SHIFT Canada began in October 2019 when five makers from Scotland travelled to meet five makers in Nova Scotia. During an initial ten-day period of meetings, creative exploration and critical review, five collaborative pairings emerged, plus an unexpected sixth pairing. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Canadian counterparts’ reciprocal visit to the Scottish Highlands in Spring 2020 was cancelled. However, makers embraced the challenge and moved their contact online to collaborate with very positive results.
- Visual artist Andrea Tsang Jackson, 3rd Story Workshop (Halifax, Nova Scotia) & weaver Cally Booker (Dundee)
- Jeweller Kiersten Holden-Ada, Fervour’s Own (Halifax, Nova Scotia) & artist Louise Barrington (Orkney)
- Jeweller Mengnan Qu (Nova Scotia) & ceramicist Susan O’Byrne (Glasgow)
- Weaver Jennifer Green (Halifax, Nova Scotia) & basketmaker Sarah Paramor (Applecross)
- Jeweller Rebecca Hannon (Nova Scotia) & ceramic artist Carol Sinclair (Angus)
Andrea Tsang Jackson, 3rd Story Workshop
Andrea Tsang Jackson of 3rd Story Workshop is a textile artist, quilt designer, author and educator. Her work takes the traditional craft medium of quilting and applies it to a contemporary context, often using bright hues and bold graphics. She abstracts intentionally accessible imagery, inviting points of connection from the viewer to spark discussion and inquiry. Clean and crisp, vibrant but not loud, Andrea’s work uses solid-coloured commercial fabrics although she is currently developing a complementary vocabulary around found textiles and hand-dyed and painted fabrics.
Andrea strives to push the limits of the quilting medium by exploring scale and dimension and moving traditionally domestic objects into the public realm. Her work often celebrates community and collaboration, and explores ideas of belonging. The rich history of quilting also heavily influences her practice; she sees it as an extension of community across time. The boundaries around folk art, fine craft and fine art are a continual source of enquiry in her practice as she operates within all of these areas.
‘Central to our exploration are the commonalities between our respective crafts, our personal identities and thoughts on sustainability, and our desire to push our art practices forward. By delving into these, we arrived at adding a third discipline to the project: animation. This third element has allowed us to exchange information in a digital manner and prioritize process over product. Without the disciplinary knowledge of animation, we were forced to navigate the unknown territory together. As collaborative partners, we, Cally and I are both motivated by questions of identity, community and belonging, coming as they do from families with a history of migration, and having established our own lives through relocation and ‘coming from away’. Our collaboration is centred on applying the new lens of animation to our work, enabling us to take the spatial framework of textile design and use it to explore narratives of identity and transformation in a temporal medium.’
Cally Booker is a handweaver based in Dundee and much of her inspiration is drawn from the city: from the grandeur of its waterfront setting to the details of quirky buildings and everyday living. In her handwoven collections she makes extensive use of multi-layered weaves using vibrant, naturally dyed and organic yarns. The interplay of different layers of colour gives her work its distinctive appeal.
Through experimentation with data and digital tools, Cally uses weave both to tell stories and to celebrate the structure of the cloth itself. Cally shares her enthusiasm for interlacement through the Weaving Space, a programme of weaving workshops held online and in her colour-filled studio. She is a member of the Society of Designer Craftsmen and a Past President of Complex Weavers.
‘Much of a weaver’s life is solitary, with long hours spent alone at the loom. To collaborate at all is to expand that identity, to allow myself to be challenged and changed. When I travelled to Nova Scotia in 2019, and first partnered with Andrea, I was expecting challenge and change. I wasn’t expecting them to be ushered in by a global pandemic. In lockdown, the collaboration with Andrea was a lifeline. I was working with hand-knotted pile, which is about as slow as a weaving process can be, and the rhythm was exactly suited to the circumstances of spring 2020. Connecting across the ocean to continue our ongoing conversation suddenly became as easy as connecting locally. Turning fabric into stop motion animation was something I would never have dreamt of doing by myself. It has given me a different perspective on the narratives embedded in woven cloth.’
Kiersten Holden-Ada, Fervour’s Own
Kiersten Holden-Ada is multidisciplinary settler artist and craftsperson (of Irish / Scottish / English descent) currently living in Kjiputktuk (Halifax, Nova Scotia). They studied at NSCAD University from 2002-2009 with a focus on ceramics, jewellery and sound art, and have been producing a line of jewellery under the name Fervour’s Own Jewellery since 2011. This work is a material exploration of multiplicity, experimentation and the blurring of binaries and Kiersten considers hand-making one facet of a committed embodiment practice. They also maintain slow engagement with movement, sound art, installation-based art practices, often working in close relationship with the body and the elements.
