Hom • ing

A personal investigation of object and artifact and its role in connecting to home and place.

There is a point to a design practice, when I think we all establish a boundary of how much we share of ourselves and our lives. Yet it is those very experiences, the ones where we become vulnerable to life, that make us strong designers. Whether that vulnerability it is to others, to ourselves, or to the ethereal workings of thought, that openness gives ways to a  greater understanding of the world around us.

My brother has long suffered with addiction and mental health issues, and during an attempted visit at the beginning of this year, I ended up needing to take him the the hospital. This was his second time he needed hospitalization in three days. I witnessed active prejudice and stigma against him, and the treatment he received was rough and un-compassionate. I wasn’t able to gain access as a visitor, was having a difficult time getting information from staff, and was trying to find a way to bring him some peace and get him to stay where he was safe.

My brother is an avid bird-watcher and so I thought that bringing him a book of birds would ease some of his anxiety and he would also know I was thinking of him. Sadly, they never gave him the book and he was later transferred to a hospital in Victoria without informing me. I took the book back from the hospital, now with a stamp of the stigma and poor treatment of a vulnerable person I loved. My attempt of a small comfort was now labeled “patient transferred, unknown sender” in a brown paper bag. 

I returned to my studio and began to dismantle the book. Carefully, deliberately removing bindings and glue, I took each page apart until I was surrounded by sheets of birds. The act of dismantling to begin again with something new, to redefine the object, and to exert some energy and emotions.

I began to fold the pages into birds, initially as an act of helplessness, then meditation, and as time went on, a series of small blessings for my brother to find his way home safely. The act of making became a form of healing and processing my emotions. It was a form of communication both to myself and to my brother.   

I was reminded of the pigeons I used to watch from my balcony in Sweden. Grey iridescence, they moved through the sky, circling back and forth, back and forth until the found their way home. In a situation that felt out of my hands, each little pigeon I folded became a blessing for my brother, sick and lost within himself, to find his own way too.

It was within this act of making, these small transformations of shapes before me, that I began to realize that in my attempt to connect artifact to home, I had begun a conversation with the materials before me. That the act of making had become multifaceted. It had become an act of meditation, of conjuring up past memories, and as a way to connect both to myself and to my brother. There was a heightened significance to my material, and this connection, this communication was what gave this act meaning. 

What began as an investigation of object and artifact and its role in connecting to home and place gradually developed into something much more. As a designer and artist, I took the act of something painful and personal and put my energy into the materials and act of making. It became a source of healing. By placing significance on the object and the act of care that was deemed insignificant by the healthcare system, I was able to process some pain and helplessness that I felt in the experience of being a sibling of someone with addiction navigating help and support.

Final Letter to Self

For this reflection, I decided it best to speak candidly by recording myself. For the past 8 years I have captured bits of audio from my life’s journey. I also have recordings of me talking at various important / confusing / heartwrenching times of my life. I use this method as a way to freely speak of my thoughts.

So when I sat down to type my future letter to myself, I quickly navigated instead to the audio form. I wanted to hear my voice say the things that may act as guidance in my practice, I wanted to revisit Angela, real voice Angela, telling me the things she knows and thinks now when I look back at this assignment.

11 | Mháthiar

Mháthiar – Mother in Irish Gaelic

I was born Angela Dione Narynski. When I was 20 I sought to change my name to honour my maternal ties.

At first I thought Angela Dione Noone, my mother’s maiden name, but that also was tied to the last name of her father. Then I thought Angela Dione Devlin, a name that honoured my grandmother’s maiden name, her father’s name.

I quickly realized that as a patriarchal society, as far back as I could go, I would only receive the last name of the father. I then decided to instead drop the patriarchal namesake, and became Angela Dione.

As a study of my maternal ties, I read aloud a poem of my mother’s and wrote a response

Trinity by Pat Narynski – read by Angela Dione
Mháthiar by Angela Dione

10 | Home | Studio

The concept of home studio during the pandemic takes on a layered meaning. For many of us in this cohort, “home” is something that we are creating in our current space of transit. For myself, I moved into my home last month, and am adjusting to returning to a country, grounding a space for my child, and creating a productive studio environment during an online program.

I often have my studio practice separate from my home life, and finding the balance of creative drive and focus in a space that also requires me to be a mother has been a practice of role shifting and intention making.

For this action, I wanted to look beyond my screen, and place myself away from my desk to share what I have created for myself beyond my computer. In this cyber context, we often see each other for what is behind us in our meeting space, but rarely can we share what we ourselves are looking at during these sessions.

1. A sketch of my pregnant body as I was growing Eve in my womb. Drawn by the artist Daniel J. Kirk, it highlights the vulnerability and strength of changing form. I have it in my creative space to acknowledgement what I am capable of.

2. An unsigned print that I found at a flea market in 2015. I wish I knew more about its history and often find myself getting lost in it.

3. A photo of me as a child when I was five-years old. I remember placing this photo of me in this frame when I was an older child as an act of self-care in a home environment that was riddled with stress and unhealed wounds. I keep this as a reminder of my resiliency and as a guide to my inner-child.

4. By artist Angelique Merasty. On the back, this text is written: “This authentic Cree Indian birch bark biting was created by Angelique Merasty of Denare, Saskatchewan. A specifically selected piece of birch bark is folded and the image is formed by gently biting the bark between the teeth. This was a traditional Indian art form but Angelique is the only person still practicing and the only person capable of such sophisticated imagery today. Her images drawn from around her, the bugs, ducks, flowers and all her fantasies reflect a close relationship to the earth and the keen eye of an artist.

5. A birch bark basket I made under the guidance of an Indigenous teacher in the Kootenays (2015). In this process you soak the birch bark overnight so it is malleable and create the form using strategic folding methods. It is then stitched together using narrow strips of bark and can be finished with a leather strap. This basket holds sage that I harvested with my daughter at Nose Hill park in Calgary, Alberta on the unceded territory of the Michif Piyii (Métis), Tsuu T’ina, Stoney, Ktunaxa and Blackfoot. I was taught how to gather sage under a Blackfoot elder during my undergraduate degree in Indigenous Studies and use this plant’s guidance to connect my mind and my heart.

6. My grandfather’s hat. In May 2014 I had the honour of being with him in Ireland when he died. It was my first presence with death and I was holding his hand and stroking his hair. I felt an energy leave his body and rush through my own in a cold and powerful wave. Unbeknownst to me, at the same time of this experience, my baby daughter woke up from her deep sleep a mile away and began to inconsolably cry like never before. My partner, unable to console her and becoming more concerned by this unfamiliar crying, put her in the car and rushed her to me. My grandfather was a carpenter and an incredible person. I keep this hat close to me as a inspiration of strength, purpose and faith.

7. Leaves found in Slottsskogen, a forest located in the middle of Gothenburg, Sweden. They had survived the winter winds and had started decomposing while still regaining their form. I think they are very beautiful.

8. Sketch of my daughter drawn by artist Daniel J. Kirk from an image I took when her and I were on a trip to Montreal. She is an important guide and beacon for me in all my decisions of life.

9. Small but important contribution that Eve did in my space with a series of coloured stickers. The only real pop of colour on my wall.

10. Behind these many coffee mugs are two important objects for me. One is a wooden box I was gifted when I was 9-years old by an elderly Polish couple that I had befriended in Selkirk, Manitoba. These two people showed me my first experience of unconditional love and were a cornerstone to me building that type of relationship in my world. It is filled with treasures from both my childhood and adult life, and was the only thing that survived a massive theft of all my belongings in 2012. Under it is a white moleskin journal that contains writings of July 2019; a recording of a Rose Dieta with the plant medicine Ayahuasca, and the final days before my dad’s passing.

11. I had the opportunity to share space with Elham, Melanie and Meghna this past Monday and was taught embroidery. I am currently working on a small project where I embroider leaves using the colours found on the arbutus tree from Action 9.

12. A piece of furniture I made in 2013 while I was pregnant with Eve. Made out of Black American Walnut, I titled it Grandmother’s Desk as a homage to my matriarch lineage and as a reverence to a life that can create something to be passed down. Contains a hidden drawer big enough for a letter.

9 | Connection

A walk. 

A lost connection.

And as I embark on a study of nature immersion and 
design, I am reminded of how removed I may be and 
that the first steps need to be a retracing of a 
path. 

I begin to walk.

I speak of my design practice as one that embarks on
connection with nature, in advocacy for children, 
yet I am feeling the loss of connection with others,
and have strayed from my inner child in the 
responsibilities of the everyday. 

I went on a walk and I came upon a tree. 

She was beautiful. An arbutus with her bark smooth
and hard, and the warmth of orange against the 
greens and browns of the forest. At first I stood in
front of her, taking in how she had fallen once, her
trunk parallel with the earth and soil beneath her. 
From this trunk, saplings now grew, children that 
rose to the sky in small towers of bud, leaf and 
branch. 

I sat beside her. 

And taking in the words of Louise St. Pierre in her
writings from Design and Nature: A Partnership, in 
the guidance of an elder before her, 

I spoke to the tree.

At first shy and awkward, as if I was sitting
beside someone waiting for the first word to be 
spoken. 

Who will break the silence?

And then I realized that the conversation had 
already begun. That though our pulses may differ,
the space had been made to communicate together. 
She had already starting listening to my thoughts
and we spoke back and forth.  

I began to notice things about her.
 
That there were marks upon her trunk, pockets where 
branches had begun and left long ago. That another 
arbutus has risen and dropped behind her and their 
leaves had met and now rustled in the wind. That her
red bark fell off like ribbons.

I lay down beside her. 

And took this moment to appreciate how in this time
and space, I can be laying down safe beside a tree 
in a woods, in a country I know, living and 
breathing in this world. 

I began to notice other sounds around me. 

A crackling of a twig in the distance made my eyes 
sharp for a moment. Birds above and a plane hidden 
in the clouds all contributed to the sounds of the 
forest. She heard them too.

I knelt before her. 

Thanking her for the time we spent together. 
The connection shared. My knees damp against the 
moss. I knelt there until I began to feel the 
vibrations of the earth below me, charging my 
ankles, my shins and passing up and through my body.

As I rose to leave, I noticed that a branch on one
of her young saplings had been snapped and left 
dangling, its green heartwood hanging on by a strip
of bark. She told me I could take it and so I did,
spending a moment of contemplation in this task. 

I walked in the forest today. 

At first empty handed and alone, I left the forest 
with a branch of arbutus in my hand and a new 
connection. I sit here now looking at the branch in 
a glass jar full of water. I am a foster parent that
does not know how to raise a tree. 

I begin to research:

how to grow an arbutus tree from a branch and have
learned that the arbutus are dying on these islands
and that they are notoriously difficult to raise 
from seed or sapling. 

I need guidance,

and start by emailing the Botanical Garden at UBC in
the Faculty of Science. More connection.

And so it continues; 

this ‘action’, this ‘practice’, whatever word that 
may be attached to a person exploring something that
makes their heart and mind latch onto the 
possibilities of something bigger than themselves. 
To be continued.

-AD

8 | Relations | Object | Materialization

Narrative | Creation | Relationship

As my practice evolves within the landscape of ECUAD, I have begun to investigate the relationship that I have as a designer with the environment around me. Now based on the west coast of Canada, my practice is becoming informed by nature immersion and our *often* non-symbiotic relationship with this. It made me want to dig deeper into the subject of relations.

For this action, I have gone a step further with my materialization in ‘Wunder Kammer’. I began to look at all these objects, and see that they each can be tied to each other in narrative and relations. To highlight this I have chosen two and examined the relationship they can have with one another.

For one object, I chose a paving stone from Gothenburg, Sweden that I brought home with me to Canada. These are the stones that line the streets and I chose this stone from a pile that I found in my first home in Majorna.

The second object(s) I chose were stones that I found while hiking with my daughter on Salt Spring Island. I used the Swedish paving stone to crush these stones, and created a paint out of this dust. For audio I used a recording I had made at the tram stop at Stigbergstorget on my way to school at Högskolan för Design och Konsthantverk – The Academy of Design and Craft at the University of Gothenburg.

Two things, when working together, can become one. This action create something new. You can look at this action in the perspective of breaking something down, or building something new. It can also be both simultaneously. As a designer, I also go through the process of breaking down barriers | boundaries | ways of thinking, and building pathways | systems | new ways of thinking.

7 | Wunder Kammer | Object and Narrative

Object Classification | Narrative | Living Memory

Object classification has been a emotional point of reflection for me since 2012, when everything I owned, a full home of belongings was stolen from me during a cross-country move.

Trying to start anew, I was left with my leather jacket, a small backpack of belongings, and my Canadian passport. Everything else entered into the abyss. Photographs, clothing, furniture, everything that a 2 bedroom house contains, gone in an instant. No insurance, no support from the provincial or federal RCMP. Just the end of an era and a goodbye to an old life.

