A Vancouver-based visual artist is turning old climbing ropes into a work of art, and Squamish residents are being asked to help out.
Jaymie Johnson, an interdisciplinary artist who focuses on art, society and ecology, was commissioned to create the artwork by Squamish Savings.
“I’m using climbing rope because it’s an abundant resource, especially here in Squamish, which is known throughout the world as a destination for climbers,” said Johnson. “I wanted to bring that into this project, try to weave together the diversity of people who call this place home.”
Depending on how heavily they are used, climbing ropes need to be retired every few years due to wear and tear. While many are creatively re-purposed, Johnson is deliberately avoiding waste by recycling them in the project.
A number of the ropes used in the final projects were donated and collected by Squamish retail store Climb On.
To prepare the ropes for braiding, Johnson had to cut open the first nylon layer of the rope to reveal the white inner-nylon. She then cleaned and dyed the strands to end up with yards of thick, ready-to-braid strands.
The Squamish community, through 10 different workshops at both public locations and individual organizations, is doing the braiding work.
“The community engagement is just as important a material as the climbing rope,” said Johnson.
“The idea is to have conversation, meeting each other, but also build community in a way that everyone’s hands are busy. There’s less pressure to have constant conversation, it can become a relaxed space for people to participate if they want to.”
In the Squamish Public Library on Tuesday, a group of 10 women of all different ages discussed topics like art history, farming and living in Squamish — both the positive changes they’ve seen in the community and the rising cost of living.
Old hands and some very young hands plaited the strands of green rope side-by-side, while second year Quest University student Lucie Barnett played guitar and sang.
“All of the braids at the end will become part of a permanent artwork,” said Johnson.
The multi-braiding technique being taught at the sessions is seen in a variety of cultures around the globe, including the Squamish Nation, who use it to weave traditional headbands out of cedar.
At a public session on Jan. 13, Squamish Nation storyteller Tsawaysia Spukwus (Alice Guss) joined in on the conversation circle and brought a woven headband to show to braiders.
Eric Anderson, spokesperson for the regional forestry association and a director of the Sea to Sky Forestry Centre Society, will speak at an event on Saturday, Feb. 10.
“The theme is the forest and how it unites the diverse community that is here, and everyone’s relationship to the forest, whether it is in a recreational way, a spiritual way, material way,” said Johnson.
The form of the final art piece is a secret, for now, but Johnson describes it as a “low-relief” wall hanging, woven together from the community braids. It will be revealed in town at the Squamish Savings on Pemberton Avenue in the spring.