While in the midst of collective anxiety and the narrowing of our daily activities triggered by the global pandemic, I found comfort in the imagery of lepidoptera, that evolve during periods of cocooned gestation and slowly transform. As they emerge, at first their wings are still damp and crumpled and then in the right conditions, they begin to unfold and expand patterned anew.
I began the cut paper works “cocooning and metamorphosis” based on my drawings of butterflies and moths. The few pieces I did at first to still my mind evolved into a whole installation.
My hope for this strange time was that as we shifted from our hurried orbits that we might sit in the quiet and learn from it. In a largely extroverted world I felt that we might learn more about introversion and introspection as a source of strength and solace.
I came across a poem written over a hundred years ago by Grace Ramsay (née Kathleen O’Meara). While published in 1869, its message is still so pertinent and seemed to describe the particular moment we were experiencing.
And people stayed at home
And read books and listened
And rested and did exercises
And made art and played
And new ways of being
And then they stopped.
And listened deeper
Someone was praying
Someone was dancing
Someone met their own shadow
And people started thinking differently.
And people healed.
And in the absence of people who lived
In ignorant ways
Senseless and heartless,
The earth also began to heal.
The line “And listened deeper” resonates powerfully as it points to what we might find from deep listening.
The “cocooning and metamorphosis” works are hand screen prints of my drawings using small batch plant based ink. Day by day, the simple repeated action of hand screen printing and hand cutting this tactile and seemingly delicate, yet strong and resilient Japanese kozo paper offered a hopeful focus. Like repeating a mantra to stabilize and uplift the mind, this work said never lose hope. There is a time for quiet, restful awareness and there is a time for new ways of moving in the world.
I think also of a passage from Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis that I read over and over on a photocopy that was posted up on my sister’s cork board throughout my teens. Kazantzakis’ visceral and poignant description with its call to respect natural cycles is forever etched into my mind. Our relationship with ourselves, with each other, with nature, with the past and with the future is ultimately inseparable. Deep listening is central to our mutual healing and thriving.
“cocooning & metamorphosis” photo credit: Lauren Kolyn
Someone once told me that wearing my scarves was like getting a hug. That was meaningful to hear and especially pertinent to recall these days! A sense of the tactile, of knowing through the hands and body is my compass and cornerstone.
My collection is made by me & my two hands from the initial stages of sketching motifs, to creating small batch inks and dyes. Each piece is hand screen printed and hand dyed one at at time. It started from my curiosity and my sense of interconnection with nature.
Working with natural dyes is a unique commingling of the science and energy of plant life and and culture.
It brings us into relation with millennia of human practices that learned how to extract colourants from plants and the way that we bring nature into our lives.
*photo credit Tony Lanz Photography
One of my earliest and most popular designs is my anemone print. It’s a special motif to me as it was inspired by the flowers cut from my parent’s garden that I left to dry in a vase. After looking at their dried whimsical forms over the winter months I made a series of silhouetted drawings with ink on paper.
With the drawings I created a composition for a silk screen. Silk screens are basically a frame with a fine silk mesh where areas are blocked out. Where the mesh is left unblocked the ink can pass through to transfer the design to fibre or paper in the printing process.
My screens range from 12 x 16 – 25 x 36 IN. Each of my scarves is hand screen printed with multiple passes, (ranging on average from 4 – 8 times) with time to dry in between in order for the design to cover the length of the scarf.
*photo credit Arounna Khounnouraj
I make all my inks and dyes in small batches largely using materials I gather locally such as black walnut, sumac along with oak gall and pomegranate from Maiwa a wonderful Canadian supplier.
After the printing and dyeing comes the washing and ironing. And I have my mom to thank for many, many hours spent together ironing my scarves!
In celebration of Canada 150, I turned my attention to the plant symbols of the provinces and territories of Canada.
Plants tell so many stories about habitat, localities, migration, rooting and thriving. They are apt metaphors for thinking about the story of this place I call home, my country, my habitat, Canada.
I first created botanical drawings of the plants from each province and territory, then formed a wreath like composition. In a circle everything is linked and equally important.
The pieces are printed and dyed with extractions of the black walnut and sumac that I foraged locally on walks in Toronto and surrounds.
Working with plant based inks and dyes, in many ways, frames how I see and engage with the world around me.
Plant based sensibility is intrinsically connected to a sense of place.
Canada is vast. As I read about and and drew the plants of each province and territory, it gave me pause to wonder at the varied habitats, both cultural and natural.
5% of each Canada 150 scarf purchase will be donated to the Nature Conservancy of Canada for preservation of Canadian habitat.
My hand drawn botanical index: