A long day, but well worth it. We got to the festival site about 9:30 Sunday morning, and started right in to work.
Here I am in the background, looking rather pensive! At this point, we had completed the interior portion of the WORDWALL sculpture … this element would be revealed as the sculpture burned.
This is a shot of me finishing up one of the exterior ‘walls’ for the sculpture. The piece was all puns and wordplay, based on the narrative for the Folktrails storytelling portion of the Festival. Essentially, the story revolved around how easy it is to get rigid in our thinking; we say NO to new ideas, because we “KNOW” everything. This attitude builds walls, creates physical and emotional barriers, limits growth. So … of those walls come down … change and positivity can flourish (YES!)
We had a few tense moments getting the sculpture finished and set to burn; the two outside walls had to balance properly, so that once the fire reached them, they would fall away from the center, and leave the YES panels standing! Somehow, we managed to make it all work, and get the WORDWALL stuffed with straw, and ready in time for the Procession from the Folktrails area. Here, you can see the leader of the Procession entering the burn area; the finished sculpture is in the background, waiting for the torch.
And here I am, lighting the wick that leads to the sculpture …
… and up it goes! It’s quite dramatic (and not a little cathartic) when the work catches fire. There’s something really primal in the visceral response the crowd has to the lighting and the fire. John Halliday (you can find his Instagram handle in the photo captions) – who was kind enough to share some of his photos of the event with me – pointed out the creepy face that seemed to emerge from the flames here. Seems appropriate, since part of the story is the banishing of ideas and thoughts that have outlasted their usefulness~!
I really like this shot – it captured the point in the burn where the walls are falling away to reveal the YES inside. Great moment!
Another shot of the walls coming down …
And finally … all that was left after the fire did its work. Embers and smoke, and the night sky, lit by spotlights.
And that was that for another year; about 12 hours all together, and an amazing experience.
I can’t say enough good about all the fantastic people that make this Festival happen. The site crew and organizers were amazing – so helpful, and so lovely to work with. We were very well taken care of all day … blocks of snow got delivered to brace the sculpture, bales of hay appeared, volunteers gave us a chance to take a break for lunch, and even brought us a late dinner when it was all over (because we were too busy finishing the work to go for supper!) I feel like WORDWALL belongs to everyone at Silver Skate – they all really helped make it happen.
And I have to say my fellow wall-builder-engineer-wirecutter-twine-wrapper and all ’round amazing partner John was completely indispensable. Absolutely couldn’t have done this without him!
I’m a bit sore around the edges today – discovered some underused muscles, that’s for sure! – but more than anything, I’m really grateful I was able to do this.
Silver Skate continues next weekend too – and there will be two more fire sculptures being made and burned on Saturday February 21 and Sunday February 22. So, if you’re in the Edmonton area, try to make it down. It’s a free event, and there’s a lot going on all weekend – check out the schedule here. Races, snow sculpture, storytelling … so much to do.
I will be participating in the Fire Sculpture portion of the Silver Skate Festival again this year! I will be creating – and burning! my piece for this year’s event on Sunday February 16th. It’s a fun and exciting event; making work that I know will be consumed by fire at the end of the day has such a liberating and cathartic feeling to it. You can find a site map for the festival here.
It’s a great opportunity too to engage fully in the physical aspects of art-making. There’s real immediacy to making work outdoors, in the winter weather … to say the least.
But in other ways too: the materials are limited to various forms of brushwood and scrap milled pieces, some straw (for fire fuel) and a bit of fabric (for drama and colour). There are specific restrictions on the fasteners we use too (wire and natural twine only) to hold the work together – this, for safety’s sake in the aftermath of the burn (ever step on a nail or screw? I don’t recommend it!), and so that there are no nasty fumes given off when the sculptures go up in flames. So – there are design challenges, the physical challenges around making the work, and the emotional challenge of letting go of what you make almost as soon as it’s done.
