Monday, May 3, 2010

Save the honeybee - save the world...

A buzzing in my ear:

As an artist I find myself subconsciously collecting and cataloguing information and experiences in the dusty corners of my mind. Occasionally something will trigger the memory of these prior experiences and themes will re-emerge further convincing me that everything is interconnected.

Six years ago I spent a year studying printmaking at the Glasgow School of Art in Glasgow, Scotland. I spent some time researching and making work about honeybees before moving on and this particular interest receded to the background.

The honeybee has once again flown to the fore of my mind. Over the years my concern over the methods of food production has led me to work towards greening my thumb and growing my own food (currently attempting a small container garden on my balcony). Thoughts of gardening have led, once again, to thoughts of apiculture (beekeeping). These thoughts have led to conversation and recently bees have buzzed their way into conversations with a friend that coincidentally had a honeybee situation of her very own. I invited Anna to relay this experience and accompanying documentation.

A sweet invasion:

A honeybee trap used with a modified shop vac to suck up the bees so they can be transported to their new location.

Last fall my husband and I noticed bee activity outside our back window. Through the winter we didn't see many bees, but this spring bees began appearing inside our apartment. It started with one or two, until one day a troop of 25 or so entered our apartment. Fearful we were under attack, we swatted a few of them. After examining the residue, we realized these were not dangerous invaders, they were honeybees! After discussing the situation with Amy, she identified several ways honeybees could be rescued and relocated rather than exterminated. We found that bee removal is not so uncommon. We often try to rescue wayward creatures in our home which, until now was mostly in the form of geckos and spiders. After talking with our landlord who luckily shared our desire to rescue rather than exterminate, she sent us Steve, a local beekeeper and hobbyist, with a license from Texas A&M University.

After inspecting the outside of the building, Steve identified the entrance of the hive as a small crack in the eaves that was being watched by a single guard bee. Based on the location he said it was likely the bees had built into the ceiling of our bedroom.

(drawing of a guard bee "rescued" from Amy's old sketchbook)

Sure enough, the following day Steve located the hive through the ceiling using an infrared thermometer. (The bees maintain a hive temperature of around 90˚F). The honeycombs he removed filled a five-gallon bucket and weighed about 40 pounds – most of which was honey. This time of year honeybees become more active, producing more honey to feed the brood and increase their number. The newest parts of the hive can be identified by their lighter color while the oldest parts are almost black (you can see both in the photos we took). Steve left us with some of the light colored comb, which can be eaten as is (chewing and spitting out the comb). It's delicious, with a hint of jasmine due to the flowers blooming near our apartment.

40 lbs of honeycomb removed from the ceiling. This comb has been relocated to a new location for the bees.

Spending a few hours with Steve allowed me to learn about the complexities of honeybees. He spoke about how each colony has a different temperament. For instance, one colony he recently rescued was very angry and did not settle down when he transported them back to his farm. Instead, they left in a swarm the next morning. Apparently, our colony was very mellow and an Italian "breed" of bee, meaning they like the Texas heat. This experience made me realize how much I had to learn about honeybees and gave me a new appreciation for this small creature.

Since Steve began his hobby he has rescued and relocated many bee colonies. Currently he is lending one of his honeybee colonies to a farmer in Sugarland, TX to pollinate strawberries. With the decline of honeybees, and other pollinators, crops won’t produce high enough yields, which could result in serious consequences for the future of agriculture.

Steve said that this colony was about 20,000 strong judging by how much they filled the bee trap. Because of the way they clustered toward the top that meant that the queen had been captured as well. The colony follows the queen by the pheromones she releases.

Save the pollinators!

Flowering plants (which include every fruit bearing plant) depend on insects and animals for pollination. Without these pollination we will have no fruit.

Some things you can do to help the bees here.

To learn about honey bees and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) watch the documentarySilence of the Bees online free here.

More fascinating facts about honeybees here.

Learn about the anatomy of a hive on pbs's website here.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Penland Part 2 - a magnificent co-lab

Collaboration is one of those things that people either love or loathe. I am firmly stationed in the former category. What is so great about a successful collaboration is the perpetuation of creative energy between two or more artists. One person gets excited about the potential of some object or material and suggests an idea that excites the other then it bounces back igniting light bulb after light bulb until there is really no choice but to get in the studio and work.

fancy brooch  - Erika Pahk and Amy Weiks  2009
industrial felt, antique Austrian glass beads, annealed steel, stainless steel, oxidized silver and 18k yellow gold solder

Pictured are a few of the brooches that Erika Pahk and I collaborated in making this past July at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. The collaboration was inspired by studio visits and a mutual admiration of work. I'm sure the clear mountain air didn't hurt either.  

double rabbit feet brooch - Erika Pahk and Amy Weiks  2009
industrial felt, cotton, annealed steel, stainless steel, oxidized silver and 18k yellow gold solder

Erika was working on several pieces at once and hanging on her wall was a lovely collection of her "rabbit feet" (see above brooch) made of cut industrial felt, cotton thread, and annealed steel wire. Being the metalsmith that I am I instantly wanted to transform these fascinating objects into jewelry. We discussed and sketched ideas and pretty much headed straight for the metals studio and started working. 

double rib brooch - Erika Pahk and Amy Weiks  2009
industrial felt, annealed steel, stainless steel, oxidized silver and 18k yellow gold solder

fan brooch - Erika Pahk and Amy Weiks  2009
ink and cut paper, annealed steel, stainless steel

fancy brooch - Erika Pahk and Amy Weiks  2009
industrial felt, antique Austrian glass beads, annealed steel, stainless steel, cotton

We made a total of eleven brooches. 

Hence came the phrase, "Make it a brooch!" 

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Penland Part 1 - 'A Treasure Hunt'

Penland Session 4: Upper Metals

'A Treasure Hunt' with Mary Kanda

(image: Oak Leaf brooch by Mary Kanda)

I had the pleasure of being the studio assistant for a metals workshop at
Penland School of Crafts for two amazing weeks this July. It was an all levels jewelry workshop that focused on mixed materials and color, including mosaic bead inlay with grout and encaustics. I think I was pretty lucky, we had a great instructor, a wonderful class dynamic, people with all levels of experience. Everyone was enthusiastic and more than willing to help each other out. And, of course, it must be mentioned that the metals studios at Penland are fantastic!

Below is the brooch I made that was inspired by the workshop.


Oxidized sterling silver with a stainless steel pin mechanism. Czech glass beads (red) with dark red encaustic. Various glass and onyx beads strung on red silk.

I did make quite a few other things during the two weeks which were inspired by colaborations and trades. Look out for additional Penland posts.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

defining material<>immaterial

An introduction to the author<>artist:

I am a visual thinker, an observer, a maker. I digest what I see, I filter, I make connections, however obscure, however esoteric, however disparate. If I deem these connections worthy I create objects and experiences. I have ideas that move fluidly from the immaterial to the material. I have ideas that never make it to the material, they remain immaterial in every sense of the word.

I believe I was born a maker, born to work with my hands. I believe they are my greatest strength. When the ability to move thoughts from brain to mouth evades me I choose the path of least resistance, from brain to hand. My need to manipulate, combine, and transform material leads me to making. This need to create evidence of my existence, evidence that these hands move, that these wheels, no matter how squeaky, continue to turn, this need is what fuels me. The desire to communicate is what moves me to observe, to obsess, to question, to consider, to accept, to reject.

There is a problem... I am my own worst critic. My standards are absurdly high. I am forever engaging in self-analysis and self-flagellation
. I have an over-developed, highly acute guilt complex. If the proverbial tree falls in the proverbial forest I believe it is somehow my fault.

Objectives of material<>immaterial:

To get to the meat of it, I plan to use this blog as a forum for considering the importance of it, the everyday, the personal, the impersonal, the ins, the outs, the ups, the downs, the here, the there, the edible, inedible, the unthinkable, the beautiful, the ugly, the is, the was, the will be. For now, I'm leaving it wide open.

Perhaps I can overcome it, and make some keen observations that hopefully you, reader, will deem worthy of considering and answering the question:

Is it material or immaterial?

Something to chew on:

With a little help from Merriam-Webster, here's something to mull over while I collect my thoughts...

          Listen to the pronunciation of 1material
Pronunciation: \mə-ˈtir-ē-əl\

Function: adjective

Etymology: Middle English materiel, from Middle French & Late Latin; Middle French, from Late Latin materialis, from Latin materia matter — more at matter

Date: 14th century
1 a (1): relating to, derived from, or consisting of matter ; especially : physical (the material world) (2): bodily (material needs) b (1): of or relating to matter rather than form (material cause) (2): of or relating to the subject matter of reasoning ; especially : empirical (material knowledge)
: having real importance or great consequences (material to the investigation)
3 a
: being of a physical or worldly nature b: relating to or concerned with physical rather than spiritual or intellectual things (material progress)


Function: noun

Date: 1556

1 a
(1): the elements, constituents, or substances of which something is composed or can be made (2): matter that has qualities which give it individuality and by which it may be categorized (sticky material) (explosive materials) b (1): something (as data) that may be worked into a more finished form (material for a biography) (2): something used for or made the object of study (material for the next semester) (3): a performer's repertoire (a commedian's material) c: matter 3b d: cloth e: a person potentially suited to some pursuit (varsity material) (leadership material)
2 a
: apparatus necessary for doing or making something (writing materials) b: matériel

          Listen to the pronunciation of immaterial
Pronunciation: \ˌi-mə-ˈtir-ē-əl\

Function: adjective

Etymology: Middle English immaterial, from Late Latin immaterialis, from Latin in- + Late Latin materialis material

Date:14th century
1 : not consisting of matter : incorporeal
: of no substantial consequence : unimportant