bee-neighborly pollinator week

It seems early, spring is not officially here yet, but there are bulbs pushing up their bright heads through the soil and early shrubs and trees are bursting with delicate blossoms. Time to plan ahead for Pollinator Week 2018 (June 18-24).

I have the very great pleasure of having an exhibition in June and Pollinator Week falls within the duration of the show, so I’m creating a series of postcards that will be offered gratis to visitors to the gallery.

The postcards are little reminders/suggestions on creating a pollinator and bee-neighborly environment.

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

bee-ing (a)part

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Just last week, the Richmond Art Gallery held the final piece of public programming related to the present exhibition. A panel discussion, entitled  Bee-ing Part of the Solution, was the centerpiece of the event for me.

Highlights: 

Our high-powered bee expert, Dr. Elizabeth Elle from Simon Fraser University gave an engaging and informative presentation on native pollinators.  Her advice, “Plant Flowers” offered the audience an easy and practical way to help all pollinators. Even pots of pollinator-friendly plants on the front porch or deck are helpful, she stated emphatically and showed us a slide of her small but blossom-packed front garden!

Insight: Dr. Elle suggested that we do not have to focus primarily on native species of plants, but to be wary of invasive species–these plants (however helpful they seem to be, like Himalayan blackberry), eventually create a monoculture, crowding out other species of plants. And of course, monocultures are part of our larger agricultural and environmental problem.

Whenever I think of planting flowers, I think of Brian Campbell – garden expert par excellence and bee teacher! Brian’s presentations are always interesting. He has a gentle way of talking, always full of seriousness and humour at the same time; and I invariably want to stop and to listen.

Insight: Brian gave a considered response to a question from one of the audience members, Lori Weidenhammer. She wanted to know how we might switch our intensive focus on “saving the bees” away from the honeybee and onto other pollinators without upsetting beekeepers. Brian said that historically we have asked far too much of the honeybee, and if she were to be returned her to her rightful place as one player, one part, within the complex web of pollinator diversity, we would be helping not only the honeybee but all pollinators and the environment in general.

Professor Nancy Holmes, (writer, poet and creative writing educator), involved with diverse pollinator projects through UBC, at Okanagan, began her presentation with a beautiful poem by Emily Dickinson, and brought the tone of the event around from the realm of science to that of art-making. I am taking the liberty of reproducing this lovely little poem here:

“TO make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, —

One clover, and a bee,

And revery.

The revery alone will do

If bees are few.” 

It is the ‘reverie’ which art appeals to, I think. Certainly it is for me. For to create something, whether it be a meadow, a poem, a visual art piece, or a  cleaner environment, we require imagination. This is our singular ability.

I had the privilege of being part of this panel discussion too, and my presentation was related to the artwork I have on display the gallery at the moment: “not by chance alone,” the large bee project; the small Charles Butler piece, “profitable as a bee,” and the “gilded, golden, glad,” pollen tribute to Dorothy Hodges. Brian Campbell has very graciously posted my presentation on the blog portion of his website, (www.thebeeschool.ca) so instead of reprinting it now, I will discuss my ideas on pollinators and the role of art, in future posts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

golden, gilded, glad (2)

Yesterday I went to the UBC Farm market to purchase their wonderful vegetables, herbs and flowers as I often do. Yesterday’s super treat was the Honey Extraction and sale by Jenny Ma of Vancouver Honeybees http://www.VANCOUVERHONEYBEES.com.

After the recent articles on pesticides and the dire problems with disappearing bees, it was so refreshing to experience something beautiful and joyful. Jenny uses “top bar hives” for her bees. She brought a demonstration hive for the participants to see; a hive which she actually made herself! She says the top bar hive is the least intrusive method of managing her charges. The bees form the wax comb themselves to the sizes that they naturally need, so the final honeycomb is more freeform in shape than the foundation-based Langstroth hives that are widely used in beekeeping. The bees have to work harder to make their own wax comb, but it is fantastic to see their own architectural creations.

It was great fun watching Jenny go through the extraction process and to bring home jars of honey and pollen still in the comb. The honey is so fragrant, it’s amazing!

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“Golden, gilded, glad (2)” : last year, I posted a poem “Bees” by Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, from her book entitled “The Bees”. Couldn’t resist using her work again as title to this post. Here’s an extract of the poem:

Been deep, my poet bees,

in the parts of flowers,

in daffodil, thistle, rose, even

the golden lotus, so glide,

gilded, glad, golden, thus –

 

wise – and know of us:

how your scent pervades

my shadowed, busy heart,

and honey is art.

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!!!!).

Drawdown-2014

 

bee school

This past weekend, I attended beekeeping classes, given by master beekeeper Brian Campbell (Blessed Bee Apiaries).  The course was interesting, informative and engaging. Brian is an excellent instructor. He’s exceedingly knowledgeable, has a gentle and  respectful manner for his students and his charges (the bees), and he has a great sense of humour! A weekend well spent with theory and practice. We still have the practicum to look forward to, more first hand experience on handling honeybees!

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We even got to witness a new drone bee emerge out of its cell. Very cool indeed.IMG_0581




 

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.

opening night

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What a great evening it was! My thanks are due to the Roundhouse Community Center and especially to the  Arts Progammer and Curator, (and dear friend, gifted artist and educator) Cyndy Chwelos for her dedication and support of the arts, and her willingness to explore varied artistic practices.  I’m so glad that Cyndy included me in this exhibition! Thank you Cyndy for this opportunity. It takes a great deal of hard work and time to put together an interesting and engaging exhibition, especially one that includes so many artists and different artistic forms. From the initial stages of coming up with ideas for an exhibition, to seeking out artists, to making numerous studio visits, to writing plans, contracts; organizing workshops, making bookings, arranging for advertising, sorting out technical issues involved with installation, preparing for the opening night, overseeing the exhibition during the time the gallery is open, dealing with problems and issues over and over again; then taking care of de-installation — the amount of work it takes is immense, the orchestration complex. And what I see (as a participating artist) and what visitors to the gallery and workshops see, are the finished products–the beautiful exhibits, the smoothly running workshops, the buzzing opening nights.  We see none of the hard work that has gone into preparing an exhibition like this. So Cyndy, a big, full “Brava!” to you. (If however, you were to ask Cyndy about this, she would say that this is her passion, her work, her practice now!)

I also wish to add that without my friend, (eminent artist and art educator), Elizabeth MacKenzie, I would have been too afraid to participate with my bee project. Elizabeth is very generous with her time and her thoughtful insights are much appreciated. Thank you Elizabeth!

I want to thank the 4 young performers from UBC and Cap College who took up my invitation to interpret a 17th century madrigal for this opening night. The piece was written by the polymath, Charles Butler.  Butler was one of the first persons to recognize that the Queen bee was in fact female–and not male (the accepted patriarchal notion of the day). Butler wrote a book on bees and beekeeping called the “The Feminine Monarchie,” and for the 1623 edition, he added this madrigal which he himself composed to the glory of the Queen bee.