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Archive for the ‘Green’ Category

I recently learned about an artist who uses unique techniques and processes to create beautiful artworks. Tim Knowles is a UK artist who uses natural phenomenon like wind and terrain to create sketches and media installations.

“Tree Drawing – Hawthorn on Easel” by Tim Knowles

Myself, I have always been inspired by the idea of contact and touching; touching an item or standing in a place that someone else had touched or stood – I feel like that can give a powerful connection through time and space. It’s why I took the in-progress pieces of my Rainbow Warrior quilt to the Rainbow Warrior memorial in Matauri Bay and her masts in Dargaville. To know that my quilt – inspired by that ship, her crew and what she represents – has actually touched parts of the ship herself, has been out in the sunshine, sea air and
waving grass, makes the quilt all the more special to me. It feels imbued with the spirit of those places.

Largely through my studies at university the idea of agency has really taken hold inside me, as well. In humanities we use “agency” to describe the ability to act (independently), and you could say, to exert power; it’s the opposite of inert passivity. In particular the realisation that human animals are not the only ones who have agency really changed the way I think about many things. Nonhuman animals obviously (to me) have agency; a bird may choose
where to fly, what to eat, when to return home, how to react to situations she encounters. But it was also a realisation to me to think about the agency of other living things on the planet, like trees. A trees responds to the sun, to water and some have even been shown to “communicate” and share information about predators, etc.

The work of Tim Knowles’ that I have read about online really taps into this part of me that is aware of the world outside human control. (This is not to say that we cannot control it – we can and do. But when left alone, many other beings in the world are allowed to exert their own agency). Tim’s past works have included his “Windwalks”, drawings made by attaching a sail/windvane-like apparatus to his head and going for walks through early-morning London directed only by the changing winds and breezes. Afterwards GPS tracking was used to plot these journeys as prints that Colby Chamberlain describes as “a Surrealist experiment in automatic drawing”.

Tim Knowles’ “Windwalks – Five Walks From Charing Cross”

I really like the way Gabrielle Hoad describes Tim’s unique approach to his art

In the past, Tim Knowles has been a hands-off artist, setting in motion unpredictable mark-making processes. He’s allowed everything from helium balloons and trees to postal packages and cars to drawn their own movements: “making the invisible visible” as he puts it. There’s much to be said for John Cage’s view that the world is more fascinating when we let it be itself.

On Tim’s website there are images from many of his exhibitions, all with mysterious and exciting names like “Full Moon Reflections” (photographs of reflections of the full moon on different bodies of non-still water), “Windwalks” (prints delineating wind-directed walks as described above) and “Nightwalks” (photographs taken with a very long exposure as the artist walks away from the camera through the landscape carrying powerful torches which illuminate his path). What amazing ways of encountering the world and, in case of the walks, of portraying an individual’s attempt to literally make one’s way.

I found each of these ideas really exciting but the works which really drew me to Tim as an artist were his Tree Drawings – drawings not of trees, but by trees. In Cabinet magazine, Tim explains his execution of the prints:

I attach artists’ sketching pens to their branches and then place sheets of paper in such a way that the trees’ natural motions—as well as their moments of stillness—are recorded. Like signatures, each drawing reveals something about the different qualities and characteristics of the various trees as they sway in the breeze: the relaxed, fluid line of an oak; the delicate, tentative touch of a larch; a hawthorn’s stiff, slightly neurotic scratches.

I love the appreciation Tim has of the characteristics of each different tree. This appreciation really comes through in how the reality of their unique individuality is present in each artwork. Although Tim Knowles is the artist his role here is as a fascilitator for the expression of the wind and the branches.

I’ve never been to a Tim Knowles exhibition but I’ve seen online that each piece is presented as a “diptych” (a fancy way of saying two pieces of artwork together), the drawing itself together with a photograph of it being created. He even used a video of the work being created in one of his exhibitions, projected onto the wall next to the print itself. There’s a great video from MassArt (Massachusetts College of Art and Design) which has Tim Knowles talking about both the process of creating the Tree Drawings and the method of exhibition – watch it on YouTube. In the same article as above, Tim states

Process is key to my work, so each Tree Drawing is accompanied by a photograph or video documenting the location and manner of its creation.

I really think this is inspired. For me it presents two ways of seeing a single moment in time and forms a connection between different ways of experiencing. The author of a Saatchi Gallery online editorial sees in Tim’s Tree Drawings the accomplishment of a long-held goal in English artistic tradition. Of Tree Drawing – Scots Pine, Buttermere Shore #1 (2005), it notes

Given its Cumbrian context, the unforced lyricism of Knowles’s approach stands in ironic historical juxtaposition to the plein-air labours of English landscape painters, who for centuries have strived to capture the agitation of a swaying tree. Knowles achieves their long-held ambition by the simple fact of enabling the tree to record its own unrest.

The idea of “enabling” a tree is a beautiful one. I really adore the resulting works Tim has created. While these are my favourite of his pieces so far, it is fascinating to read about the ways in which he has created many other works with the use of all sorts of natural and human-made phenomena. I urge you to visit Tim’s site and look through his various artworks. For me the image of a tree drawing on an easel in particular is a very powerful one.

And if I ever get the chance to visit an exhibition of his, I shall jump at it.

“Oak on Easel #1” by Tim Knowles

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At the beginning of this month there was a really interesting incident in NZ-US relations in Hawaii.

NZ Navy frigate Te Kaha and tanker Endeavour

In light of the June 19 Washington Declaration signed by the two countries and the first significant joint training exercises between the United States and New Zealand military in decades, New Zealand was invited to join RIMPAC, (Rim of the Pacific exercise, the largest maritime warfare exercise in the world) for the first time in 28 years. However on arrival in Honolulu the NZ ships, Te Kaha and Endeavour, were the only ships not allowed to enter the military port of Pearl Harbour and instead had to dock at the nearby commercial port. The reason for this is NZ’s anti-nuclear stance, in that the U.S. doesn’t like it.

The Riverman has a really good post explaining the history of this disagreement.

In 1985*, citing its nuclear-free policy, New Zealand denied port access to the American destroyer Buchanan because the Navy would neither confirm nor deny that the ship was nuclear armed.

In response, the US banned all NZ military vessels from its ports and “ended most bilateral activites”. So the US doesn’t respect NZ’s anti-nuclear policies and basically threw its toys. Now, almost three decades later the Japanese who directly attacked Pearl Harbour in the Second World War and the Russians, also enemies of the US during the Cold War, are welcomed into Pearl Harbour. The Kiwis, allies of the US in two World Wars, having served in the US’s war in Afghanistan, currently taking a “how high?” attitude in regard to the (NZ resident) Kim Dotcom case and continually striving for ever-closer trade agreements with the US, are banned.

Srsly?

Like a slightly incredulous article on Celsias points out, apparently worse than bombing and attacking them, the US cannot forgive a country who holds a different opinion to theirs on nuclear weapons.

apparently it takes a lot more than that to ever make up for expressing your own views in the foreign policy area on nuclear weapons.

Although according to Riverman, altogether 22 nations, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are taking part in RIMPAC 2012, New Zealand is the only country not allowed to dock in Pearl Harbour. As Riverman puts it, it is

A case of the Kiwis having their meals in the kitchen, not out in the dining room with the Ruskies and others.

NZ warships near Aloha Towers, in the tourist part of the port of Honolulu

True, apparently US military ships aren’t allowed to enter NZ ports either, but this is because they refuse to say whether or not they carry nuclear weapons, which is against our “policy” (read beliefs, ethics) as a nation. A One News article reports Defense Minister Jonathan Coleman as saying

New Zealand was not prepared to change its policy and so had not expected the US to change its policy.

I think that’s really big of NZ, because I feel that we really have  a right to refuse access to ships carrying nuclear material into our own country, whereas the US is just kind of sulking.

Now I don’t feel too strongly in favour of the military in principle, but I do like seeing reports of the NZ military taking peacekeeping or reconstruction roles in conflicts. It seems weird caring so much about what is essentially military politics but I think the anti-nuclear issue goes close to the heart of who NZ is, or at least who I want us to be. Tracy Watkins reminds us that

It was US bullying that hardened New Zealand attitudes over the nuclear-free legislation in the first place, after all. Kiwis instinctively rebelled against the notion the US could tell them what to do.

In a strange way I feel a kind of perverse pride at our ships being excluded from Pearl Harbour. Yeah, that’s right – New Zealand! Nuclear Free! It’s what the people of NZ fought for the ’70s and 80’s and what we continue to believe in.

