Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council
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Nicola Hawkins & Jane Thomas Yager - Kindred Spirits

Location: Ferryland, NL
ArtsNL Program Funded Under: Community Arts Program
Amount Funded: $4,115

Group photo with finished work

 

Project Dates: April 2016 to May 2017
Artist E-mail: janethomasyager@gmail.com

The Kindred Spirits group formed a little more than three years ago, initially as a means of bringing together residents from seven spaced out communities along the Southern Shore. The group quickly realized its potential and developed into a specialized art collective practicing a variety of needle arts. Kindred Spirits boasts a membership of 30 or so who gather on a weekly basis at the Colony of Avalon Building in Ferryland to collaboratively create art, share and learn new skills, and to strengthen friendships.

The participants each have interest and expertise in needle and fibre arts such as traditional knitting, crochet, and rug hooking. They also proudly continue with the start-to-finish handmade approach by using wool from local sheep, which they then clean, card, and spin into thread themselves. Some senior members have memories of picking and carding wool as children, when wool was used for sweaters, mittens, caps and more. As such, they’ve offered informal workshops on the handmade wool making process through the group. They also weave, quilt, and cross stitch for projects.

The group has no membership fees and welcomes participants of all skill levels. For the most part, Kindred Spirits is comprised of women who are 55 plus, but those folks also work with youth in the area as a result of their commitment to further build and sustain their communities through textile arts.  Summer drop in programs for teens allow members to pass on their artistic techniques to a new generation, keeping artistic traditions alive.

Canvas stretching

 


The debut record also landed an opportunity to participate in an international shoot for TV in Barbados for Flo Network and Bell in 2015, as well as placements in short films, a slot in a national CBC special, and additional touring throughout Canada.

Artwork and handmade items created by Kindred Spirits can be found throughout seniors’ homes, a women’s shelters, organizations geared to low-income clients, and - now as a result of their latest initiative funded by ArtsNL - in public buildings throughout the region’s communities. The group also got involved with the 2016 Special Olympics knitting and crocheting scarves and they collaborated with The Rooms for their Beaumont Hamel exhibition, hand knitting soldier’s wool socks in the original style and pattern used for World War I.

Kindred Spirits continues to work on its project, for which they received the Community Arts Program grant through ArtsNL. It set out to create two hooked rugs designed as wall hangings that feature landscapes that are reminiscent of the Gaze of Ferryland. Kindred Spirits, along with project facilitators Nicola Hawkins, Sue McFadden, and Jane Thomas Yager, have collaboratively created one imagined landscape transitioning from winter to spring and the second phase will see another created, going from summer to fall.

The first of the project’s two hangings was unveiled at the Baltimore School awards ceremony in Ferryland in November 2016, where it will remain on display. The second mat will be displayed at the local health clinic in the town. The hangings use the locally sourced wool, along with found and recycled materials from the area. The second piece will feature raw wool, hand-dyed using a combination of local flora and berries, as well as artificial dyes.

In our latest feature, we chat with Jane to learn more about the project…

Q and A with Jane Thomas Yager...

ArtsNL: How did you first get involved with Kindred Spirits? And, how did the group get going a few years back?

Jane: The inspiration came one day while chatting with two friends, Sue McFadden and Nicola Hawkins, about rug hooking and needle arts. We reminisced about the many joys of being part of a group focused on creativity and shared interests. Then we said, let's start a group here! We are all Kindred Spirits!

ArtsNL: How did Nicola become involved with this particular project? Why was her involvement such a great fit and how did her skills enhance the project?

Jane: Nicola is a committed community artist.  She designed a communal rug hooking frame measuring 5’ by 2.5’ so six people are able to hook simultaneously. This creation was crucial to our enjoyment of working together, shoulder to shoulder. Her warmth and energetic approach encourages us to extend our sense of ourselves, and our inherent creative selves. She explained how to work from an initial concept, rudimentary drawings, choice of final design, colour theory, and how to scale up. Each step in the process was explained by Nicola, but carried out by members of the group. Essential to this was the learning of skills, “each one, teach one” so that we would be able to transfer skills to our own work in different media, in the future.

ironing the hooked rug

 


ArtsNL: How and why was the subject matter for these two pieces chosen?

Jane: The design for our first mat, Sunday up the Shore, came as a result of two Kindred Spirits members working on a pencil drawing. It was important to choose a landscape design that was not a specific place, but a representation of the landscape along the Southern Shore; familiar to all but not recognizable. The colours are bright and optimistic, and it shows the dories overturned as they would be on a Sunday. Members of Kindred Spirits wanted to communicate their memories of a relaxing, family day of leisure spent driving up the shore on a Sunday.

Our second hooked mat theme is serenity and peace within nature. It’s inspired by nature’s capacity to support and reassure during difficult phases of life. This is the mat that will hang in the waiting room of the local clinic. We anticipate that individuals waiting for medical appointments may find the beauty of this path through the East Coast trail as a welcome diversion from the stress of their current situation.

