Artists Sharon Kallis and Caitlin ffrench are animating the old tennis courts behind Aberthau House by turning them into garden beds with combined textile plant and food focus. Specifically flax for linen production alongside annual natural dye plants- many of which are also food crops such as Carrots ( tops are a natural fiber dye) and Amaranth- an ancient grain. We will also be developing a plant rotation plan for future years of flax, food and dye plants.
There is much awareness now regarding food security, and creating food oriented gardens in the city, but little or no awareness regarding “cloth security.” Most people do not know where their clothing comes from- some might read labels, and see “China” but if it is a linen shirt, there is a high probability that the fibre was actually grown in Canada- in Saskatchewan, then shipped to China for processing and even shipped again for cutting and sewing before its final trip to the store where it is purchased.
The environmental footprint of what we wear on our backs is huge.
The next step in greening our city is to think in a broader range what our garden beds may grow; and how companion plantings of cloth crops can be possible for increasing awareness of where our clothing comes from while increasing the skill base for self-sufficiency and creative expression in the process.
Early settlers in the province of British Columbia as far north as Bella Coola routinely grew a small patch of flax for their linen bed sheets and underclothes. Garden plots needed to serve more than just the purpose of food production, but would also grow cloth crops and fibre dyes.
As well as working with Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, our partners in this project include the Greater Vancouver Weavers and Spinners Guild, the Vancouver Guild of Fibre Arts and the Discovery Café at the Jericho Hostel run by North Shore Culinary school.
We are inviting various artists from different disciplines and backgrounds to work with us on the site including:
Squamish Nation artist/weaver Tracy Williams
contemporary dancer Mirae Rosner
executive chef Karen Barnaby
Welsh wheat weaver Brian Jones
All of these relationships are brought together through Aberthau: flax=fibre=+food; placing this multi-purpose garden at the centre of a creative and community hub for investigating and animating the crops that we grow at Aberthau and open doors to new creative possibilities in urban agricultural thinking.
Our process will include various workshops throughout 2013 in the growth and processing of fibre plants for use with the intention of using as much as possible that is produced, leaving as little as possible for composting. Follow us for regular updates on workshops as events get planned.
A huge thank you to Vancouver Park Board Jericho works yard and plant nursery green house gardeners for assisting us with beginning this initiative, as well as to the Vancouver Park Board Neighbourhood Matching Fund and Aberthau Community Association and eARThand gleaners society.