This past Sunday at the Silver Skate Festival was the second day of the “Fires of Fear” sculpture event.
This day was devoted to the creation of a collaborative work – one sculpture, made by all of us, to be committed to the flames on the Sunday night.
The day’s work was quite a bit more challenging than I (and my colleagues) had hoped … fact of the matter was, the weather conspired against us a bit. It turned chilly and windy on the Sunday, so we were all thoroughly bundled up against the chill, and seeking out hot coffee and soup frequently! This was happier news for the artists creating snow sculptures and for the skaters and skiers to be sure … but my hands were not terribly happy – or cooperative – in the cold. Still, there’s something to be said for adversity bringing people together – we all worked hard to get the sculpture finished early so we could take a long warm-up break before the night time burn!
For this sculpture, we took another page from the curator’s folktale narrative and created a giant wolf … in the folktale for which our sculptures were made, wolves were (logically enough) something that the villagers feared, but they were also denizens of an alternate reality, a world of magic and possibility and adventure. So, it seemed only fitting that we close the “Fires of Fear” by creating one of these lovely beasts!
And here are some photos of our day’s work, and the final, spectacular burn that night:
I feel really fortunate to have been able to participate in this wonderful event. I worked with some lovely people, had a ridiculous amount of fun making work, and I got to play with fire!
Had an absolutely tremendous time at the Silver Skate Festival this past weekend!
Wonderful bunch of other artists to work with, and the festival itself is really quite an event – a great blend of sport and cultural events (there are events going on this week too, culminating in weekend celebrations and closing). My thanks and congrats to everyone involved in the festival – well done!
One of the things I found so inspiring about the festival was the curatorial focus we were given as participants; it’s all well and good to get a bunch of artist to make work, but having a thematic/narrative frame for our efforts really made things happen. As artists, we were actually ‘characters’ in a story, so we were contributing to (and connecting with) the theatre and storytelling going on in other parts of the festival site.
I’ve always liked the idea of committing the things we most want to release to the transformative power of fire; such a process provides a deep level of engagement with change in so many ways. And there’s a fascination with fire and the spectacle of it – the beauty, power, danger – that has a the capacity to draw people in that other things do not. It’s visceral, immediate on many levels simultaneously.
There’s alos something incredibly liberating about creating something that you know will be irrevocably changed/transformed shortly after its completion. I won’t say the sculptures we made were destroyed – they weren’t, really, in the grand scheme of things. Not at all – the fire changed them tremendously on one level, but what could not be altered by the fire was the participation by each of us in the entire process: the making, and the sharing of that making was to me the real art here.
Still – the things we did make were pretty great all on their own! I was really fascinated by the range of work produced: we each took the idea of creating an effigy of something fearful in completely different directions.
Here are some images from the Saturday “build and burn” – there were six artist-teams each producing a separate sculpture on the first day:
And then … we got to do it all again on Sunday! Part 2 to follow ….
I went down to the Silver Skate Festival site this afternoon, to check out how things were developing, and to see where the fire sculptures are going to be made Saturday and Sunday.
I think it’s going to be a fantastic weekend!
There are some beautiful snow sculptures on site already, and there were artists working hard on more as I walked around – and more were coming back to the site tonight to work, when the temperature drops. (Murphy’s Law: we have a warm spell – great for me, so I don’t freeze my hands making work this weekend, but not ideal for the snow sculpture artists!)
I’ve had a good look at the basic materials we are being provided, and I know about the rest coming tomorrow – and it looks like what I have planned will work just fine (phew~!)
So … if you’re in Edmonton, Alberta – you should come by Hawrelak Park tomorrow and Sunday – I’ll be making a sculpture all day on both days from 9 am – 6pm, and then we will be setting them all alight at about 8 pm each night! Saturday all of the artists are making their own work, and on Sunday we are a single collaborative sculpture.
It’s going to be exciting!
I am hoping to get some good photos of the process (and the final conflagration) over the weekend – so if I get some good shots, you’ll see them here!