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Sharon Kallis

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since Nov 07, 2014
With a “one mile diet” approach to sourcing art materials, Sharon Kallis works to discover the inherent material potential in a local landscape. Involving community in connecting traditional hand techniques with invasive plant species and garden waste she creates site-specific installations that become ecological interventions. Graduating from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 1996 she began working materials from the land in 1999 and has exhibited and engaged communities with her practice in Ireland, Spain, Mexico and throughout the United States. At home in Vancouver, Sharon works regularly with Vancouver Park Board, Stanley Park Ecology Society, Community Arts Council of Vancouver and Environmental Youth Alliance. Sharon is founding executive director of EartHand Gleaners Society, an arts-based organization that brings together artists, scientists and educators to rethink use of green-waste and invasives plants.  Sharon is a member of MOPARRC, the artist collective that activates the Means of Production garden -a community garden that grows art materials. Recent projects include leading The Urban Weaver Project: working with First Nations weavers, fibre artists, park ecologists and local community to research how the invasive species of Stanley Park can be used as replacements for traditional weaving materials not sustainably harvestable in the city. Sharon has received Canada Council and British Columbia Arts Council grants and was the recipient of the Brandford/ Elliott International Award for Excellence in Fibre Arts in 2010. Sharon has been acknowledged through a Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award for Studio Design: emerging artist (2010) and as a Remarkable Woman by Vancouver Park Board (2012) for her community engaged projects.
Working with New Society Publishers Sharon wrote Common Threads: weaving community through collaborative eco art, a book about her art practice written as a field guide for others wishing to explore unwanted plants for creative purposes.
Vancouver British Columbia
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Recent posts by Sharon Kallis

On the southwest coast and interior of british columbia I encourage teachers to plant some daylily in school gardens.. It is pretty drought tolerant for the summer months when school gardens usually are neglected and when school starts kids can harvest the golden leaves by pulling them- no cutting required. I think daylily is one of the best rope making materials around, it can be dipped in water then wrapped in a wet towel and ready to go in about 20 minutes. 2 ply rope is a great skill to teach children for hand skill development and can link into to social studies modules, arts programs or maths (physics specifically... Every action has an equal and opposite reaction is the fundimental concept of balanced 2 ply rope.) it is also useful i think to teach that gardens and the land provide humans with more then "just" our food.
Daylily around these parts is so prolific many gardeners will be ready to divide plants in the fall and donations are usually possible versus having to buy them... Dont know where you are but hope that this  is helpful and good luck!
3 years ago
Fantastic R!! Thrilled to see the drum carder bike... I will add that to my list of reasons to get over to victoria!
3 years ago
One trick I can verify for nettle is that it gets easier the older the stalks are... a rare time where procrastination pays off. I had someone give me nettle she harvested over 10 years ago and had retted, but then had no patience for processing so it sat in her garage over a decade- it was super easy to pull the fibres off, and when I have found old stashes of nettle in the back of a plant fibre corner that had been forgotten they too were easy to process. I remember Berte makes mention in her nettle book of labeling the crop year and storing her nettles at least a year. You of course can harvest from freshly harvested and retted- but way more time consuming so if you want to go into production for clothing it is worth the wait!
4 years ago

Anyone try milkweed aka as butterfly weed?

yes, but yet to totally unlock the code on this one! I did see a huge difference in what the plant looks like come October on a trip to the interior of BC last year versus my coastal locale... the trick as I understand so far is to harvest the stalks when golden yellow- when the latex has gone back down to the roots. (spreading dogbane aka Indian hemp is the same)  that was what the milkweed looked like when I was in Kelowna last year and made me realize we were not getting cold enough nights- just wet- so the stalks would rot but not mellow, so to speak. when I harvested a stalk in Kelowna, I could snap the stem and strip the fibres off very easy, the white silky fibres would roll off the remaining  outer bark layer when I rolled the fibres quickly between my palms.
It all comes down to timing! If the timing is right the fibre releases easy- if too soon it is sticky, if too late the fibre has rotted- so checking regularly and learning from the plants is the way to go for sure!
4 years ago

We Will be shearing our sheltie dog next week and I was thinking of writing her to ask if she wanted the wool with its orange and black guard hairs in it. Unless one of you would like it.  

what a lovely offer! Glad to hear the sheltie fibre will get used in some way- we just had a community groom and spinalong in our local park yesterday- it was a ton of fun and we might have to make it an annual spring event!
we found that great Pyrenees brushings was fantastic to spin- and everyone good a kick out of meeting a local Komondor who came by.
When i was writing common threads, my friend(and fibre yoda) insisted i NOT call her a fibre artist, though she is a spinner weaver  dyer knitter and more. She feels the label of artist is far too priveledged to describe skills of common work that (primarily) women around the world do as daily living. And I sit with that often- what it means that I essentially dabble in these skills. So all of this is preamble as a way of saying that, for the broadness of term and lessening of social politicizing I prefer fibreshed for title to fiber arts if I were to be voting! Once again, thanks Raven for all that you bring as a community catalyst.
I have been playing with nettles for fibre off and on for about 9 years now and continue to love and have deepening respect for this incredible plant.
Yes, the learning curve has been slower then I would like but i find i do pick up a bit more each year...
A few things i have learned:
After the retting process nettle stored for a year or more is easier to process off stalk( thr most time consuming part) then freshly harvested.
Nature retting- harvesting after rains or snows- is better done in colder drier places the n the damp coast climate where i live. This year was the first time harvesting in January provided good fibre and this year was way colder with snow which is odd for us. Coast Salish people tradtionally harvested here in October after first frost and that has worked well for me under usual seasonal conditions.
I have had good luck dew or water retting and find nettle retted with my flax will take slightly less time- flax in tub for 7 days with nettle pulled out day 5 as an example.
I have also learned i prefer to process my nettle when it is feeling slightly underretted, and then the fibres are longer and stronger when i card them compared to retting until they already feel silky- they break easier then.
I have had fantastic results in my fibre, but not yet with consistency or any sense of efficiency- what i am now trying to crack the code on.
Last year i read somwhere that in Norway they harvest nettle from stalks green in july- before seed is mature, and cook with woodash before pounding and spinning....
I tried this last summer but might have had too much ash in my water or cooked too long as the fiber even rinsed and neutralized with a slight vinegar bath still feels crunchy- i think i need to pound more yet. Generally i do prefer pulling fresh fibre off stalks as it is way faster then pulling off dry stalks so i am going to do another round of tests with this this year. And see if i have better luck getting to the spun fibre point with this method.

Other fun facts for processing:
Know that shady grown nettle has less bite then full sun nettle.
Look for yellow dock or plantain growing nearby to rub on any stings.
Harvest nettle, let it lay in the sun for several hours before stripping leaves and the hairs will have wilted = no sting!
Anyone with arthritic hands should love processing nettle- i have plants that have volunteered on my balcony in planters near where i hang my fibres to dry and often run my hands over the leaves to relieve joint pain... My husband is mildly concerned that the plants are getting bigger- not the best small balcony plant to be sure- i have promised i will trim them before company gets hurt!
4 years ago

have you ever spun flax with a spindle and distaff?

Hi Libbie, I teach new spinners on a spindle,  to start, and using the shorter fibres is always easiest... learning to draft is the tricky part! Spinning from the fold is my preferred way to spin longer line on a spindle, but I also use a "traveling distaff' sometimes- tying the root end of the fibre to a line that gets tied to my belt loop on back of pants, and then throwing the line over my non-dominant shoulder... this is a an easy way to be able to have fibre on hand for spinning and moving around- something I am sure clever and busy women would have done thousands of years ago! have you read Womens Work, the first 20,000 years? you would love it if not! One of my favourite books...
4 years ago
Thank you Judith for posting image and linking site- both things beyond my capacity from my phone...😕
4 years ago
I just went to an artists talk yesterday and am very inspired by this womans work! Anna Haywood-Jones has done a beautiful job of rigidly weaving samplers of 5 different fibres- linen, cotton, rayon, silk and wool each prepped for the dye bath in 3 ways~ no mordant, alum and ferrous. She did her warp and weft in repeating patterns with all of these and then pipped the sampler in the dye bath... The project was done in Nova Scotia, travelling around the province and noting the location plant species and date. The website is a fantastic resource and very inspiring! Google Anna Haywood-Jones tinctoria cartographies.
4 years ago