Through one lens she weaves with seaweed, antler and bone. Through another she weaves with air and light. Artist, Lydia Miller, creates otherworldly entanglements from found organic material gathered from the landscapes around her.
From the mountains of the Kootenay region where she grew up, to the sea near her current home in Cowichan, BC, Lydia loves to be in nature.
I appreciate the privilege of existing in lush and accessible surroundings. It is the Spirit of these lands which keep me grounded and dedicated, nurtured and humble. I am served daily reminders that I am provided with all that is needed to survive abundantly, and I am obligated to reciprocate the graciousness and generosity that has been gifted.
As a child, Lydia would most often be found outside in the backyard. Exploring the tiny ecosystems that exist under rocks and throughout moss and tree roots. Cultivating excitement for other than human activities, and cultivating relationships with other than human beings. Time would dissolve and she never tired of following her curiosity and conversing with the fairy realms. She did, however, long for an adult to meet her there, to play in the myriad of magical mushroom villages and acknowledge the fern fronds that were waving at them for attention. Years later Lydia has become that adult; she weaves early childhood education with art, gardening, and wild crafting, and shows children how to grow and forage their materials, and encourages them to play with and use their art outside of the studio and past the stage of creation. Her property outside of Cowichan has a studio and small classroom, as well as a garden where she grows plants to dye her fiber with. Everything she needs is right outside her door.
A fiber artist, Lydia connects to both her art and the natural world through her hands. Whether weaving materials on a loom, or into organic sculptural forms, her hands need to touch her materials before she can start creating. Different textures call to her while on trips to the beach. Fingers run along leaves and tree trunks on walks through the forest. She laughs, “We all love to be touched, right?” Ecologists would say so. Deer nibbling spring shoots encourages more growth. Wind rustling poplar leaves looks like it feels good to me. As someone who experiences life though her eyes, the idea of experiencing the world through touch almost feels overwhelming. What a truly sensual way to connect with what is 'other'. Fingers forward, and attempting to learn through touch might have to become part of my creative investigation.
Each material Lydia uses has its own set of parameters. Willow can bend much further than bone. Seaweed dries tight. Some materials decompose faster than others. Each has its own set of qualities during its life, and often these qualities change after the life force has left. Each material still retains an echo of its life force though, and that echo reverberates softly as Lydia weaves. It teaches her about each plant and animal through the boundaries and limitations of the materials. This one holds form and structure, that one will wrap around them. Relationships woven together with care. Hands listening and adhering. Creating container-like sculptures, effigies of ecosystems past, and beautiful and calming entanglements of the natural world.
In 2020, I had the pleasure of exhibiting with Lydia at the Kootenay Gallery of Art. Seeing her pieces in the gallery space was nearly a synesthetic experience. Viewing each piece felt like I was touching them with my eyes. Each held a tension between something solid and something ethereal, and I wanted to run my fingers over all of them. I refer to some of her pieces as containers of air and light because there is a receptive, container-like quality to them, where they are softly and literally holding space (see first photo posted). Or perhaps they're holding memories of flora and fauna past. In her artist statement, Lydia writes:
Through weaving, homage is paid to the imperative balance between Earth and Sea, Flora and Fauna, Humanity and Animality. These forms desire to reinstate understanding of relativity to our natural home, and shatter the colonial mindset that Earth is to be conquered and exploited for our own 'advancement'. It is only our reverence for connection that will allow for eternal growth.
Balance. Relativity. Connection. These words wrap around each of Lydia's sculptural pieces. Seaweed wraps around bone. Lichens drape over branches. Each piece is sensual and sensitive. Heavy yet seemingly floating through in the air. I question if some of them once floated in the sea. Deep ocean drifters or long since sea witches that have crossed over to our dimension of land and air. The way in which each piece is highlighted with directional lighting adds to this feeling of floating– the shadows speaking to life force that once danced and moved with the currents.
Through one lens she weaves with seaweed, antler and bone. Through another she weaves with air and light. Through both, Lydia's art speaks to the world she wants to help create. Natural materials, plant dyes, and choosing to exhibit locally versus shipping her work across vast distances, all speak to her desire to celebrate her own ecosystem and tread lightly on the earth. In the natural world she sees a tapestry of abundance, and she experiences herself as both weaver and part of the tapestry. Thank you for telling us your story through your hands connection to this world, Lydia.
Lydia will be exhibiting some of her pieces this summer as part of the “Emergence” group show at the Port Alberni Art Gallery.
To see the virtual tour of the exhibit Lydia and I had together, click here for my After Eden exhibit:
And click here for Lydia's Anima exhibit:
See more of Lydia's sculptural and fiber art on her website and Instagram:
Images in the order they are posted:
With Poise and Vexation, 2017
Arachnida (detail), 2019
Artist at Kootenay Gallery of Art, 2020
Aboubakar Fofana is a fiber artist that also connects deeply to nature and is a source of inspiration for Lydia's fiber art:
If you liked this article and you want to learn more about tactile learning for children: