Don Blanche 2011

I just got back from an amazing artist residency called Don Blanche. If i had to describe the residency, I think it would be along the lines of an artist’s resort or retreat, since it is very much a rejuvenating and inspiring experience. Don, who owns the property, is a very talented and noble man who has dedicated his life and his practice to the reusing of materials and with what other people consider “trash” he makes the most amazing things. He has made such a beautiful space and invites artists to come and refresh their senses. Not only that but he gives them total freedom to create whatever they want! Not very many people like Don exist on this planet that’s for sure… which is a shame. It’s inspiring to meet others like Don and Swintak who have a deep sense of responsibility (as artists) for the wastes they produce, the way in which their work effects the world, and how we live in it.

I went to Don Blanche with no concrete ideas, however I knew wanted to do something with a sound element. I met another artist named Skye Louis who was also in the same head space as I. We got together and discussed some ideas, then split up to investigate the property and find a good spot to work with. I went through the whole forest without much jumping out at me, but on my way back to the barn I stumbled upon Skye who was standing underneath a group of apple trees. She certainly found a magical space to work with! We decided that one of our main guidelines to the installation was to only use materials found in the space our salvaged by Don. No new products our materials were bought or used during our project.

While Skye started hanging nails and making chimes, I started landscaping the area making it more inviting and safe for visitors. The more dead branches I pruned back, the more the space evolved and the landscape revealed itself to us. There was beautiful rock formations with green moss growing and deep fox holes. After I did the landscaping I joined Skye with making chimes and made dream catchers, or what I liked to call “worm-catchers” which acted as talismans on the trees. Skye had been sticking nails into apples which reminded me of the old English superstition of warding away the Evil Eye by sticking nails into pigs hearts or onions then through the process of binding, protect the space by hanging the talisman in the area.

[these illustrations are taken from the book The Evil Eye by Frederick Thomas Elworthy]

So I took Skye’s apples and bound them, concentrating on positive and protective thoughts, then combined them with the weave process of making dream catchers. I was really happy with the results. I hope to go back to Don Blanche to take a photo of the Worm-Catchers after the apple has decomposed.

For the final touch, I used all the pruned branches to make a fence and spread out hay on the ground to invite people to sit, camp, or nap in the space. Heather Mclean stopped by to help us too by making God’s Eyes and decorative weaves in the trees surrounding the area. Skye’s girlfriend came and visited us and helped by making candle holders out of cored apples. She also brought her thumb piano and played along with the chimes blowing in the wind. The sounds were truly beautiful!

Overall, I was very happy with our collaborative project which I feel not only created a intimate space to meditate and sit, but also replenished the area and revitalized the trees. Working with Skye was a breeze (pun intended!) and our creation of the “Wind Garden” seemed to please all of its guests. At the end of the week, someone by the name of Louis Flapperjack published a cute haiku about our installation in the Don Blanche newspaper:

hey, what’s that noise?
there be nails in those branches
sounds like groovy bliss.

Any thoughts?

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