Wooden Boats and Art Talks

As I sit at our kitchen table and write this post, I find myself very distracted by the sounds outside. We were going to travel by boat to see an island today but we found out that the boat was cancelled because of bad weather. On the horizon there was a dark cloud and it has been quickly growing all morning. You would think that the city would be quiet in the shadow of a thunderstorm but instead it is the opposite! The rolls of thunder are very long and the animals that live next door in the zoo are talking like crazy. But enough of distractions…

It has been a wonderful past few days here. At the beginning of the week we spent a lovely afternoon with Varvara. She took us out to see a small village on the outside of Petrozavodsk. We walked along the dirt roads and enjoyed lovely views of the countryside and beautiful, old, wooden houses.

Afterwards she took us to see a wooden boat factory. Although it is referred to as a factory, it is a magical place where a team of extremely skillful craftsmen build custom wooden boats. They can build any kind of wooden boat and they build them using the historical methods. Aleksi, the man that showed us around the factory, showed us how they build some boats without using nails at all! Other boats are built using metal pins. They have even built ships used in movies, including the Hornblower series and the first Pirates of the Caribean movie. Needless to say I was in heaven! The smell of the wood and being able to watch people hand carving, splicing and fitting strips of wood across the bones of future boats was a real treat! If you would like to see you images you can check out their website here. Varvara also took us to see another boat-related place, a sailing club on Lake Onega. We had another lovely tour here as well and we were given a lovely history about some of the ships that were built here and traveled all over the world (some even sailed from here to Vancouver and back). We were given two tours of the inside of boats that were being re-fit and had a private tour of their museum.

I have been doing a lot of drawing recently, both at the apartment and also in the gallery, and also preparing for some events. Yesterday I gave an exhibition tour to a group of students in a Foreign Languages Class. There was maybe about 15 students that came and they had some very interesting comments about the work and asked lots of questions. It was a bonus for me because they spoke English and so I could let loose and talk about whales and art without restraint. Some of the girls stayed after and we talked for a long time. It was a great afternoon and I was thrilled to meet such wonderful people.

Yesterday evening I gave a public Artist Talk at the gallery about my art practice, a brief history on the development of Cetology and an introduction to my project at this residency, Waterland. I know that I have said this before, but I find myself constantly impressed by the appreciation of art by the people of Petrozavodsk. There seems to be an honest desire to look at art with an open mind and spend long time with the work. After the talk I was again approached by people with questions about the work. The staff at the Media Centre did a fabulous job transforming the space for the talk, translating for me and doing lots of work behind the scenes.

It sounds like the thunderstorm has mainly passed now and there is a steady rain that looks like it is settling in for the rest of the afternoon. One more thing before I sing off. We have been enjoying watching a lovely, chirpy, bird couple these past weeks. They have built a beautiful nest in the tree right outside our window. We are expecting some new additions very soon!

Petrozavodsk, Russia

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