Bluff Hollow…it all started with a dream. While searching for a new home with his wife Ann in the Garden Bay area of B.C. on the Sunshine Coast, concrete artist Rick Harmer saw the place they would call home before they even saw it. He dreamt the property would be surrounded on both sides by bluffs and that it would be appropriately dubbed Bluff Hollow. The next day his dream became a reality when their realtor showed them the property where they now reside. Rick notes that it is impossible not to feel creative in a setting such as this, and so they enjoy exploring and creating within the wonders of their forested surroundings.
It was thirteen years ago that Rick decided to leave his career as a mortgage broker and become, as he coins, a concretist. Since then he has been casting and pouring into molds various garden and interior art objects in a variety of colours and finishes. With such a heavy medium to work with he knew there would be limitations to what he could create depending on the application and where it would be displayed. Therefore he set out to find a new formulation that would be much lighter yet durable to withstand the elements that garden art is subjected to. After much research and experimentation he developed his own formula that gave him the attributes he desired. As a result, Rick’s creations will complement the outdoor environment whether throughout gardens, on a tree, or against a mossy background. His indoor pieces add a simple yet elegant touch, but Rick mentions that the finishes on these are not winter-worthy and are for indoor enjoyment.
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His work has also evolved to utilizing concrete wrapped around styrofoam in order to make larger concrete objects more manageable. One such denizen of Bluff Hollow is a twenty two foot long snake that greets visitors along the driveway. It is concrete wrapped around styrofoam and only weighs forty four pounds. This technique has greatly expanded the possibilities for concrete desired products. I still remember moving my sister’s large concrete garden statue which required three guys and a chiropractor afterwards! This versatile and back-friendly medium is also prompting Rick to start making outdoor benches and tabletops as well.
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When I asked Rick what his ultimate challenge for a concrete work of art would be he replied, “The largest mushrooms in B.C.” Tying in nicely with the ongoing activities of the local mushroom club, he imagines an installation of three concrete-wrapped styrofoam mushrooms, nine feet tall with benches underneath for people to enjoy the shade. He would encourage the participation of high school students which would instill pride and a sense of ownership through their efforts and in turn help to secure guardians for the prominent local attraction. