Knot Tying Workshop

On Monday November 16th, 2015, I led a workshop for Outdoor School on knot tying. In preparation I had learned countless knots, chosen the ones I thought would be most accessible to the group, cut 7′ foot lengths for each participant and burned the frayed edges with a lighter.

It was important to me that every single person got to partake in the workshop with both hands, which meant I chose not to have anyone document it via cell phones or cameras. Instead, I have made the following video, both for those who may have forgotten the three knots, or those who missed the workshop.

For those interested, the ‘Bible’ of knots was written and illustrated by an artist, Clifford W. Ashley, and though published back in 1944, is still one of the most important knot tying reference books today. Luckily for anybody interested in knots, the sole North American branch of the International Guild of Knot Tyers, is located in our backyard, just an hour away in Hamilton.

An excellent online learning tool is It’s step by step images have a mirror option (for lefties), and was how I learned the Alpine Butterfly.

Knots can provide both utility and fun, and the knots I have learned have given me confidence. Before preparing for this workshop I had no knowledge of knots what so ever, but after hundreds of repetitions, it is now like riding a bike. Thank you to everyone who attended the workshop, and I hope you take at least one of these knots with you through life.

– Theo

Spectroscope Workshop

A spectroscope is a device that is used to analyse light by separating its parts into a spectrum.

On November 18th, 2015 I hosted an in-class workshop where I taught our class to build and use spectroscopes out of cereal boxes.

The spectroscopes we built used a CD to defract the light once the device is aimed at a light source.

How to Build Your Own Spectroscope:

Materials required:

– 1 cereal box
– 1 CD
– 2 Index Cards (Can be replaced with 2 razor blades)
– 60 degree angle (printable angles can be found online)
– black tape
– scissors
– ruler

Your spectroscope will look something like this:



– fold cereal box shut and tape the bottom edges so no light seeps in
– on the top left of the box measure roughly one-two inches and mark a line across the width of your box
– cut along the line and unfold the flaps that were created and cut the flaps off


– use your 60 degree angle and line it up to the top corner of the box so the hypotenuse of the triangle angles toward the center of the box. Measure and draw a line 3 inches from the top corner of the box. You will have a 3 inch line starting at the top corner of your box, and the line will lead ROUGHLY toward the center of your cereal box.

-cut those lines

-flip the box over and do the same thing on the other side



– cut a 1 inch high rectangle out on the opposite side of the slits. The rectangle should be the width of the box.

-Use your index cards or razor blades (sharp edges facing inward toward each other) to block out most of the rectangle you just cut out. Place them horizontally, closely together, leaving a 1mm gap between the cards. Tape the cards securely to the box.



-Tape the box closed

-Slide the CD into the slot


-Point the index card slit at a light and look into the square hole into the box at the bottom of the CD. You will see your bright white light bulb break up into its composing colours!


Here are some more photos from the spectroscope workshop:

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Here are the final products:


Handmade Paper with Leaves and Scrap Paper

Why do we need paper?

  • Map out routes (if you do not have a compass)
  • Record thoughts, ideas, findings
  • Newspaper, books, archives
  • Toilet paper
  • Letters to connect people
  • Knowledge, news, entertainment, art

Materials Required:

  • Deckle
  • Blender
  • Blotting paper (preferably without dye so that it will not bleed on the paper) or paper towels
  • A large plastic tub or small (depending on the size of paper you’re making)
  • Pitcher
  • Spoon
  • Sheet of screening material slightly larger than the frame
  • Drying pan/ rack
  • Water (any temperature)
  • Scrap paper (tickets, wrapping paper, tissue, mail, packing paper etc. but no newspaper)
  • Flower petals and leaves (no sticks or stems)


  1. Tear up the paper and leaves into smaller pieces. Fill the blender half way, loosely with the torn paper. Add the torn leaves into the blender. Add as many leaves as you would like, the more leaves you use the less amount of paper area you will see. Fill your blender ¾ with water and start the blender to mix everything together. Stop the blender when the leaves have broken down into finer bits and when the paper has turned into pulp.2..JPG2. Fill the plastic tub a ¼ of the way with water. Assemble the two parts of the deckle together by having the frame with the screen facing upwards and the other frame with the foam strip facing down sitting on top of frame with the screen. The screen and foam strip should be sandwiched together between the two frames. Submerge the deckle into the tub with water. Once submerged, the water level should sit slightly above the frame with the screen. If the water is not above the screen pour some water in the tub until it is above. Have a partner hold down the deckle in the tub so it does not float when putting in the pulp.

DSCN5922.JPG3. Take a spoon and spoon some of the pulp into the center opening of the deckle on top of the screen. Spread it around evenly on the deckle. Add as much pulp as you desire, the more pulp you add the longer it will take for the paper to dry and the thicker it will be.

DSCN59324. When you are done with the pulp, slowly lift the deckle up, still sandwiched together, from the water and let it drain. You can choose to take the deckle to the sink to remove the excess water or turn the deckle slightly to its side and rest the deckle on the edge of your plastic tub. Now remove the top frame of your deckle and your paper pulp should be resting on the screen material of the other half your deckle. At this point, you can choose to add flat leaves or petals on the surface of the paper pulp if you want some decoration. Continue reading “Handmade Paper with Leaves and Scrap Paper”

Handmade Deckle to Make Handmade Paper

Materials Required:

  • Stretcher bars (any two sizes or just one size to make square paper. The bigger the stretchers bars the bigger your final paper will be.) If two sizes are chosen you will need four bars of each size to create two frames.
    • Alternative: if you cannot get stretcher bars, two identical old frames will work as well without the glass
  • Mallet
  • Staple gun
  • Fiberglass or window screening material
  • Weatherstrip foam tape

All the materials above can be purchased at Canadian Tire or Home Depot with the exception of stretcher bars.

Stretcher Bars Continue reading “Handmade Deckle to Make Handmade Paper”

Synchronized Swimming

Last monday the class learned the basics of Synchronized Swimming! Originally known as Water Ballet, the first recorded competition was in 1891 in Berlin. Water Ballet clubs soon began learning and rehearsing routines and “tricks”. As well as being a competitive sport, synchronized swimming was popular as large-scale entertainment performance in the early to mid-20th century, particularly in big-budget hollywood movies. Here’s a clip of Esther Williams, a famous water ballerina of her day, in a very elaborate scene from the 1944 film Bathing Beauty :

We started out the synchro workshop by learning some of the basic syncro moves I had learned from real-life synchronized swimmer Rebecca (who used to train 25 hours a week!!)–

Synchro learning

The Basic Moves:

  • Lay-up – lying flat in the water and “sculling” with your hands
  • Tub – tucking your knees into your chest, keeping your shins above the water and toes pointed (pictured above)
  • Sailboat – the Tub but with one leg pointed in the air

After getting these moves down (more or less), the class made our own attempts at being Bathing Beauties. Here is the final result of our routine-

We learned that synchronized swimming is a pretty tough sport- it’s a real work-out, but you have to look happy and ballerina-like while doing it.

synchro 5

synchro 3

synchro 4
true water ballerinas- look at those pointed toes

Thanks to the swimmers for being such willing participants, and to Katie for documenting!

synchro 2

The Way Of Dundas Hill (baby Camino)

This sIMG_2130ummer I embarked on the Camino de Santiago (the Way of Saint James) – a thousand-year-old  800km pilgrimage which began in Saint Jean Pied de Port in France and ended in Compostella in Spain. It was gruelling but perfect. I learnt a lot about my body and how to gently control my walking and thoughts. I accidentally left one of my orthotics in Paris before I boarded a train to Bayonne and then continued on a bus to Saint Jean Pied de Port in near tears. The next day we hiked the Pyrannes and entered Spain. After a bout of heat exhaustion and painful ankels and knees, I realized how much of this trip needed to focus on my own control and understanding of my body as I completed the 800km hike without orthotics.

For our workshop, I organized a ‘baby camino,’ which began at my home downtown and concluded at my studio on campus.  We ‘hiked’ the hill on Gordon street which was formally known as Dundas Hill. Camino means ‘way’ – so we walked the way of Dundas Hill.

We began with a small discussion of the history of pilgrimage, understanding that pilgrimage can be taken for secular and personal reasons as the Camino de Santiago is visited by thousands of people each year, only a handful of who are practising Catholics. Pilgrims were given small pilgrim’s passports which they were then asked to fill with their intentions for their walk.

discussing pilgrimage

Next everyone was asked to stand up. We noticed the ways our bodies stand naturally. Our natural imbalances. The ways our ankles curve in and our knees overextend. We acknowledged that some of these imbalances we cannot change however, we can gentle and consciously adjust the ways our knees overextend, to adjust our weight to our cores, to let the weight of our backpacks fall on our hips as opposed to our shoulders.

Thirdly we walked slowly, to follow our natural gaits. To pay attention to the way our body wants to move. Understanding that in one kilometre we cannot change everything about our gaits. Perhaps we can honour the way our body wants to move naturally.

consciously walking, honouring our natural gait

Fourthly, we paid attention to our breath. Following the natural rhythms of our breaths in tune with our natural gait. We walked slowly to pay attention to our bodies. We would focus on these processes when we walked.

