Vancouver artist Sharon Kallis is no stranger to environmental art. Over the past few years, she has collaborated with environmentalists, ecologists and communities to transform unwanted natural materials, like invasive species and green waste, into physical structures that will support the return of native flora and fauna. Kallis, using traditional weaving techniques, fashions invasive vines into nurse logs and bio netting. These art pieces slow soil erosion and support the return of native plants. The installations or collaborative eco-art she creates are ecological interventions tailored to each space. Common Threads: Weaving Community through Collaborative Eco-Art (New Society Pub. $29.95) is a simple weaving guide to engage communities in controlling invasive species, creating better green waste management and building collective urban gardens for the greater good. Uniting communities in a common goal fosters relationships and develops responsible land stewardship. Kallis believes that a do-it-together mentality empowers communities and connects individuals to work as one in the fight to combat environment urban issues.


Common Threads: Weaving Community through Collaborative Eco-Art (New Society Pub. 2014) $29.95 978-0-86751-778-7

[BCBW 2014]

Common Threads: Weaving Community through Collaborative Eco-Art by Sharon Kallis
(New Society $31.99 audiobook)

Ten years ago, artist Sharon Kallis worked with the Stanley Park Ecology Society (SPES) to find new ways to deal with the mounds of waste from invasive plant species the park generated rather than just incinerate it.

“Any potential good the plant might have done in carbon sequestration, is gone up in smoke,” she said in her book Common Threads: Weaving Community through Collaborative Eco-Art (New Society, 2014).

Kallis also noted that after invasive plant species had been weeded, the soil was subject to erosion.

Being against foreign-made netting (commonly used to protect bare soil) with all the negative environmental impact its importation entailed, Kallis began experimenting with techniques to crochet or knit the most common form of invasive plant, English Ivy, after it had been dried, to make a natural netting to cover the soil until native species returned. Eventually the dried (and dead) ivy would decompose, providing nutrients to the soil.

The technique was so easy that passersby could be taught and many joined in the knitting process. It became a teaching moment as Kallis described the negative impact of invasive species, even those as attractive as English Ivy, to her new ‘volunteers.’ The hope was they would stop using invasive species at home, thereby preventing their spread.

The process also created a strong sense of community with its own benefits. Kallis wrote in her book “…when we work with others, our potential increases exponentially, and we learn to draw on each other’s strengths and support each other through challenges.”
Prior to working with SPES, Kallis had used discarded materials in her artwork. She liked to find stuff that was available and “free for the taking.” She gradually learned that seeking such materials helped her get closer to the environment. It also gave her the impetus for thinking about creative ways to use the things around her.

Soon, she was collecting floor sweepings of dog hair to spin and weave into slippers. Kallis also began making outdoor sculptures out of green waste such as dogwood tree clippings, often drawing in other people to participate.

Kallis became a connector between people of different disciplines, “In my work that often means connecting ecologists and environmentalists or gardeners with a creative community to work with green waste piles.

“I know that enough of anything can be made into something,” Kallis says. “Discovering what that something is can be an incredible journey— learning skills, developing a seasonal awareness, fostering community and building self-empowerment with a do-it-together attitude.”

Now available as an audio book, Common Threads (New Society $31.99), will reach more people than ever.
“In general, I hope this book creates a framework of possibility, allowing you to see what is ‘unwanted’ in the world around you as a creative resource waiting to be harvested.”
9781897408520 (audiobook)
9780867517787 (print)

BCBW 2021