When I returned to Canada from Sweden in 2020 and was granted access to boxes of items I have collected from that point on, it gave a heavy sense of reflection on what power these objects hold for me. I know the reality that they too could be gone in a instant. That a clear blunt sweep of identity infused ownership of the objects around us can be lost.

For this photo series, I gathered together some things that hold meaning to me, and that inform my practice. I gathered living entities from the land around me, some ceramics I had made in the past, and other work I have made along the way.

  • How can these objects inform my practice?
  • How does the act of identifying current materialization around me transfer into future materializations for my work?

By photographing these objects, I started to identify the commonalities and relationships that they each held to one another. I was the common denominator, the connector to them with the role of documenting, but within the framework of these images, lay other narratives as well. Some heavy with sentiment, others light and free, this collection began to take on its own living presence in my new life on the west coast of Canada.

A paving stone taken from Gothenburg streets becomes a memory of a home in Majorna. A model of a credenza becomes my daughter’s full scale children’s library, made in mahogany as a memory to my woodworking Irish grandfather. A small wooden toy becomes my memory of learning Slöjd at Nääs.

As I attribute memories to these objects, although now I am able to grasp them, hold them and feel their weight in the present form, I am again reminded of the things that were taken from me during my time in Calgary and Montreal many years ago. Both in relationship and move.; trust, security, identity, and faith.

And yet, a silver lining. A lesson hidden among the clouds of pain. That memories survive. That my mind has the capacity and gift of recall, and I, in turn, have the power of narrative within that realm.

I chose these objects because they inform my practice as a Child Culture Designer and as an artist. But more than that, these inform me as a person. They attach to my history and my gift of seeing beauty around me. This, the gift of object. This, the gift of narrative.

There are objects not pictured here, although they hold huge significance to me. Because one of the lessons I learned was to hold the things that are important to me and so dear, close to me. That it is not my task as a designer, woman or human to share at my full capacity. That there are some things private and beautiful to be only shared with a chosen few. A lesson on capacity, starting again, and the strength of memory over material possession.

6 | Mushroom Garden

Nature Immersion | Child-led Play | Communication

Bruno Latour speaks volumes on the relationship between the human and non-human, but fails to represent the cross-relationship between the human and living non-human as represented by nature.

Lucy Jones in ‘Losing Eden’ delves into this relationship, and highlights the importance it has for human wellness. In her book, she states that today we live in a world disconnected by nature, and yet our very existence relies on it. Nature remains engrained in our heritage, our identity, and our holistic well-being. So why is nature appreciation and immersion not in the forefront of our minds when educating our children?

The term ‘extinction of experience’ coined by American author, ecologist and lepidopterist Robert Pyle highlights the importance of nature for children on a monumental scale. He argues that as fewer children learn from the nature around them, they in turn become parents that are unable to teach the next generation and this generation will have an even more removed relationship from the natural world. This ‘premise involves a cycle of dissatisfaction and loss that begins with the extinction of hitherto common species, events, and flavours in our own immediate surrounds; this loss leads to ignorance of variety and nuance, thence to alienation, apathy, an absence of caring, and ultimately to further extinction.’ (Pyle)

My daughter was born in a dense urban setting, our home placed metres away from an active train line that ran every 10 minutes. As she grew into her first year of life, one of her main activities was climbing onto the chair placed at the window so she could watch the train go by. Vibrations, sound pollution, and the urban crime that was a continual occurrence prompted us to move away from this home when she was 3-years-old. Years after, with many moves in between, we are now situated on the West Coast of Canada on an island named Salt Spring. She attends a school placed on 55 acres of forested land, and her days are filled with moss, mushroom hunts and a creek.

As designers, I feel we often lose hindsight of the design capabilities that children have. This lack of awareness is a detriment to our practices and limits the inspirations that can be found in our interactions with all groups of people. As I specifically focus on the theory of children as co-designers, I am reminded of Zach Camozzi’s work in his thesis “When Nature Hacks Design’ and the concept of Earthbond Prototyping; when nature is a co-designer in the process. ‘Mushroom Garden’, a 100% child-led initiative also includes Earthbond Prototyping in its narrative. In addition it is an excellent example of how children are designers.