Monday, March 30, 2009

Busy Times

It has been very busy times here in the past couple weeks. In addition to my regular part-time job making pots with Alexis Templeton I've picked up another part-time gig repairing bikes for BikeShare. It's a pretty ideal situation really - I can spend the morning in the bike shop and the evening in the studio.

I also committed myself to working one day a week at A1C. Normally it's a really fun thing to do - just sit in the gallery all day and chat with whoever comes in. But the show we have in there now I find really off-putting, and so do most of our visitors. I would guess the average visit length is in the 20 to 40 second range - people come in then turn around and go straight back out again. It's not offensive or anything, just really, really uncomfortable.

And for the next couple days I will be teaching a workshop at the Craft Council called Ceramics and Social Engagement. We are going to be exploring social practice in relation to ceramics and performing a group artistic intervention.

So in the past little while I've been lax as far as The Grey Islands is concerned. Today I'm going to make an effort to get something done, token as it may be. So I will make a "to do" list:

*Apply for Firearms Purchase and Acquisition License
*Look for bricks
*Talk to Renee and Duncan - shotgun, first aid, dehydrator, tent
*Get an MCP card
*Get a physical exam
*Email Gerry - solar gear
*Irish Museum of Modern Art residency application
*Long Beach residency application
*Eye appointment
*Call Craig Strang
*Blood test
*Talk to pharmacist
*Pick a date to leave!
*Complete my gear list and go shopping!
*Call Paul Bromley
*Make a new budget
*Shipping bricks to Conche?
*Get that Land and Sea eider duck episode
*Ship my gear to Conche
*Go shooting
*Email Nicole
*Investigate provincial firearms regulations
*Get my book back
*Get an SLR
*Figure out GPS
*Extensive solar panel testing
*Keep drying lots of food
*Go food shopping
*Figure out transportation to and from Conche
*Find my fishing gear
Email Bruce
Call Pauline
Get a video camera
Kiln design
Dental appointment's a bit overwhelming to look at it all written down like this. But the sooner I start crossing things off the list the better.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Craft Talk

I just posted this on the A1C blog but it's so good it warrants being posted again.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Many people have asked about visiting me during the summer. It actually shouldn't be too hard to arrange. There is a guy who goes back and forth regularly in his longliner for a reasonable price, and I should have some telephone contact while I'm out there. I suppose the hardest part would be driving all the way up to Conche.

Someone asked whether having visitors would interfere with The Grey Islands. Not at all! In fact I think it would be a very enriching experience. While solitude is an important part of the project I won't turn you away if you want to come for a day or a weekend or even a week. I'm going to be out there for a lot longer than that so seriously, it's not going to take away from the rustic experience of it for me. There are a few people who've already promised to come visit - David, Linda and Isabella are going to visit later in August when the berries are ripe.

So when I get things figured out a little more I will post about how best to visit me on the Grey Islands over the summer. It would be fun. All I ask is that you bring me some fresh fruit and other treats!

Firearms Safety Course

Last night I finished up the Canadian Firearms Safety Course. This course teaches you to load, unload and handle a gun safely, and successful completion enables you to apply for a firearms Possession and Acquisition License. I will be putting my application in the mail later this week.

Why do I want a gun? Two reasons: first, the small but not insignificant threat of polar bear. I hope to never use it and to never ever see a polar bear in my life, but I want to at least have the option of lethal force. I'm also gonna bring pepper spray and "bear bangers" - little explosive devices you can toss in the direction of a bear to scare it away. Of course all this goes along with regular bear safety rules - keeping a clean camp, proper food storage, and avoiding confrontational situations. There is very little chance of encountering a polar bear when I arrive on the Grey Islands in late June or early July, and the probability of one arriving later in August or September is virtually zero. But preparing for the unlikely will not only leave me in a better situation if it actually does happen, but also puts me in a good psychological state going in.

I've never hunted in my life, but I think that having gun would also be a good idea in the event of a food emergency. Say for instance my food stash gets flooded, or everything gets spoiled somehow, and I need to take care of myself until help arrives. It is nice to know that I could at least shoot and roast a few seagulls if I have to.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

People and Preparations

Well it has been a busy time around these parts. In fact I can't remember when I've had two weeks in a row that have been so productive.

Last week I had a great conversation with Paul Bromley from Roddickton. He has a couple of cabins out on the islands and brings people back and forth in his longliner. He had all kinds of useful information for me, notably that there are no black bears on the island and there is intermittent cell phone reception up on the higher points of land. He can bring me out and back for $200 each way, which seems like a decent deal. He also said there are a couple of busy times out on the island - early in August he rents out his cabins to vacationers, and later in the fall people go out there to hunt caribou.

I was also talking to Paul's sister, Mary Foley, who is one of the teachers at the all grade school in Conche. Mary was very excited to hear that I was going to be in the area - she wants me to do a workshop with the students before I head out to the islands. I am excited by this idea - it will be good to do something fun at the beginning of the summer, and it will be great that everyone in town will know that I'm out there (for the sake of my safety if nothing else).

Best of all, I had a great dinner last week with my old friends Renee and Duncan. Renee and I used to work together at the Craft Council where we left at the same time (in fact, we shared a going away party if I remember correctly). Well they are an adventurous couple, having sailed all over the world, including a trip last year to Greenland and back via northern Labrador. So they've already had to deal with a lot of the issues I am facing - long stretches with little or no contact with anyone else, the inability to resupply at any given time, and polar bears. They've got a bunch of gear they want to lend me - tent, wilderness first aid kit, shotgun, food dehydrator, etc. They are veritable fountains of knowledge, and great people to bounce ideas off.

I guess the point of all this is to demonstrate the importance of other people in my project. I didn't do anything in the past couple weeks to materially prepare for the project - I didn't collect supplies, or design my kiln, for instance - but I feel immensely more prepared mentally and psychologically. Sometimes I despair that I've undertaken a project that is so solitary and individual, but then I realize it isn't so much after all. And that counts for a lot.