The Honourable Harvest

In 2016 I had the opportunity to interview one of my heroes, Nancy Turner. This was a job assignment when I was working as a Gallery Manager at ArtStarts in Schools in Vancouver and we had the chance to select 20 thought leaders to celebrate the organization’s 20th anniversary with a campaign called The Next 20. I chose Nancy Turner and was lucky enough to travel from Vancouver to Victoria for this mission to ask her: what role can art and creativity play to support our next generation to thrive in the future?

On top of being one of the most remarkable ethnobotanists with an impressive, and in my opinion, precious body of work documenting plants and their Indigenous uses in the Pacific North West, she is one of the most generous and kind humans I know. She welcomed me outside of her office with a handful of Trailing Blackberries (Rubus ursinus) that she picked on campus right before our meeting and offered them to me. We walked inside her office at UVic the exact same week that she retired. As soon as I entered her office I started to recognize all the baskets that I had seen and read about in her books. It was incredible. These were celebrities to me, Nancy herself and all those baskets that she had collected throughout her career from meaningful exchanges and relationships with Indigenous knowledge keepers.

At that time I had recently read Braiding Sweetgrass, the life changing book that has given language and has beautifully consolidated the most profound and powerful teachings. That book transformed the way I see the natural world and has provided an incredible practical, spiritual and philosophical foundation to the work I do in so many ways.

In our conversation, I quoted the book and asked Nancy, in the context of young people suffering from “nature deficit disorder”, what she thought about “how the average person in North America knows more than 100 corporate logos and can recognize 10 plants” . Nancy stopped and said: “Before I answer, I just want to say that Braiding Sweetgrass is the book I wish I wrote.” We both laughed. And I echo her sentiment.

The relational aspect of working with plants precedes everything else. Getting to know the place, the ecology, the people that historically have tended the land in that area, who currently do it, our presence in the land, the different histories and existing tensions in the territory and how everything is interconnected.

This is why for all the workshops I facilitate, and in addition to all the hands-on elements that are part of our artistic exploration with plants, I invite some reflection and sharing around participant’s own ancestral histories, relationships with the land and the different territories that have been part of their lived experience. If there have been any relationships with plants and traditional skills or hand techniques that have informed those experiences. And I also hand out little pocket cards with the message of The Honourable Harvest. I invite you to see this short video where Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of the book , beautifully explains this teaching.

Foraging Fibre and Basketmaking with Ralph Simpson

We had the honour to welcome botanist and master weaver Ralph Simpson who visited from New Brunswick last week to co-lead with me the Foraging Fibre and Basketmaking workshop at the Innisfree Farm.

Ralph and I met through a remote artist residency I have been leading since last year through the Conservation Council of New Brunswick and it was so exciting to finally meet him in person after a year of collaborating through Zoom meetings.

We had a full day experience discussing plant identification, how to reciprocally and ethically forage plant materials, collection methods, fibre processing, storage as well as preparing the fibre to practice different basketmaking and weaving techniques to complete a piece at the end of the workshop. We also addressed different cultural, environmental and conservation perspectives that support native ecological restoration and cultural integrity.

This workshop was particularly enriching for me, with its emphasis on local, ethically harvested sources of fibre. In addition to learning craft techniques, I was provoked to think in a different way about my relationship with the plants, the land, and we who share it.

Don Lovey, Workshop Participant

Ralph and I had the best time sharing and witnessing participant’s creativity in full swing and their growing confidence working with plant materials. Thanks everyone for braving the weather and showing up with curiosity and the adventurous spirit that allowed for the magic of art-land-based connection to manifest!

I loved your passion for plants and the reverence you have for them. And you were both so incredibly knowledgable regarding plants and techniques for weaving.

Heather, Workshop Participant

A Summary of our Summer Series at the Innisfree Farm

We had an incredible season this summer at the Innisfree Farm and Botanic Garden with the Art, Ecology and Community workshop series that invited participants to learn about different local plants to explore their creative possibilities, the different connections to the territory (or territories) that we call home, while supporting native ecological restoration.

The location couldn’t be better and provided not only the most beautiful setting for the series, but also was the source of many of the materials used for each workshop including barks, branches, nettle, bindweed, petals, berries, etc. We welcomed local participants, visitors from across the province and other parts of Canada, including students from Innisfree’s Food and Medicine apprenticeship program.

Each workshop was designed to experience the entire process from harvesting local plants to finished pieces with awareness and connection to ancestry and place. We also invited participants to establish their own cultural significance through skill sharing, including all stages of ethically harvesting and processing raw plant materials for art-making and environmental art practice including fibre processing, weaving, basketmaking, ink-making and more. What a beautiful experience it was to be able to harvest some of the “unwanted” plants at the farm to purposefully use them for bracelets, braids, cordage, baskets, paper, paint brushes, charcoal, pigments and inks.

This workshop was inspiring and enlivening to take part in with the facilitator’s enthusiasm and knowledge flowing easily throughout the class. Highly recommended!

Michelle, Workshop Participant.

