Victory for Queen Lori and the bees

Wow, it’s mid June and I haven’t posted anything since April!  I’m deep into pollen collecting; it’s taking all my time and energy right now. Everything is early this year!

But now to other great news–my bee-buddy, Lori Weidenhammer (aka Madame Beespeaker, Queen Lori), has been on a grand tour, promoting her new, fabulous and informative book on bees, Victory Gardens for Bees. Check out her super blogsite for postings of her experiences. This is a great time of the year to be reading and learning about pollinators since many of the plants mentioned in Lori’s book are blooming right now. I find it such a delight  to read about a bee or a blossom and then actually see one in the flesh!  There is so much useful, practical information in this book–about our native bee species, about native and near-native plants, about gardens and garden design, about natural ways of controlling pests, about easy ways for all of us to help pollinators–and, it’s Canadian! Yay, Lori!!! Need a good summer read? This is it. Completely enjoyable and yet so informative!

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celebrating pollen with Lori Weidenhammer and Artstarts

I had the great honor and pleasure of sharing 4 workshops on pollen this past weekend with artist and author, Lori Weidenhammer.  Lori gave me a copy of her new book, Victory Gardens for Bees, which I was thrilled to share with workshop participants. This beautiful and timely book will be on the shelves very soon. It is a fantastic compendium of gardening  information with the express aim of helping our native pollinators. The book is lushly illustrated with stunning photos, and it is a delight to hear Lori’s voice come through in the text.

 

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The free weekend workshops Lori and I facilitated were offered through Artstarts at the New Westminster Quay location and at Artstarts downtown Vancouver.  We drew, stamped, collaged and embellished bees and flowers and made postcards and matching buttons.  Not only did we celebrate flowers, bees and pollen but we even got to celebrate the 20th birthday of ArtStarts four times!!!!

Looking at flower parts and pollen with a loupe. Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

Dark purple pollen of anemone.   Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

 

Peering at the stamens and pistil of a cherry blossom. Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

Hairy-belly bee postcard. Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

 

Artists of all ages participated – even Moms and Dads! Here’s a beautiful bee and flower themed postcard and button made by a Dad working along side his children. Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

 

Beautiful bee, flower and sunshine postcard and button made by a young participant. Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

 

Young artist proudly shows off her queen bee postcard, with golden finger-print pollen!  Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

 

Lots of food for bees in this garden postcard. Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

 

A beautiful button of a native bee made by a young artist. Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

Dissected cherry blossom postcard and button. Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

Working on honey comb-themed button! Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

For exploration and drawing, a selection of flowers in bloom right now . Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

Pink pollen and bees! Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

Self-portrait with super bees and flowers! There’s even a butterfly in this garden postcard. Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

It’s great to see parents participate in the workshop. Here’s a beautifully drawn card and button made by a Mom working along side her own young artists. Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

not by chance alone

September marks a special month for me—the project I have been working on for almost 3 years is on display at the Richmond Art Gallery. (The exhibition opens on September 12th). Well, about 2/3 of the entire project has been installed for this exhibition. It climbs 16′ in height, and we have placed a few pieces on the floor, not many, just to indicate that the work continues and the installation is partial. I am most grateful to the curator of the RAG, Nan Capogna. She’s wonderful to work with. She’s very knowledgeable, she’s got a keen eye, she’s considerate yet honest with her comments and critiques. It is a privilege to work with someone of her caliber. The Preparators at the gallery are also fantastic–sensitive, very capable and efficient. Thank god they know how to do math and grids!  Kathy, Hilary, Melanie and Paula, part of Nan’s educational, administrative and curatorial team at the gallery are super to work with too. What a great group, and what a great experience this installation has been.

I’m sharing the exhibition space with an artist from Vancouver, Cameron Cartiere, and although we are thematically connected–we are both exploring the subject of bees–our approaches, perspectives and modes of execution are different. Cameron’s installation is stunning.

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Installing almost to the rafters with Darius!

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Partially completed text in the large windows

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Detail of installation. Photo by Scott Massey.

Forager Mandala at Creekside

Last Saturday was a super drawing day in Vancouver. Thank you to the DrawDown organizers, to Cyndy Chwelos, Gary Cho, and the Vancouver Parks Board for creating this event; to my student volunteers who helped to facilitate the art making at Creekside Community Centre, and most of all, to the wonderful, talented participants who created stunning designs for the mandala!

Even the weather cooperated (well, somewhat). We had some fantastic visitors to the  workshop – some very young participants indeed, everyone happy to try out the felts and stamps. There were bees and printing ink and flowers on the drawing paper, but also on hands and clothes and other places! Hey, whoever said you have to stick to paper only, eh?

The designs were very beautiful and each one unique!

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We almost managed to finish the entire 40-part mandala, just short a few pieces, but with the sign created by my student volunteers in place, the forager mandala looks super!

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Drawdown 2014

June 14th, 2014. Big day! 45 free drawing workshops happening all over the city of Vancouver. Fun for every member of the family. Come and join in. Absolutely no experience required.

I’ll be doing a workshop at Creekside Community Centre – a collaborative project with all of our art-loving participants, and hopefully 10,000 foraging bees!!!! (errrr, not real bees, art bees!!!!).

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pollen counts

IMG_4371-copyI haven’t been able to do much of my own work these days, obligations and various issues have kept me out of my studio, but very recently, in the small moments of solitude I’ve managed to keep, I’ve started to explore the amazingly beautiful world of pollen and the pollen loads that honeybees collect, carry and store in their hives. Not too long ago, a new friend and colleague of mine, LW  (that would be Lori Weidenhammer, the mistress of all things bee, ie. Madame Beespeaker) and I, feverishly examined (and drooled over) a rare book by Dorothy Hodges, the artist, beekeeper and researcher.  Written in the 1950’s, it’s a collection of exquisite drawings of pollen grains, plus a 120-plant color chart of honeybee pollen loads. The color charts are so rich and enticing. Who knew that pollen came in so many colors? Lori did, but I didn’t. So for me, this book is proving to be yet another priceless learning experience. Hodges used Windsor Newton watercolors for her color charts; the swatches are hand-tipped and only 200 copies of the book were printed. This is a rare book and a delicious pleasure to explore!

