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How To Make An East-Van Quilt

Shayne Ehman

By only

Monday May 15, 2006

Shayne Ehman’s new show at Blanket Gallery ‘Mountain of Light’ includes drawings, painted poems, and some quilts made in collaboration with his mother Gloria Taylor.

Only: You’ve been really active in collaborating with some of Vancouver’s best artists like Jason McLean, Holly Ward, and July 4th Toilet, among others. For this show you’ve worked with your mother to make these quilts. Can you talk about that collaboration?

Shayne Ehman: I was born… and everything was born. My mom
lives up near Skeleton Lake, Alberta. We do all kinds of things together. My family is really into wildcrafting medicinal herbs and mushrooms and berries and wild teas… you know, picking and drying. Being out in the bush…
I think that the idea to make some quilts really started when my mom made a small baby blanket based on a comic strip that I sent her about a year ago. It is very cool… totally her style. The characters are kind of different from how I drew them… more rounded out and maybe a bit less tweaked… the teeth are rounded out and also there was an oracle which she thought was a pint of beer… also the color combos are totally hers… batiks and reflective patterned stuff and googly eyes on buttons; totally mind boggling. If anyone wants to see it you can come over or I’ll email you an image of it. [email protected].
Working with family has an extra dimension of meaning and importance. The inherent energy is just mega charged… Like the real essence of this work for me is in the mutual respect and love which we were able to realise and materialise and share. Very stoking…
The sculptural legacy of a quilt is different from the sculptural legacy of, say… a burger.
When designing the quilts I tried to refine many elements into one image… focusing on basic symbols and shapes to represent the mother and the goddess and birth and enlightenment, the sacred geometry of Ukrainian psanky, local indigenous spirits, many different cultures’ quilting traditions, humble architecture, vibrant color, and also content and calm character expression.

Only: You’ve had a really varied art practice; you’ve done painting, installation work, sculpture, sound works, some MCing. Is there a constant, something that binds all of this together?

SE: Buckteeth… Buggy eyes.

Only: A lot of your work refers to East Vancouver. What is it that interests you about East Vancouver?

SE: I am always amazed to find the world when I wake up. Indeed, East Van is a very potent place. Underground… anonymous, not for sale… alive… zed dog, heefro, jail, shaydow, signmast, belly boy, herge, aureal, lordyboy, the glassnose, hendyboy, the eel, campy, bardo, rouxdog, mori, uvdalev…... everybody… a tight crew which is actually huge. A lot of people who look like bums are working very hard every day to uphold the spiritual and cultural integrity of East Van… because there are forces at work.
Yeah, people are talking too much about money and I think they reveal a hollow puppeteer… a horrible reaper who not only destroys but defines love… you know like a constituted opposite… a very unfortunate trend. Boom. Static. People should be able to change, people should be encouraged to change the world, to work together and help each other.

Only: Before this show, the last work of yours that I saw was a painting on bark with some pigment that you had made out of moss, I think. And now you’re ‘quilting’. What’s your stance on the technology of the last century?

SE: Oh yeah, that ink was made from a coprinus comatus mushroom. About my stance on the technology of last century, I ride regular footed.