Statement about the work:

Migration happens on every level of life. Humans participate as catalysts or carriers for other species while ourselves on the move. Rope (string technology) is directly linked to the evolution of humanity’s migration- fibres twisted into strong line for carry bags and core survival tools allowed us to move faster and further.

Historically, with human migration the plants and animals of importance from one culture were introduced to new environments- these species then colonizing new eco-systems. The complexity of human entanglement in migration patterns to multi- species ‘invasions’ cannot be overstated.

Peter Bauer is from an ancestral skills background and works with community in Oregon through his non-profit Rewild Portland. Sharon Kallis has a fine arts background and runs the arts-based non-profit EartHand Gleaners Society in Vancouver British Columbia. Both acknowledge invasive plants make fine weaving materials and their existence as ‘plants out of place’ in various environments is the legacy of past migration, each working with invasive plants as part of their practices.

Over a series of skype weaving sessions Sharon and Peter talked about a world post-collapse and posed the question, What might we need to carry with us should further migration for survival be required?

What is important?

Uncontaminated soil, potable water and seeds for basic necessities like food and clothing came to mind and so Migration Pack as a concept emerged with rope the basic technique for the work. Of course, the contents of Migration Pack could be said to perpetuate the problem of once again moving materials from one place to another… the cycle continues.

Materials: invasive, native and introduced plants such as linen (Vancouver grown, spun and dyed with woad, onion skin, hollyhock, walnut), daylily, New Zealand Flax, Himalayan blackberry, Holly, Stinging nettle, corn husk, red cedar, English Ivy, Scotchbroom and water-carrying gourd.  Packing for travel would include: soil, water, and seeds (gourd and flax).



detail of seed pouch photo: Peter Bauer

So, the work is now showing, and  opens somewhere in New York on April 23rd…

Small: While working on my rope to send Peter I played with using multiple species- invasive, native, introduced and ornamental plants as it fit the theme of the work, and that led me to  experimenting more then in the past with the colour and texture of rope- leading to my last post about “art rope.”

I just had a great weekend workshop  in partnership with Environmental Youth Alliance, co-led with Matthew Kemshaw, we spent half a day in the garden,  learning about proper pruning methods, doing some basic stewardship of  crops at Means of Production, then stripping bark and  seeing what had strength for use- the winner for the day that surprised me was the  maple bark on the young growth- great deep red colour, very strong.  I came home and  immediately began winding rope around my neck and arms… simple jewellery methods that reminded me of summer camp friendship bracelets. I am not a huge jewellery person, but I do like the idea of ‘compostable adornment’- things I could wear and enjoy for a season then toss in my compost, my version of seasonal fast fashion.

5-bark to bush art rope

hand twisted linen tow and wool blended nicely with corn husk, barks and dyed blackberry  fibre.

What strikes me here is how rope or cordage has been a line for me to all of these different communities and people who I love to work with and for whom I have such great respect, when you imagine there is a supportive community  at the end of a line it is truer the ever, “you can never have too much rope.”

If you would like to see more images from a few of these projects take look here:

Branching Root River, The Migration Pack, Bush to Bark rope workshop

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