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I’m recreating the color swatches that Hodges made and I’ve tried a variety of different media, but so far, the buttery and rich Schminke soft pastels are my favorite.

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shadowed busy heart

The exhibition closed today. After all the bustle and excitement of hanging work, of opening night and then days of visitors–nothing now but whiteness of empty walls. It was wonderful to share this space with the other artists, from Sharon Kallis and her beautiful bio-netting installation; to Robin Ripley and the ethereal maple seeds and pennies; to Holly Schmidt’s elegant living room of duck weed, and Joy Witzche’s woven masterworks–these are but a few of the varied and engaging works here that in one way or the other, addressed contemporary issues on the environment.

I don’t have photographs of all the installations in this exhibition, but here is a small selection:

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all pollinators

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I attended a wonderful workshop yesterday given by artist Lori Weidenhammer. Lori’s workshops are part of the CULTIVATE exhibition at the Roundhouse.

Lori has been researching honeybees and native pollinators for more than 6 years. She knows about bees, she knows about gardening and plant species. She has an incredible aesthetic sense and a serious commitment to community education. This is the second time I’ve participated in one of Lori’s workshops (cf my post here August 4, 2013 “free fall”). I enjoy learning about the environment from Lori and I enjoy the art making that is an integral component of her workshops. Yesterday we made handmade paper into which we embedded flower petals and seeds. The paper will be made into little cards that can be given away as gifts. They are beautiful on their own.  More importantly though, the embedded seeds can be planted in the garden–a small encouragement to help our native pollinators!

paper-seeds

Lori spoke about the need for evidence on the relationship of honeybees, our native pollinators and the availability of forage. How much forage do honeybees need? Is there aggressive competition between honeybees and other pollinators? Are we favoring honeybees to the detriment of solitary bees and other native pollinators that are also in serious trouble? Should honeybees be treated like pigs and chickens, ie. food sources, or should bees have a different status?  Important questions.

free fall

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Bees have been in the media quite a bit in the last few months, both on the television news and in the papers.  Just the other day, I read an article in the Globe & Mail on the plight of bees and monarch butterflies (“Honey bees and monarch butterflies: why their numbers are in free fall”). The article cites several possible reasons for the decline in populations of bees: neonicotinoid pesticides, varroa mites, unfavorable weather conditions, etc., but no reporting agency is able (or willing) to say “definitively” this is the cause, or better, these are the causes for bee population decline. The situation certainly is not a simple one, but I get the feeling from reading this article (and others)  that the bottom line is always the dollar. For example, in response to a call from Canadian beekeeper associations to ban the use of systemic pesticides like neonicotinoids, (an action that was already taken by the European Union)  the Ontario Grain Farmers association CEO protested that such a “knee-jerk reaction” would jeopardize 2%-13% of their annual gross income from crops such as soy, canola and corn. The same CEO goes on to say that we mustn’t base our decisions on emotions, but on science. So, would this same CEO say that Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency does not function as a “science-based” agency?   The HCPMR Agency noted that bee deaths in Southern Ontario and Quebec coincided with the corn-planting season. Was this a plain and simple emotional reaction from them?  No scientific basis? Further, would this same CEO say that the European Union’s moratorium on pesticide use was also based on hearsay and anecdotal information?

I’m glad that important environmental issues, like that of the bees, are in the media, but I get frustrated when reading about the workings of corporations and about our consumer-based economies. This is an emotional reaction, without a doubt, but I search for ways to make changes, even small ones, starting with myself.

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I attended a fantastic workshop yesterday, led by two Vancouver-based artists, Lori Weidenhammer (aka Madame Beespeaker), and Rebecca Graham. The workshop was called “Tapestry of the Senses.” Using natural materials—flowers, reeds and grasses, we created designs on the pavement in front of the Roundhouse Community Centre with Lori, and learned how to weave with willow, ivy and flag with Rebecca. The experience was enriching and beautiful on its own, but the intention of the artists was to encourage the participants to consider our environment and to protect the biodiversity of our communities. Both Lori and Rebecca are very knowledgeable and it was a delight to learn about plants, and to receive practical information that would help us to encourage the proliferation and flourishing of our pollinators and to protect the environments of the creatures with whom we share our planet.

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bee-ing progress

The project of mapping a bee colony of 40,000 or so bees is progressing, and at this point, I’m at about 6,000 bees! So far, the piece is 9′ x 12′. The final completed piece will be about 8 times this size. I have a ways to go!

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I am including the predators and pests that bees encounter in nature – from wax moths that destroy combs, to bee diseases like Varroa mites, to mice, wasps, skunks, birds, ants, bears, and of course, humans. We are, arguably, the bees’ worst enemies, even though we consider ourselves indispensible to the “domesticed” honey bee. We destroy the delicately balanced biodiversity of our planet. And, instead create food production practices based on megalithic monocultures that rely heavily on artificial fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides. Urbanization, concrete and manicured lawns take the place of fields and meadows.  All of our pollinators are in trouble, not just the honey bees.

I saw two very interesting documentaries recently – “Queen of the Sun”, and “Vanishing of the Bees.”  Both films investigate the plight of the honey bee from a slightly different perspective. Both are informative and engaging to watch!