• Karen Selk

Great Bear Rainforest

I provide our island galleries, Gallery 8 and her sister Coastal Gallery, with fibre art. The galleries are owned by Razali who took a chance to include fibre art in his fine arts gallery when I walked in six years ago with examples of my work. It had been one my dreams to be included within those walls for years. There are a lot of artists living in my community that work in all mediums from metals and wood to painting and pottery and more. It is never easy to pluck up the courage and stand tall when showing your work to a gallery owner. But Razali's two story gallery space is filled with local artists work. His dedication to promote local artists made it much easier to present me work. It has been a wonderful symbiotic relationship ever since.


It has been educational being included in a gallery. Our island is a tourist destination filled with visitors each summer. Razali instinctively knows his clients tastes and expectations, both local and visitors. When I brought my work in, he said so assuredly: "that will sell, that won't." I was a bit astounded. I had been a silk merchant for over thirty years and continued to be surprised by the ebb and flow of our clients desires. While I continue to be inspired to work with subjects and materials that have meaning for me personally, I have learned that pieces with a west coast theme are best suited for the galleries.


When I got back to work in the studio, after my book, In Search of Wild Silk - Indigenous People Growing Their Heritage, was sent off to the publisher, I wanted to do new work for Razali who I neglected while writing the book. Before I started writing I had wanted to do a series called The Great Bear Rainforest which is a very special and magical place on this earth. It is made up of 26 First Nations traditional territories and is the world's largest intact temperate rainforest. It is 21 million acres of wilderness running along the Pacific coast of British Columbia for more than 250 miles. It is home to many First Nations communities and much wildlife which includes: wolves, grizzly bears, deer, cougars, mountain goats, salmon, sea lions, otters, humpback, orca and fin whales, black bears, many birds and the elusive white spirit bear. All the bears are an important part of the forest eco-system because they carry salmon carcasses deep into the forest where nutrients from the ocean are transferred to trees.


We ventured along the coast and into the Great Bear Rainforest for nine days in September 2017 on a 1912 converted tug boat with our friends Richard and Elizabeth from New Zealand. We had fires on the beach, jumped rope using kelp seaweed, traveled up fjords nearly each day in zodiacs in search of wildlife and enjoyed the company of the nine other passengers and crew. One day we floated with a pod of humpback whales for three hours as they played, breached and communicated to each other about their special technique of bubble net feeding. The crew had hydro-phones which they put in the water as the whales were communicating which hit each of us in the solar plexus and tear ducts. We ran with two Fin whales, the second largest mammal on earth and watched hundreds of sea lions cavorting on a rock island and spied on a grizzly bear digging for bulbs and roots under the watchful eyes of eagles. We spent a whole day on a river filled with spawning salmon watching Boss, the sprit bear, Jack, a black bear and a mom and two cubs walk up and down the river fishing. Boss, the sprit bear, crossed our path three times that day. Being in his presence, we understood why these rare bears are considered sacred. Each day was filled with the smells, sounds and power of the sea, rivers, waterfalls, forests and the creatures that inhabit those places, changing our lives.





Photos from this trip were used for the series for Gallery 8. I incorporate the photographs I take with textile techniques. I make a substrate called silk fusion, of pulled unspun silk fibre and brush it with textile medium to hold the fibres together making a substance somewhere between fabric and paper. After many months of experimentation I figured out how to run the silk fusion through my inkjet printer and print photos onto it. Then I set about enhancing and embellishing with coloured pencils, machine and hand stitch and finally quilting it to give dimension. It is good to be in studio again inspired by my experiences and surroundings.