Juliana has such an amazing perspective and way about her, that has a way of turning an already super interesting topic into a beautiful learning experience that you just want more of. Would recommend her 100%.

Workshop Participant.

Great combination of exploration, discovery and interaction. Great guidance for the hands on portion.

Stephen Hawkins, Workshop Participant.

The workshop was fabulous! Juliana is a truly delightful facilitator with beautiful talent and skill, extremely helpful, friendly, enthusiastic and extremely well prepared. I left just wanting to learn more. Such an inspiring workshop.

Workshop participant.

We wrapped up the series the day of the fall equinox and celebrated the Innisfree volunteer appreciation event that invited the amazing team at the farm to make baskets with materials harvested by the pond. We used cattails, tule and yellow flag iris leaves for basketmaking.

Thanks to the land, to everyone who participated, Chanchal, Thierry and the fabulous team at Innisfree!

From Harm to Harmony: The Healing Power of Nature

This exhibition presents artwork culminating from a collaboration initiated through a remote-artist residency led by community-engaged environmental artist Juliana Bedoya in British Columbia and a diverse group of community participants from different geographic regions in New Brunswick. The project emerged from a partnership between the Conservation Council of New Brunswick (CCNB) and the International Centre of Art for Social Change (ICASC) as part of their national FUTURES/forward mentorship program, which embeds community-engaged artists within organizations to address the pressing environmental issues of our times. 

Participants were invited to join this remote residency to express, through art, their ideas and feelings about climate change. The group met weekly via Zoom to converse and discuss environmental issues from a global to a local perspective, and from there, to develop the concepts and pieces presented in this show. Through their work, the artists sought to inspire changes in behaviours in New Brunswick and to offer a space for reflection on ways we might repair our relationship with nature, partly by experiencing its healing power reflected in the artwork.

Varying in age, culture, and professional backgrounds, participants exchanged skills and navigated different mediums and technologies—including embroidery, paper mache, photography, rug hooking, video production, felting, weaving with plant materials, and more—to create individual pieces that are amalgamated into a collaborative narrative that takes visitors from a hopeless reality of climate change, destruction, and harm to an action-driven world where humans are inspired to change their habits to live in harmony with nature.

By creating awareness about the specific challenges that climate change poses in New Brunswick, such as increased flooding, summer droughts, decreasing biodiversity caused by human industry, etc., we hope to inspire New Brunswickers to adopt more thoughtful practices (buying local, tree planting and species restoration, habitat conservation, reducing and recycling packaging, etc.) that will mitigate or redress the negative impacts of climate change.

Visit the project page to learn more about this artist residency and culminating art exhibition:

This exhibition was presented at the UNB Art Centre in March 7-April 18, 2021.

Territorios Entretejidos

Con muchísima emoción les presentamos Territorios Entretejidos, una serie de encuentros, diálogos y talleres de intercambio de conocimientos y oficios en un formato virtual que parten de establecer una perspectiva relacional con las plantas.

El primer evento de nuestra serie es un conversatorio virtual, el próximo Sábado Diciembre 19, a las 5PM (Hora Colombia)
Este diálogo es de acceso libre, se transmitirá en vivo por los canales de Youtube & FB de @plants_are_teachers

Pueden inscribirse al evento acá y de paso apuntarse a los tres talleres increíbles que hacen parte de la serie:

Tejiendo Arte y Ecologia: La Cosecha Honorable

Apuntes para una Etnobotánica del Tinturado Natural

Tejiendo con Plantas: Canasta Circular de Hiedra

Para el primer diálogo contaremos con los invitados, Jorge Yopasa @mazanuca (Indigena Muysca de Suba, Antropólogo y Tejedor), Mateo Escobar @mateooo89 (Antropólogo y Tejedor), Juliana Bedoya @julianabedoya (Artista Medioambiental en Comunidades y Tejedora), y será moderado por Maria Angélica Guerrero.

Los invitados trabajan desde el saber de las plantas como maestras, y nos compartirán sus experiencias y su interacción recíproca con ellas aplicada a la exploración del entorno natural como laboratorio creativo.

También compartirán cómo su práctica está conectada con la manifestación tangible de conocimientos gracias a una relación íntima con los territorios que habitan e interactúan, lo cual ha generado restauración ecológica y revitalizaición cultural de saberes ancestrales.

Acompáñanos 🌿


FUTURES/forward Artist Residency at the Conservation Council of New Brunswick

I am very excited to be one of the 13 community-engaged artists selected for the FUTURES/forward Mentorship program that supports community-engaged arts practitioners to work together in a peer-learning framework, with experienced artists mentoring evolving artists.

I am part of a triad model where I was paired with a mentor who is a seasoned arts practitioner based in Toronto and an incredible environmental organization in the Maritimes, the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.

I will be facilitating the artistic expression of environmental issues and opportunities, including climate change starting with this question:

How might we express our ideas or feelings about climate change through art?

Participants will regularly meet online with me to scope out the project, determine and then execute their art project(s). With participant’s permission, there are opportunities to showcase the resulting artistic work.

I will be sharing here some of the process and outcomes of this exciting project!