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.

3 | Extending and Seeking

Nature Immersion | Presence | Communication

View this presentation for the full documentation of my forest walk with Chiara

Travelling back from Sweden to Canada, in the Autumn of 2020 brought a series of constraints to my design practice, but more than anything else, it gave a heightened sense of appreciation for the beautiful forests of Western Canada.

When working on this materialization, I partnered with Chiara Schmitt, a new-found friend and designer based in Germany. I wanted to somehow share with her my experience of Canada, and though she was not physically here, I chose to share Mount Douglas, a forest area located on Vancouver Island.

If there is one thing that Covid-19 has redefined for the world, is our concept of being ‘physically present’. Zoom meetings and social distancing are now well-known and well-used terms in the new-norm. Vancouver-based artist Matthew Vee states that Zoom gives people ‘super powers’, giving us the abilities to disappear, to connect from all corners of the world, to be muted or on centre stage at a button’s click. I wanted to test this idea of being physically present with Chiara, on my first outing since my quarantine release, through a different screen than the computer. Through the lens of a camera.

As I walked the forest bed, and smelled the earthy rich scents of the forest, Chiara was ‘present’ with me. I wanted to show her what I was seeing in my journey and explore the macro / micro versions of seeing.

Starting from a distance, I would photograph what was in front of me, and within further inspection from close-up, also document through photography what was revealed by being closer.

Children have a way of exploring the world in this way; a inspection and a studying of the intricate details around them, and I was inspired by this teaching as I walked the forest. All the while, Chiara was a part of this walk, with me in spirit and thought although not in physical form. I was trying to capture images I wanted her to see, almost as if I was pointing them out to her with my camera. A new way of seeing, a new way of being present, and a new way of being as we enter into the changes this world is encountering.

2 | Terroir | Receiving

Shankar shared with me a dining experience he had been craving while in Qatar.

Knowing that I was in Covid-19 quarantine for the next week, he made a dining experience that could easily be adjusted to the ingredients I had on-hand. While making this dish, he recommended The Origins (James Andrew Miller) podcast series about the movie ‘Almost Famous’. This inspired me to re-watch Almost Famous while eating this sandwich, and also influenced my presentation for this action.

Please click below for full presentation:

music | fever | stillwater

2 | Terroir | Sharing

For this action, I began by a snapshot of my life and exploring what food had been there along the way. Perogie, spelled in so many different ways, was one food that expanded itself into not only a dining experience, but an experience of family, of tradition, and at points, a helping held from the moments the life brings.

To encapsulate these feelings and emotions behind the process, I made a narrative and action exploration for Shankar to see; a little deeper into the life of a stranger and her favourite food: the perogie.

Please click below to view full narrative and description:

Materialization. Storytelling. Knowledge sharing. Often our process as child culture designers is to immerse ourselves in the concept of play, and to infuse play-based approach in our practice. But what when you make play into knowledge? What began, for me, as an exploration around heritage foods, turned into a narrative around the passing down of culture, and how food can begin a level of interaction with children.

For this examination, I worked with the creation of food with my daughter and documented it as a way to continue the teachings; in technique and storytelling.

1 | Home Ground

music credit:

Action 1 | Home Ground

“There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.” — the character of Dorothy (Judy Garland) from the motion picture ‘The Wizard of Oz’

For this action, I paired with Marcia Higuchi (Brazil). 

Currently living in Gothenburg, Sweden, and scheduled to relocate to Canada within days, the idea of ‘home ground’ had many meanings during this conversation. Gothenburg, Sweden had been a home to my family for the last year. I had grieved the loss of a parent here, I had begun the journey of my MFA here, my daughter had started school for the first time here. 

Fika, Lagom, and “tack så mycket!” all had relevance to me from a place they had never existed before. Sweden had opened itself to me as adventure, perspective, and a challenge of self-growth.

As we spoke to one another, Marcia and I came to the subject of motherhood. Her son is 4, my daughter is 5 and across worlds, in this initial conversation, we met in the common place of motherhood. For us, motherhood brings upon an important responsibility to our children. It is no longer a simple decision of where we want to live, travel, explore. Our decisions take on a selfless turn into what is best for our children. What is the home ground we are providing for them?

Living in Sweden was a dream experience for me and now, as I sit here writing in Canada listening to my daughter giggle downstairs as she plays with her grandma, Sweden seems like a dream. It is surreal that I lived there. That I awoke in Canada only a week ago. And now, on Canadian soil once again, in quarantine, in a city I have never lived in, and in a home that I am moving from this month, I am not sure I am in a place to answer this question. This idea of home ground. This concept of grounding. Perhaps home ground is much like the seeking of truth or the act of living in itself. It is the process, and the journey rather than the destination. It is finding a sense of home in people, in experiences, in the confidence of knowing, deep within yourself that home can truly be where the heart is. But can the concept of home really be reduced to such a cliché?

For now, I simplify things for home’s sanctity. home  is where my daughter giggles and where I can sense that she feels grounded and safe.

For now home rests in maternal instinct. Home grounding is no longer a self-fulfilling destination but a process in the making of a home for someone else. A bird making a nest, a fox burrowing a hole is no different than a human picking the spot to tuck in their young for the night.  

As I made this video that I share in this post, it took on more meaning to me now that I am gone from the city of Gothenburg. The memories behind the scenes I show now spark memories and nostalgia. When you see a wall of graffiti, I see the tram I was riding when I shot that. When you see the boulevard of trees, I see the bike I am riding built with a friend that I love. When you see the empty cup of coffee, for me it is Café Biscotti, a favourite place for a kanelbullar. And when you see a little girl, I see the love of my life, playing on the rocks in the forest beside our house. 

Home ground is more than the physical space we find ourselves in, however important that space is. It is the memories and experiences with those that we love that bring a grounding and sense of peace.