1976 anti-nuclear protest in Auckland; from the Dominion Post site on Stuff.co.nz

That’s not to say that we can rest on our laurels. We cannot depend on prime minister John “I’d-do-anything-for-money” Key and his cabinet to uphold this important part of our national identity. As a recent article in the Dominion Post points out it takes continual dedication to remain a world leader in disarmament and arms control and to maintain our anti-nuclear credentials. The article describes how last year  the separate portfolio of Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control was discarded by the government after the retirement of the last minister Georgina te Heuheu.

The move to disestablish the disarmament minister is inconsistent with the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act of 1987, which promotes and encourages our “active and effective contribution to the essential process of disarmament and international arms control”.

Who knew? No one, really. These days as a country our “green” policies are being threatened and overruled at such a rate by a government obsessed with economic growth at the cost of almost all else, particularly social and environmental policy, that it’s hard to keep up with it all. We should probably be more up-in-(no)arms like we used to be.

However

Please don’t judge us by our pathetic, grovelling prime minister. You want to be on the side that condones nuclear warfare? That’s your issue. But I’m proud to be on the side that’s snubbed by a global superpower for wanting peace.

All I can say is:

Photograph by anti-nuclear protest photographer Gil Hanly; from the NZ Maritime Museum website

[*Note that 1985 was the same year that the French government blew up the Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour for its continuous protests against their nuclear testing in the Pacific.]

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I think this is a really cool election poster. The wordplay on “richer”, the cute (Maori?) kid in the green shirt, the idyllic but not tourist-y natural green setting.

Well played.

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Today I read about quite a cool new initiative called Unconsumption.

As Chappell noted on Etsy: these days “we are overly branded” – we live in a branded world! So Rob Walker, author of Buying In: The Secret Diary Between What We Buy and Who We Are, has been looking at our addiction to brands and how this could be used to work for sustainability, without churning out more things for people to buy. In the same Etsy article, Chappell quotes an interview with Walker:

Branding has been one of my main subjects as a journalist, and for a few years I’ve pondered if there’s a way to borrow some of the tools of brand-making to advance an idea, but without actually creating products.

On the Unconsumption tumblr homepage is a quote from Allison Arieff

Making sustainability a trend has minimized its relevance and stymied its progress. Climate change, declining resources, peak oil — these aren’t passing fads. “Green is the new black,” “eco-chic,” “eco-fabulous,” … All that marketing-speak has done little for sustainability except validate old behaviors. It’s a notion that you can go green by buying more stuff.

Controversial? Yes! But true? I would say absolutely. We take along a flimsy designer “reusable” bag to put all our pre-packaged purchases in to alleviate our guilt about all the stuff we get all the time. It’s an ongoing challenge for all of us to walk the walk in terms of making real changes towards less consuming in our lives.

One solution that Rob Walker came up with was to found Unconsumption and develop a logo (designed by Clifton Burt) which can be used to rebrand reused and repurposed items instead of simply buying new ones to replace them. From Chappell’s article,

In exploring how to build excitement around repurposing our old belongings, Walker realized that, for now, branding is the way we add value to our objects. In other words, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

The result is the cute Ms. (or Mr.) Cart, a wee upside-down shopping cart who is empty and happy.

(She’s saying, “Look, no stuff!”)

Unconsumption encourages you to borrow, use and even remix this logo and use it to rebrand existing (noncommercial) products which you use or reuse instead of buying new ones.

Something inside me is repulsed by the blatant greed and consumer mentality of brands, but I like the way that this appropriates the function of branding while at the same time it emphasises the rejection of the fundamental concept behind capalist brands. Ms. Cart is the new “I’m a paper bag”. It’s showing people that you’re not wearing this shirt from the op-shop because you’re too poor or lazy to buy new flashy clothes, you’re wearing because it’s a good shirt, and you’re deliberately not buying new stuff at every opportunity.

by Diane Gilleland from 'the Uncollection'

On the Unconsumption page titled ‘Why “Feeling Like Part of the Solution” Matters’, the author describes listening to a radio show called “Climate change and behavioral change: What Will It Take?”

One of the ways in which people cope with what they could well believe is an apocalyptic threat, and maybe that will be the reality, is that they want to do something about it, they need to do something about it. And I think it’s terribly important that they take some kind of action. And that action might not have a direct spin-off in terms of reducing carbon emissions, but it’s psychologically very important. It’s motivating, validating and they can feel they are part of the solution as well as part of the problem, so it’s a very important way of coping with climate change.

