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Knowledgebase record #230


Common Threads by Sharon Kallis, 2014

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson
Review date: 2015-04-01

We all know that invasive, non-native plants are one of the biggest problems for the health of both our native plants and native animals. Sharon Kallis has come up with an interesting approach to dealing with these invaders – weave them into art! She accurately describes her book, “Common Threads,” as “…part philosophy and part toolkit.”

The toolkit is the easiest part for gardeners. An extensive technique chapter on making baskets, ropes, clothing, and other everyday necessities can be applied to many plants you have on hand. Kallis hopes that readers will apply her techniques to invasive plants wherever they live. Fortunately for us, she lives in Vancouver, B.C., and so her examples are easily found throughout this region.

The philosophy part of “Common Threads” more closely addresses the art community, encouraging the use of local materials as art supplies. She tells how her introduction to gardening was through a Means of Production garden, “…a place that artists could get involved and learn about where their materials came from [and] develop a seasonal awareness to material acquisition.” She’s also keen that an artist understands that resources are not limitless by asking such questions as, “How many plants does it take to make the six cups of dye you might want for that project?”

A significant part of the book includes interviews with an interesting cross section of artists and managers of public spaces, including some with involvement in both arenas. She encourages artists to think of the value of creating impermanent art using plant materials, as well as the collective good of group art projects in public spaces, and art as a form of honoring and memorializing.

Excerpted from the Spring 2015 Arboretum Bulletin.


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