‘Participating in the SHIFT Residency & Exchange was a beautifully generative experience. Despite the residency aspect playing out differently than expected because of the pandemic, we found creative ways to maintain connection, nurture relationships, and collaborate creatively across distance. It was great to have the artists from Scotland here in the fall of 2019 to meet in-person and establish some collaborative foundations on which to build. Being paired with Louise, encouraged me to experiment with some new materials and processes, such as natural dying, and inspired some deeper research and explorations into ancestral making practices specific to place. The conversations and check-ins were great.’
The view from where Louise Barrington lives overlooks Scapa flow, it’s a continuous moving image, the flow of movement, rhythm and patterns from the changing season informs her artistic practice. She will always be informed by it as she is part of it. Writer Edwin Muir stated of his youth, in Orkney ’A place where there was no great distinction between ordinary and fabulous.’ This everyday ordinary / fabulous allows Louise to reimagine the vast landscapes of Orkney and the in between moment of dust, dawn and twilight, creating a restrained colour palette for her work. This in-between-ness resonates with the Japanese concept of Ma, Orkney is an edge environment that exists in the in-between spaces. Ma underpins this in her creative practice, it takes into consideration the space between two distinct markers of space and time. Observing the everyday, knowing and unknowingly we experience in our everyday ordinary / fabulous.
‘Over the residency we discussed ideas, interests and found a common ground where we both felt they could move our own creative practices forward. In-between-ness is a shared interest that within both our practices we explore, we are moving this forward using the environment we work in to inform the work. Gathering sounds and moving images from both Orkney and Halifax that interweave sound and everyday ephemeral moments, maximising the use of light, colour and shadows. Conversations with Kiersten have given a completely different perspective on her viewing landscapes, and it’s exciting to explore the possibilities and have an exchange of ideas. I would recommend an opportunity like this to anyone wanting to explore their creative practice. For me being remote on an island can have challenges in talking about my work or ideas, so to not only meet other makers from across Scotland there was the opportunity.’
Mengnan Qu presents three brooches and three pendants in the Meet Make Collaborate exhibition. The primary material in the works is Keraflex, a flexible porcelain tape made in Europe. With her project partner Susan O’Byrne, they developed a porcelain thread, which she used in the brooches. The idea of cultural collaboration reminds us of the Silk Road era. Porcelain is not a wealthy secret from the East today. Nowadays, we all can learn cultures, knowledge and techniques from each other in this new “silk road” era, over the ocean through the internet. These pendants include three significant elements, silk, tea and paper, to commemorate the traditional silk road and welcome the new silk road era.
‘In this residency programme, my partner Susan and I spent a lot of time on new material development. It is a flexible ceramic thread. Due to COVID19, although we could not work together during most of the project, Susan and I tried our best to meet online almost every week. We both created a deep partnership and friendship through this programme. Our collaboration was not limited to the technical level. We both liked to dig into a more profound cultural layer beyond the form of art. We both used this technique in our projects, and they turned out great. The residency was a cherished experience in my artist career.’
Susan O’Byrne specialises in the making of ceramic narrative animal forms, with a highly detailed collaged porcelain surface.
Her work not only acknowledges the extraordinary role occupied by the animal in the imagination – populating myth, children’s stories and cultural traditions throughout history – but also the ability of the metaphorical animal to embody, distil and reflect aspects of our own humanity.
The combined influences of a childhood obsession with making in papier-mâché, an interest in historic domestic craft, folk art and collage, have led Susan to develop a unique set of ceramic making processes aimed at articulating human sensitivity.
These techniques include building in thin sheets of paper-porcelain on a nichrome wire armature and collaging surfaces with veneers of porcelain sheets printed with detailed encaustic pattern. The surfaces of Susan’s work are inspired by traditional craft processes and have celebrated medieval floor tiles, Victorian wallpapers and eighteenth domestic needlepoint. Most recently the surfaces of her work have been inspired by ancient Egyptian stone carving and Chinese silk embroidery.
Originally from Canada, Jennifer Green is a graduate of London’s Royal College of Art. Specializing in woven textile design, she has designed for mills in Britain and Japan and collaborated on projects relating to fashion, vehicle design, footwear and accessories. In 2015, Jennifer moved to Antwerp, where she worked as a design assistant in the denim industry. Jennifer currently resides in Halifax, Nova Scotia where she is an Assistant Professor of Textiles at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Her research practice is cross-disciplinary and collaborative, working with local farms and businesses to revive a local flax industry in the Maritimes.
