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Swamp Stories

And other curious creations with Clay and Paper Theatre

I am back working for Clay and Paper Theatre (C&P) for my third summer (second summer working virtually for The Third Eye Project). This is a perfect time to look back at what I have created with this wonderful community and how working remotely, away from Dufferin Grove Park in Toronto the past two years, has shaped my creativity.

The Echoes Project

It was a magical summer in 2018 when I joined the crew. This was an unusual summer for C&P as they were invited to take up artist residency in two storage pods in Amos Waites Park in Mimico (about 10km away from their stomping grounds). This developed into The Echoes Project.

Through discussions, play, song, puppet creation and printmaking, we delved into the theme of place & displacement with community members over 4 weeks. We were inspired by the name ‘Mimico’ which comes from the Ojibwe word, omiimiikaa, meaning “abundant with wild pigeons.” We wanted to explore how the passenger pigeon, that once existed in the billions, became extinct by 1914.

This led Clay and Paper Theatre to develop a community printmaking project to create a giant Migrating Bird Blanket that would be used as a prop and backdrop for the workshop play, The Echoes Project: Pigeon Pie.

Several people gather around a table to make screen prints using fabric, paint, carvings of birds, and a rolling pin.
Photos by Tamara Romanchuck (co-artistic director of C&P)
A section of a quilt with screen printed birds.
Part of the Bird Migration Blanket

If the Great Spirit in His wisdom could have created a more elegant bird in plumage, form, and movement, He never did… never have my astonishment, wonder, and admiration been so stirred as when I have witnessed these birds drop from their course like meteors from heaven.

Chief Simon Pokagon of the Potawatomi

A two dimensional carving of a bird with a heart on its breast.
My pigeon carving.

In a park between two giant trees a big quilted blanket with screen printed birds is hoisted up. People look at it with excitement.
The Migration Bird Blanket hoisted up for the first time in Amos Waites Park, 2018.

Covid Adaptation: Seeking ‘Liveness’ and Connection in the Virtual World

In the summer of 2020, during Covid restrictions and lockdown measures, I moved back to Edmonton (AB), to live with my family for the summer. From there I was invited to collaborate with Clay and Paper Theatre to develop a virtual summer program of Paper Theatre workshops. For The Third Eye Project community members were invited to respond to the question, “What is your view from where you are now?” From there, we facilitated a series of workshops that resulted in an online paper theatre video screening celebration.

I also responded to the question above and created a paper theatre performance, A Walk in the Park. This was my first paper theatre and I decided to focus on the building of images rather than the development of a script. I was lucky to have my family to help me with the animating and filming process.

A year has passed and we are back at it! We are working on developing resources that are more accessible to asynchronous learning and we are expanding our workshop series to reach more communities in the Greater Toronto Area. I am working virtually from Montréal (QC) and feel very grateful to be back with the C&P family. It is very strange working virtually for a second summer and I hope we will be back in person in the near future.

Here’s a look at what I am working on right now. Swamp Stories is created using India Ink, brown construction paper, and cardboard.