Notes from the Fort began as a series of performance installations through fort-building in public spaces. The aim was to create occasions of temporary intimacy in new environments, and imbue them with the essence of home. It has evolved to become this: a digital home for musings about place, structure, materials and the craft of poetry. Interspersed throughout these posts over the next several months you will find records of places (Rathven, Marnay-sur-Seine, Salzburg, Amsterdam, Abbotsford and Clear Lake), a few notes from forts built in Reykjavík, Iceland from the 2012 series, reviews of books and luggage, and a handful of “behind the ms.” exposés on the generation of my new poetry manuscript From Place(s) to Place(s) (that don’t exist anymore). I hope you enjoy your time here.
Michelle Elrick is a Winnipeg-based artist and author of To Speak (Muses Co., 2010). She is also a wanderer from a long line of emigrants, homesteaders and frontiersfolk. Since 2001, she has lived in the following Canadian postal zones: V2S 3M6, V2S 1W6, V3G 1C3, V1X 3H7, V2S 3M3, V4X 1T6, V5N 1X5, R3C 2B7, R3G 1V6, R3B 1H3, N6B 1Y2, R3G 2G6, R3G 1Y8, R3B 0S2, R2H 2V4, R2W 3N1.
For more information on her work and news of upcoming shows and releases, visit: www.michelleelrick.com.
What follows is a list of materials used to construct the forts in the NFTF installation series. Each panel serves as a visual representation of a significant aspect of my personal home mythology. I aimed to reduce the essence of home to just a few basic themes, then chose the materials and images that would best depict each theme.
“Track Record” is based on a postcard I made for the 8th annual Geist postcard story competition, which tracked my travels around Canada and Europe in 2009. Here, I expanded the record to represent significant sites I have visited around the world since I left home in 2001.
(cheesecloth, cord, buttons, machine-crocheted edging)
“Monashee,” after 3471 Monashee Street in Abbotsford, is a representation of the house in which I grew up, built my first forts, and spent an afternoon hiding behind the navy blue housecoats hanging on my parent’s bedroom door.
This 2-sided panel is embroidered with the layouts of the upstairs and downstairs of the house.
(navy blue velour, brass snaps, silk thread)
The Elrick family tree was compiled through the research of my cousin, Robert Elrick, and traces the family ancestry back to the last Scottish Elricks of our line.
James Elrick was born in 1805 in Rathven, Scotland. He died on 01 Nov 1891 in Hillsdale, Ontario, Canada. He married Ellen Wilson on 17 June 1832 in Rathven, Scotland.
Ellen Wilson, daughter of James Wilson and Jannet Anderson, was born in 1801 in Scotland. She died in 1884 in Hillsdale.
On the “Tree Quilt,” each generation between James and Ellen and myself is documented in letterpress printing on rectangles of linen. Also preserved here on fine-woven suiting wool is an excerpt from my grandfather George Elrick’s notebook, where he recounts the death of his mother during childbirth.
(linen, wool, letterpress ink)
This collage of found doilies was made in honour and reminiscence of my oma, Emma Thüringer, a seamstress by trade and avid crocheter. While none of the doilies in this piece were made by her hand, they were likely stitched by women of her generation and cultural upbringing. I found them in a drawer at the Goodwill in Winnipeg, each priced between 10¢-65¢.
Emma was born in Salzburg, Austria, where she worked first for her father and then for a department store before moving to Canada with her husband and daughters, Elfie and Karin (my mother).
(found doilies, thread)
“Bird House” is a silk-screened fitted bed sheet with a double-sided pattern of birds and houses. The house image is a drawing I made of 485 Queens Avenue in London, Ontario, which is the house opposite the house where I lived for the summer of 2009. The image of the house is printed in a repeating pattern on the reverse side/reverse orientation of the bird and leaf pattern on this found bed sheet.
you are a bird/and I am an old stone house/of windows and doors
(found bed sheet, ink)
“Lines” is a snap-quilted panel of silk-screened cotton sheets of “loose leaf” surrounding an over-sized blank sheet of partially ruled, margin-edged fabric. This piece uses a repeating image of handwritten text from The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris, his “play rules” of human behavior:
1. You shall investigate the unfamiliar until it has become familiar.
2. You shall impose rhythmic repetition on the familiar.
3. You shall vary this repetition in as many ways as possible.
4. You shall select the most satisfying of these variations and develop these at the expense of others.
5. You shall combine and recombine these variations one with another.
6. You shall do all this for its own sake, as an end in itself.
These rules of play also seem to me a mapping of the creative process. I chose to represent them as a discipline–the explicit discipline of writing lines, something I was sentenced to many times in elementary school–in order to play the line between my own childhood misbehavior and my current creative practice.
All of the horizontal lines of the quilt are baby blue after the loose leaf paper of my school years and the vertical lines are red, representing the margins. In a corner of the blank white center is a repeating pattern of hand-stitched lines in the dimensions of the page.
(cotton, ink, thread, snaps)
The Grey Blanket
“The Grey Blanket” is simply a relic from childhood that came and found me later in life. An identical blanket to this one was in my family’s possession when I was a child, used for picnics, beach days, camping, playhouse sleepovers, fort building and other activities I can only guess at remembering. Though no specific memories come to mind when I look at it, the feeling this blanket produces is one of rest and happiness.
(found flannel blanket)
This sheaf of embossed paper was produced on an uninked letterpress at Martha Street Studio in Winnipeg. It is my opinion that good paper is necessary for good work. While I have at times written on napkins, receipts, paper towel and the palm of my hand, I appreciate a good piece of paper for the quality it demands of me.