 I think that this is really true and it’s easy for us to scoff and say “oh, that’s just a way for middle-class capitalists to ease their guilt…” but I think the point is that even if you’re just doing it to feel better – at least you’re doing it. We want to train ourselves to feel good about anything that lessens the harm we do to the environment. We want to normalise the idea of conserving, reusing, utilising things, and understand that endless consumption is unnatural, abnormal and totally unsustainable.

By Chelsea Conway (from the 'Unconsumption' Facebook page)

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fleurs de printemps

Yesterday was a great day: it was a public holiday, the All Blacks had won the World Cup, it was warm, sunny and I went for a walk. 

Blossoms. They are spring. On a sunny day, they just look so delightful and fun, like they’re giggling. And they’re so ridiculously frilly. I feel like they should be a little bit embarrassed to be so over-the-top frilly and poofy.

I love trees. I love trees and I love leaves. I love sunlight shining through them. I love the shadows it makes on the surface of the leaves and on the grass, and the way they play as the wind moves them.

Then you turn your face up and let the pillow of light feathers touch your skin, and it almost feels like nothing. It’s soft, but cool.

A single blossom looks so different to an entire branch or a whole tree. Their beauty is different.

Sun + Leaves = Happy

Blossoms = Spring

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I was flicking through channels tonight and found a show on TV called Big Ideas for a Small Planet. As a show about sustainable/eco-friendly living I thought it was quite cool ‘cos it showcased designers and companies who actually utilise environmentall-friendly practises in their businesses every day.
 
One of the companies featured was Rerun Productions, a small business that makes lamps out of salvaged and repurposed materials. I say “one of the companies” but what was really featured was not the company but the Bewley family, who came across as a very friendly, close, “normal” family. Except that I guess most “normal” families don’t go into business together designing and selling eco-friendly art, do they?
 
Old propane tank
The show followed one of the men (sorry, have forgotten names!) as he visited various places to salvage materials like discarded wine bottles, brake rotors, propane tanks and computer parts. From these unlikely beginnings come stunning works of art that also serve a function in buyers’ homes. So much design, work and resources go into creating something like a break rotor or a propane tank, and it makes no sense at all to just discard them when they get old or something better comes along. There’s beauty there, and the Bewleys can see it.
 
Below is one of their designs made from the curved top and bottom of a propane tank, welded together after the middle section was removed.
Excalibur lamp - Bewleys Rerun Productions

'Excalibur lamp' (aka Propane lamp) from Bewleys Rerun Productions

The show also showed mum Bewley (Jan) making the eco-friendly lamp shades which looked like a very fun (read: messy) process. According to the company’s website

Our lamps and furnishings are around 80% recycled, being comprised of salvaged materials , including brake rotors, guitar strings, piano strings, computer parts, propane tanks, reclaimed woods, and just about any other usable scrap parts.

I can’t see any prices in the website’s gallery, but on the TV show they said pieces cost around US$150-800. That’s a lot, but these are both pieces of art and quality household objects which will be the antiques of the future. I say, if you’ve got the money and are looking to decorate your home with nondisposable furniture, then this’d be a great way to spend it!

Recycled Wine Bottle Chandelier from Bewleys Rerun Productions

'Recycled Wine Bottle Chandelier' from Bewleys Rerun Productions

I’ve reserved a place in the entrance to my dream house for the Rcycled Wine Bottle Chandelier. Colours and light!

It looks like the 15min segment on Rerun Productions from Big Ideas for a Small Planet is featured on their website. Worth a watch just to see the raw selvaged materials transformed into stunning objects of want.

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Each year when the weather starts to get a bit chilly I usually spend a morning or afternoon making wheat bags. I’m really not one of those people who sews things (though that would be nice), but these are easy enough that even I can make them! Plus they’re extremely cheap to make. They’re basically a material bag filled with wheat, which you pop in the microwave for a few minutes with a mug of water and they get nice and warm. They’re great for warming chilly feet, bundling up with you in the car, laying over an aching neck or just cuddling in your lap while at the computer. This morning I decided to whip one up for bf, who stays up late using the computer and whose room can get rather chilly! I used left over bits and pieces to make it and didn’t really bother with measuring, just used an old one as a guide and away I went! It took about an hour and I don’t think it looks too bad J (Though perhaps not overly manly, heehee)

Just in case you feel cold or inspired, I wrote out some instructions so you can give it a go! (I know it looks long, but it’s truly really easy!