ArtsNL: Why is a group like Kindred Spirits so important to the community and how does it give back?

Jane: Our group welcomes everyone, recognizing that our shared experience of life on the Southern Shore can be delightful and at times challenging. We meet to extend friendship to all.

Living in an out-port community means that we are limited by a lack of community space such as athletic centres, libraries, and a range of arts related spaces. We rely on one another and the skills inherent in our communities to create experiences where we can feel connected to, and supported by others. We extend kindness to others during times of illness or grief, and we share in the delight when wonderful things happen in each other’s lives.

ArtsNL: How did the collaborative projects come about – the Olympics and the one with The Rooms?

Jane: We strive to contribute to other community projects because we understand it takes many hands to accomplish a goal, and that in working together we’re strengthened by the sense of connection to others.  Both this and last year, we also donated about 75 knitted and crocheted baby caps to the Newfoundland and Labrador Heart & Stroke Foundation as part of their annual campaign. 

more canvas stretching

 


ArtsNL: How does the group involve youth to take part in projects and learn needle and fibre arts, and what have their experiences and feedback been like? 

Jane: Some youth are drawn to needle arts because they recall seeing their mothers or grandmothers knitting, crocheting, or hooking mats. Some have never been exposed to this form of artwork.  We taught knitting to the grade 11 and 12 students in Ferryland as a unit of their textile course. The majority of students were beginners and they were very proud of the ‘Izzy Dolls’ they created, which were then donated to the Canadian Armed Forces for distribution to children in war zones. Many beginners spoke about the calming effect of knitting.

ArtsNL: What are some of the unique challenges your group faces – generally, or as you worked on this project, and how did you overcome them?

Jane: The greatest challenge is starting the project. The concept design and choosing a colour palette can feel daunting. But, once those decisions have been made by the group, the needles and hooks come out and everyone can settle into the rhythmic pulling of loops.

hands on canvas

 


ArtsNL: How often does the group hold workshops? And can you speak about how organically they’re coordinated?

Jane: We’ve developed a confidence in learning. One member may bring in a wet felted landscape and others become immediately interested in learning more about that art form. We feel connected to each other and are eager to learn something new.  We hold workshops several times a year.

ArtsNL: Please share what the unveiling of the first piece was like – the event, reaction, etc.

Jane: We felt proud of our accomplishments and the efforts by all members, particularly towards the end of the project as many extra ‘hook-ins’ were arranged to finish on time. All of that time together, huddled over the frame talking, laughing, and sharing stories deepened our friendships. Many hands pulled countless loops to create the image of Sunday Up the Shore.

When we gathered at the school, several Kindred Spirits members had tears in their eyes as we explained to the students that we had hooked this mat for them, but that we had gained so much ourselves in doing so. We explained that the creation of this mat was not easy, like life itself with many ups and downs, but it was well worth the effort. We hope they smile as they walk past it.

ArtsNL: How is the creation of the second piece coming along and will there be another unveiling event?

sheep for sheering

 


Jane: The second mat has been designed by several members. We held a meeting where we suggested key words for the theme. The ideas of calmness, peacefulness, healing journey, struggle, light in the midst of darkness, nature, well-worn path, and hope were all suggested.

We worked on the design and voted to use all wool for this project. Sue McFadden, one of our founding members, is a master lace knitter and expert wool dyer. She and another member, Helene Howcroft, have taken on the exciting first step of dying of the natural wool fibres for this mat. 

ArtsNL: Can you talk more about the handmade wool making process? Why is it important to use locally sourced materials, and keep that specific tradition going?

Jane: This video clip shows the Southern Shore community of Ferryland. We use wool from the sheep who spend their summer and fall framing out on the island. (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/ferryland-sheep-summer-camp-1.3616603)

ArtsNL: How does the ArtsNL funding from the Community Arts Program help?

Jane: The funding from the ArtsNL Community Arts Program has allowed us to focus on very specific goals to bring arts into our community. Working on our two hooked mat projects has brought renewed inspiration and excitement to Kindred Spirits. Recently, while Sue was working on transferring the second rug design to burlap, a couple of members commented that they “couldn't wait to get started” on it. These were women who had done no traditional rug-hooking prior to the first project.

With the funding, we were able to invite Catherine McCausland, an expert in rug-hooking, to teach us specialized techniques. We’ve also been able to have specific workshops on elements of design, as well as sketching and colour theory, allowing everyone to participate in creating these pieces of art. We were able to have a large communal rug-hooking frame built locally. The frame brings an even greater sense of working as a team for these important projects. We were able to purchase materials for the mats, as well. We’re very proud of the artwork we are able to give back to our community. The Kindred Spirits group is very grateful for the support from ArtsNL.

finished hooked rug by kindred spirit