By Marc Ngui
In 2006 Luke Ramsey and Angela Conley set up Islands Fold, a residency program for artists/ zinesters on Pender Island, one of the Southern Gulf Islands in British Columbia. A simple bus and ferry ride away from Vancouver, the total trip takes four hours by public transportation, the last two aboard a passenger ferry through picturesque island channels. Luke and Angela picked us up at the ferry terminal and drove us to their bright and spacious cottage/home/studio/ playground. Islands Fold.
When we arrived we were shown to our room, which featured a giant feather duvet and a drawing table. After we settled in and had some tea, Luke then offered to take us for a walk. We drove out to a trail system on the southwest shore of the island, took a brisk walk up to a remarkable lookout over the oceanic straits past Moresby Island towards Victoria where we sat for an hour or so talking, some of us smoking, some of us eating apples. For the next few days we hung out at Islands Fold. I worked on several collaborative drawings with Luke. My time was spent somewhat blissfully focused on making pictures. Angela prepared some lovely meals for us. During the days Luke and Angela would pass in and out of the house, doing their various dayto-day living activities. All the while we were able to hang back, relax and make stuff. They were most hospitable, easygoing hosts. The following is an interview with Luke and Angela about their project.
What inspired you to create an indie artistresidency program? Can you give us a short history of Islands Fold?
L: I had a six-week artist residency at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire for the winter of 2005. That was by far one of the most rewarding artistic experiences I have had. I was so inspired, that I came back from my trip and asked Ange if she wanted to create an artist residency with me. I have been making zines for the past five years, so I wanted to work on something with Ange that embraced both of our interests. Ange is focused on health and nutrition, and I love making art.
A: Luke and I looked for a place to rent in Victoria, and didn’t have much luck finding something that would financially support our endeavour. My sister Sarah and her husband Steve had been living on Pender for a few years, so we grew to like the island from our visits. We finally decided to make the move to the island in the fall of 2005.
Could you articulate the guiding principles of Islands Fold?
L: Islands Fold is about inviting artists to our residency free of charge, collaborating, promoting health and well being, and producing unique art. We want to remedy the term “starving artist” by feeding artists support, encouragement and food.
Angela, your focus is on the food. What might a resident expect to find on her plate for dinner, and why?
A: Well, I never want to serve the same meal twice to a resident. Variety, flavour and wholesome eats are what I’m about. I believe in whole food that is locally grown, use a ton of fresh herbs, and I’m big on greens. Meals can range from a West Coast style of Salmon and roasted vegetables to Sushi and Thai style curries. Hearty soups through the fall and winter are amongst my favourites to make right now, and I’m all about homemade muffins and cookies for the afternoon tea drinkers. To me, food is what enables us to feel alive and well.
Luke, you seem to have been quite prolific in your collaborative drawing practice. Can you explain what draws you to collaborative projects? L: What draws me to collaborating is the infinite possibilities. I love how free and loose it can be. I also enjoy when artists put a lot of time and thought into a creative goal. I am inspired by the global opportunities of collaborating, and I am very excited about inviting an artist to our home, purely based on a good feeling about their work. We have been very fortunate with the residents so far. All of them have warmed our hearts and fueled our project.
One thing that continually amazes me is the growing variety and number of “drawers” that are out there. Collaborative drawing based communities are blooming around the world. Can you talk about the folks you’ve been working with and how the readers might be able to see more of the work by these folks?
L: It is amazing how many dedicated doodlers there are. I feel so happy to be alive in this period of time, where artists don’t have to be defined by the critics and curators. There are so many underground art shows and publications that it isn’t too hard to participate in a drawer’s community. I am currently working on the “Mebemewebe” collaborative drawing project and have worked with over 40 different artists over the past three years. I would suggest visiting our website to learn more about my current collaborations.
A: Islands Fold is currently funded from our own pockets. Luke works part time at a local gas station and I work at a health food store. Islands Fold is a full time gig, but we don’t see it as a job, because we love it so much. We don’t charge artists for the residency, so we hope that people continue to support Islands Fold by purchasing the publications and products we sell online. This is what will keep us making art and inviting more artists. Our primary publication focus is on producing handmade, short run zines. We just produced our first offset publication “A Great Big Stillness” and hope to do another offset project in the new year.
Do you take applications from artists to attend your residency?
L: No we don’t. We personally invite artists who we think might want to work with us. We encourage people to send us their zines, so we can include them in our zine library. This will also make us become familiar with their work. What would you like people to think when they hear the name “Islands Fold”?
A: We would love it if people thought that Islands Fold is about artists coming together and sharing their creative language, eating wholesome food, and enjoying a simple lifestyle.