An’s Guide To: Making Wheatbags

 You’ll Need:

Heat-resistant, non-flammable material (e.g. calico)

Scissors that can cut material

Pins (I used patchwork safety-pins because I couldn’t find the sewing pins)

Wheat*

Something to sew with, either sewing machine or needle and thread

 *For a wheat bag about the size that I made, about 1-1.5kg of wheat would be good.

First of all you have to decide on the size and shape of your wheat bag. My favourite shape is a long rectangle in three segments, so I usually make this kind, however you can make lots of different shapes; square, star etc. (I remember once in the school holidays we each made a big frog.) In this wee guide I will show how to make a rectangle wheat bag. (Hover over or click the images to make them larger)

What To Do:

1) Start by measuring out the shape of the bag and cutting it out. (If you iron your material first this will be easier because it will be smoother and flatter, but you don’t have to). You will need to add 1-2cm seam allowance on any side which you will sew together. I cut out a large rectangle (about 55cm x 25cm) which I fold in half lengthways to make the bag, so one side of my bag will be a fold not a seam. You can do this also, or else cut out two identical pieces to sew together.

2) At this point you can add any little bits ‘n’ pieces you want to have on the Sewing a heart onoutside, like stitching a pattern or sewing someone’s name. I used a paper template made from a piece of scrap paper to cut three hearts out of red material and then sewed them onto the front (patterned) side of my bag material.  I placed them with a space between ready for when I divide the bag into 3 segments later, with extra space at the ends for the seams. If you add anything to the bag (you absolutely don’t have to, simple is cute!) remember it must also be non-flammable.

 

3) Right, now we’re ready to make the actual bag. Fold the material so that the pattern or front of the material is on the inside (if you have two pieces of material lay one face-up then place the other directly over the top, face-down.) Pin the sides in place. I also pinned my folded edge just to make sure it didn’t move. (See pic)

4) Now for the sewing. This is why these things are so easy to make – the only necessary sewing is big straight lines. Sew along all the (non-folded) sides except one of the shorter ends (this is where we will add the wheat). Backtrack a little around the corners/at the ends of the lines if you want to, to reinforce the stitching. At the short end which  you have left open, sew about ¼ of the way in from each corner, backtracking to reinforce the stitching so it doesn’t pull when you open the remaining hole to pour in the wheat.

5) Take your scissors and cut off the corners of your inside-out bag, making sure to stay a few mm’s away from the stitching (see pic). We cut off the corners so that when you turn your bag in the right way the seams won’t bunch up in the corners and make them round and hard. Next carefully turn your bag back in the right way through the hole you left in one end. Use something long and thin (like a pen, knitting needle or chopstick) to poke into each of the four corners and turn them inside-out properly. Hopefully you will get a nice sharp corner J Now you can start to see what your bag is going to look like ~ and now we can add the wheat!

6) It’s a good idea to measure the length of your bag into three even sections and mark them with a pin, pencil or chalk. This is where you will sew the dividing lines for each segment. I put my wheat into a big bowl and used a thin plastic (Star Wars) cup to scoop up the wheat and pour it into the bag.  After a couple of cupfuls close your fingers around where the line of stitching is going to be for Putting the wheat into the bagthe first segment (see pic on left) and shake the bag a little to see it’s shape. Don’t overful with the wheat, each of the 3 segments should probably be about 2/3-3/4 full. Remember that you want your 3 segments to be even, so make sure you have enough wheat for the other two. If you’re not sure, divide the wheat into 3 parts before beginning. Overfilling also makes it hard to sew the seam, which is what we can do next!

7) Find the pin or mark you made for the first segment and just sew along it right across the bag. Easy, right? This will stop the wheat all running to one end of the bag J Since the wheat is quite heavy you might need to support it with one hand if you’re using a sewing machine (see pic).   Make sure none of the wheat goes under the presser-foot to break the needle or jam the machine!

 

8 ) Now repeat steps 6 and 7 to make the second segment. For the third and last segment we add the wheat in the same way, but then need to sew close the hole through which we added the wheat. Just hold it closed with your fingers (do not sew over your fingers if using a sewing machine!) and sew a nice straight line across it a couple of times, close to the edge.

Ta-daa! That’s it! Now you have a nice wheat bag to keep you cosy in the winter, or to relax a sore neck or back.

 Wheat Bag safety information — spontaneous combustion, anyone?

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