As a visual artist from Newfoundland and Labrador I owe much to my home province’s culture of resourcefulness and adaptability, which comes as a response to isolation, scarcity, and living in an unforgiving natural environment. I see my artistic practices as one that expands on the rich tradition of creating things – tools, furniture, shelter, vehicles – from whatever is lying around. This traditional way of making objects is inextricably linked to Newfoundland’s identity, as a place where people were and still are united by circumstances that put survival, community and cooperation at the forefront of everyday living. By contrast mass production and fabrication methods of modern industry are often wasteful of materials, and are adjoined to the values individualism. In my work I hope to explore the differences in making that inform the way we live, exploring how craft informs life and how life informs craft.
This ongoing project consists of exploring issues of the environment, survival and community through the traditional craft of net making. Creating nets by hand is a skill that was used throughout history for carrying supplies, protecting crops, hammocks, clothes, and sporting equipment, hunting, and most importantly to my interests fishing. The netting patterns in many of these projects were designed to make the most of expensive materials informed from a time before things could be cheaply mass produced. I am learning to make nets by hand a old craft that pushes me to explore its meaning in a contemporary setting where materials are cheaper and these skills are no longer necessary for survival.
The title of this project is in reference to ghost nets, which are fishing nets that have been left or lost in the ocean by fishermen. These often mass produced, large scale nylon nets, cause a lot of environmental damage, entangling wildlife and eventually breaking down and adding to the micro plastics and often end up in our food supply.
I became my journey by exploring the simplest form of netting, the square net. These nets a common and simple design used for small trapping and nets. I was working with standard netting twine to get comfortable with the medium. I learned a lot about how materials respond differently to being twisted and knotted.
These nets used for fishing and designed to be easy to enter and difficult to leave. They trap fish that enter through their rigid ring structure. They are used in small to medium sized fishing expeditions and are comparatively less destructive than larger scale trawling methods, as they produce minimal by-catch and have less of an impact on the seabed. The fyke nets are usually operated in fast moving waters.
My small fyke net was cast onto brass rings creating a tubular design which undulates by the increasing and decreases of rows of knots, an important skill that made creating this type of net feel closer to knitting or textile work.
Round Float Net
Typically made from a hollow glass ball, these round floats were traditionally used in the fisheries to keep nets upright in the water and helped fishermen locate their catch. While glass floats are no longer used today (instead we use plastic ones) many of them remain in the ocean today as floating debris and still wash ashore. The netting around it cushions it from breaking and allows it to be tied to larger nets.
The float I created however, isn't made from glass, it's made from a rubber party balloon, common one-time use object. Helium filled balloons are often let go into the atmosphere, landing in the ocean and harming wildlife. The act of releasing balloons has been made illegal in many parts of the world for this reason. I've also added an LED light inside the balloon emphasizing the object's frivolity and contrasting the serious environmental impacts balloons can cause. This piece asks: Do we care more about partying than the environment?
Dental Floss Nets
These nets are made from dental floss a waxy material used for cleaning teeth. This one-time use, throw away material is a perfect ghost net material. Floss is manufactured on an industrial scale, in huge quantities. It is of little monetary value, and is dispensed and disposed of daily, often flushed down toilets where it eventually reaches the ocean.