Applying heritage processes to unexpected materials, basketmaker Sarah Paramor creates playful contemporary pieces for exhibition and for the catwalk. Her award-winning work takes natural and man-made materials out of their everyday context and encourages us to see them afresh: the beauty of an Ordnance Survey map, the glinty, unbridled life of corsetry boning, the tweedy qualities of humble hairmoss. Sarah lives and works in Applecross on the west coast of Scotland.
Sarah trained on the two-year City Lit Basketry Course in London, commuting from the Scottish Highlands to learn her craft. She won prizes in the Worshipful Company of Basketmakers’ Basketry of the Year competition in 2017 and 2018, had work in Basketry: Function & Ornament (Ruthin Craft Centre, 2019) and was a Craft Scotland Compass Emerging Maker in 2019.
‘Shoes for Mary’ was inspired by Mary Campbell, who in 1803 left Applecross bound for Canada. She ‘took charge of the cows and with a sickle she reaped enough food for the three cows for the winter’. Later, she ‘drowned… She was crossing in a boat alone, taking a tub of butter to a shoemaker in payment for his work’.
For SHIFT, Sarah was paired with weaver Jennifer; in Halifax they explored ideas, form and materials (moss, bark, pinecones, plastic flowers…). A ‘lockdown residency’ in 2020 saw them folding paper and photos, plaiting and spinning moss, carving beeswax… They studied images of shoes in the V&A, exchanged photos and videos, discussed walking, Gaelic and looms… From this evolved ‘Shoes for Mary’: two makers, two pairs of shoes made on opposite sides of the ocean, celebrating a self-reliant woman who used her Highland skills to forge a fresh identity in Atlantic Canada.
Rebecca Hannon graduated from Rhode Island School of Design and then worked as a goldsmith for five years in New York City before attending the Akademie der Bildenden Kuenste in Munich, Germany on a Fulbright scholarship. Five years later she returned to North America and currently teaches, lectures and has her own studio.
Her work can be found in public and private collections internationally. In her work, she strives to create evocative objects that double as fine souvenirs. Place and time are documented through the process of making. A fleeting memory, a lost bauble or an everyday object are refashioned to create a small celebratory ornament.
‘The Bird of Passage collaboration began through Carol’s practice of taking photos of new places she had traveled to, followed by importing the digital images into Illustrator to pull out a limited number of color pixels to create color families. The colors she found in Halifax surprised me, so I asked her to photograph her landscape in Scotland, to experience virtually / digitally.
My collaborator sent me her Scottish photos which she called “drab” and I was able to find unexpected color families hiding within the pixels in the images. When I removed the original photo- a curated “Craft Color Chart” appeared scientific and exhibited a color family / or relationship I seldom see in the color theory classes I teach.
I have been interested in exploring new ways of working, integrating sustainable materials and processes in my work, and exploring identity as it relates to the place I live. The colors families seemed open, without history, and I saw them as a potential way to form connections with local makers.
A strategy for welcoming the unexpected into my practice was to reach out to local craftspeople, artists, technicians, and designers to see if the colors ~alone~ triggered a link to a process or material they use. My “Craft Color Chart” shows the color families grouped as extracted from individual photographs of Forfar, Scotland, and then the responses provided by makers in Halifax, Nova Scotia- intuitively responding to the colors. Sample responses to the colors, which in turn prompted me to learn new craft processes included avocado and lichen natural dye, Urushi laquer, and heat-treated steel.’
Carol Sinclair is a ceramic artist with more than 30 years experience of running her practice. She explores the theme of memory and it’s role in connecting us to one another and to our environment. Most recently she has been reconsidering the way she uses and processes materials to reduce her carbon footprint and use her work as a catalyst for discussions on responsible consumption.
For the SHIFT project she has combined her use of porcelain with the other materials from her home and studio to create a ‘closed loop’ approach in which as little as possible is wasted or has a minimal amount of extra energy used in its reformulation. She has recycled the paper from her clay processing, reconstituted clay waste to create a new biodegradable plastic, repurposed paint and ink, and reused the wooden feathers from her tests, leading to exciting new material options and areas for further research.
‘Collaboration is the perfect way to explore and extend ideas, and the discipline of a weekly Zoom exchange with my collaborator, Rebecca Hannon in Nova Scotia gave me a creative focus. Using the colours from our partners living and working environments as means of expressing identity, we each developed our own colour palette and began exploring materials and associated making techniques to achieve those colours. Together we created a set of human scale wings, based on the Siskin, a bird that lives in both countries. Each of the 59 component feathers per wing became a unit of research. Rebecca experimented with new techniques in metal, textile and ceramic fabrication, suggested by other makers. I began by developing a new colour spectrum in my usual medium, porcelain, and then experimented with a variety of waste materials from my home and studio to push the environmental responsibility of my practice.’