Before we began to walk we consciously focused our minds on the processes of our bodies. This is what we would focus on when walking. Other thoughts on midterm papers and art critiques would be gently pushed out of our minds when we walked. We weren’t going to talk. The way is personal for everyone. We were going to focus on ourselves.

We began walking in silence. Across Wellington Street, up Gordon.

crossing Wyndham Street
at the top of Dundas Hill

We completed our walk at my studio with some coffee to break our silence. Pilgrims showed their passports and talked about their intentions for their pilgrimage. Did they find what they were looking for? Some said yes, others were unsure.

outside my studio post-camino

We discussed our findings and decided we had a Buen Camino.

How to Lucid Dream and Create a Dream Altar

Lucid dreaming has been widely practiced throughout history. In Buddhist and Hindu meditation a state similar to that experienced when lucid dreaming has been practiced since ancient times. This state is called Yoga nidra. In the western cannon the earliest reference to lucid dreaming comes from Aristotle, quoted below:

Often when one is asleep, there is something in consciousness which declares that what then presents itself is but a dream.

The term “lucid dream” was coined in the late 19th century by Dutch psychiatrist Frederick van Eeden.

Lucid dreaming was seen as something very hard to study scientifically because no reliable method had been found to prove the subject’s claims of lucidity while asleep. In the late 1970s, however, researchers discovered that during REM sleep, the subject’s eye movements correspond to actions in their dreams. With this knowledge researchers were able to accurately study lucidity by recording pre-determined eye-movements while the subject was asleep.

Current scientific exploration in lucid dreaming involves electrically stimulating the subjects brain to induce the lucid state. This research has been proposed as therapy for patients suffering from PTSD and has already proven helpful for patients with recurring nightmares.

For those of us without access to electrical stimulation, there are many ways which we can train ourselves to become regular lucid dreamers. There is no easy way to learn quickly and have a lucid dreaming experience in one night, it is a process that many people dedicate months to before experiencing any result.

Here are some tips that I found most useful and unanimous across many sources:

1 – Keep a dream journal, and write in it right when you wake up and you still remember your dream. Many times, you may half wake up and convince yourself that you don’t need to write your dream down because you’ll remember it before drifting back to sleep. Fight this urge, because you will probably forget it.

The more you write down, the more you will remember the next night. By going through your journal after many nights, you can begin to identify themes specific to your dreams that will later help you realize you are dreaming and become lucid.

2 – Perform reality checks while awake. These can be things like reading something and re-reading it to see if the text has changed, closing your mouth and nose and trying to breath, looking down at your hands or feet, or looking at your reflection in a mirror to check for distortions.

By performing these checks on a semi-regular basis while awake, the techniques will begin to enter your dreams as regular everyday activities. The hope is that while asleep you will recognize that something is off when the result of the activity doesn’t quite match reality, and in doing so realize you are dreaming and become lucid.

3 – Mugwort. Mugwort is a common plant used in cooking and traditional Chinese medicine. Its flowers can be dried and turned into a tea that is said to bring vivid dreams.


4 – Building a dream altar. A dream altar is a way to give a tangible form to ideas and feelings you want to bring into your dreams. It is a way to focus your energy on these ideas so that they easily transfer into your unconscious mind. The altar is meant to be kept in the room you sleep in, and it is interesting to note that even a messy bedside table can become an unintentional altar that may bring anxious dreams.

With those parameters you can really include anything in your dream altar. Many people choose to include tokens from past dreams and metaphorical items are encouraged.

For our class workshop, we used items from the Bovey Garden. Items were chosen based on name, smell, touch, and aesthetics.

Here are some of the classes altars (click for full images):

During the workshop, Kelly mentioned a podcast on dreams and sleep, which I’ve linked here and recommend everybody listen to!

Exciting Times Outside

So today was our first reading as a class outside, and it started off with a bang because our amazing jumpsuits of awesome nature-ness arrived today!! Nathan also presented a very useful survival tip; how to shoot in the sun.

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Our little reading spot was pretty fantastic. It was very nice and relaxing in the gardens as we discussed some pretty heavy questions surrounding the roles of art and artist when it comes to issues surrounding the planet’s well-being. Is it the artist’s job to bring the problems regarding climate change to light and be the hero? Maybe it is? As we discussed, art has a way of narrowing down the meaning of “climate change” in pretty creative ways.  And we stretched…who doesn’t like a good stretch?

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