Newsdot 12:  Dahlia drives to the edge of the world
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Newsdot 12

Dahlia drives to the edge of the world
(brought to you in orange crush pigment… Now Dat’s Progress!!!!!!)


My sister Gretchen came to visit and we went to the edge of the world. On Haida Gwaii, Rose Spit is where North Beach meets East Beach and the waters of Dixon Entrance and Hecate Strait converge.  At the tip of Rose Spit their surfs battle to cover and reveal with each turn of the tide, with every wave’s rise and fall, the beaten beach. It is here, thousands and thousands of years ago, that the Haida people began:  encouraged by Raven, the first men emerged from a clam shell.  These origins have been famously depicted by Bill Reid’s carving at the UBC Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver.

Reids sculpture
Thousands and thousands of years later, Gretchen, Sandy, Radar and I emerged on Rose Spit in an ATV. Wildly navigating the rolling stones and encroaching surf, our noisy figure on a desolate stretch of sand (much like a Mad Max out take) finally arrived at the edge of the world. It was breathtaking.


Looking back at North Beach and Tow Hill (the bulge on the horizon which, made of basalt, resisted glacial forces thousands of years ago)

Gretchen lounges while we wait for the tide to reveal our road home.
Back on Outbreak for dinner, we had geoduck sashimi as an appetizer followed by fresh crab and scallop rolls.  Oh my!!!!!!! Thanks for coming to the edge of the world with us Gretchen!
Yesterday I met Reginald’s brother, Robert Davidson, a world renowned Haida artist. In 1969 Robert was the pivotal force in carving and raising the first Haida totem pole in living memory.  Pictures from that event show the elders dressed in what little ceremonial garb remained from government confiscation after contact.  The significance of that pole rising for the Haida elders had a profound effect on both Robert and Reg and consequently, their art.
Robert gave a talk on teaching Haida Art at the elementary school here.  His art form has evolved within strict adherence to what he calls the “A,B,C’s” of the Haida visual language, a language he learned from observing, copying and practising the physical work of his ancestors.
All figures in Haida art, he says, come from 2 shapes:  the ovoid and the U.

Robert believes this alphabet came from his elders’ observations of nature.  Within this alphabet he suggests there are 10,000 different shapes to explore, dependent upon an initial 10,000 hours of practice to master the alphabet and the negative spaces it creates. He defines this process by the following steps:
Step 1 Rudimentary:  Awkward mark making
Step 2 Apprentice:  Learning the alphabet by copying the masters
Step 3 Journeyman:  Practice variations of copying
Step 4 Master:  Mapping New Worlds: Building larger vocabulary
Step 5 Artist:  Freedom to explore vocabulary, adding to the culture
Robert told a story of fishing for halibut with his Tsinii (Grandfather) in a row boat with 2 sets of oars.  They would both row to Blinker using landmarks as a map to the halibut. When the hook was set, his Tsinii would talk to the halibut in Haida; “ Bite the hook, halibut, don’t just look”, “Make your mind strong, halibut, because I am going to club you.” Robert remembers the great respect his Tsinii showed to animals.
It was a privilege to witness Robert’s passion for Haida art and to gain insight into his process and vision.  

I went to Vancouver for 2 weeks to see the family and work on the prototypes for the Reg Davidson/ Dahlia Drive Eagle Happi.
I had a wonderful time in Vancouver; family, Kennedy, friends, theatre, Kennedy, studio, work…did I say KC? I stayed with my friend Sue and family. Thanks Sue for your hospitality.  Russell and I went to Edmonton for one day to visit a sick family friend and neighbour from Ma-Me-O Beach.  It was amazing to travel with my son, to witness him operate as a man in the world, paying such loving homage to the legacy of family and friends.  Duncan and I went out for an Italian meal and I adored being with him; very funny, shy, sharp as a tack.  Living in Masset has provided me with the ability to experience my children with adoration without sentimentality, love without responsibility and joy without evaluation. Kelsey and I can have female to female discussions I have never experienced with my sons.  She and I can navigate the world of perceptions and emotions and I am the better for her insights. 

Kennedy and her mom and dad arrive today for a week! Duncan comes next week for 3 days!  Yippee!
Reg has been very generous with his images in our collaboration. His partner, Johanne, has helped me immensely. Thanks Johanne. I picked his eagle drum image (as shown above) for the prototype and Sandy helped me transpose it into a vector file to make a screen.

I played with colours.

Chose 3 colour ways. Traditional (red, black), beach inspired (turquoise, orange), forest inspired (purple,green).  Below is the beach inspired palette.

I decided to hand paint an ovoid shape as the foundation for the eagle print and as a scrim effect for the front (so the silhouette of the body will be visible inside). Polka dots illuminate a passage through to the other side and are purely DD. (When I tried to explain the happi design to Robert and mentioned ‘polka dots’, he suggested that I was before stage 1 above. Worried that the piece might be offensive, I told Reg Robert’s comment and he responded, “That is just his opinion. Perhaps you were born with 5,000 hours already banked.” Ha.  I love Reg.) 

We are pleased with the result. Johanne owns the happi shown. I went to a trade show called ‘Love Haida Gwaii’ with 6 samples and received great feedback, 2 wholesale connections and sold 3 pieces!

I have loved working in textiles with the students at GMD. It is a wonderful school. I am beginning to accept that as an educator, I am most comfortable in the ‘fly in, make a mess, clean up and go’ role.  I am not really interested in evaluation or management, pedagogy or over arching goals. I want to make connection with the students in the here and now through the materiality of the textile process. I love facilitating an “experience” and appreciate the help of others to garner success for the participants.  Thank you to Gretchen and Sandy for your help in my last workshop. Thank you GMD.

Art Book Covers

Shibori Scarves

Aphorism of the month
 “You are just like sweat, you show up when the work is done.” (told to me by Reg when I showed up late to dry the dishes)
Bye. love. hawaa.
Wendy, the NDP dahlia in the drive

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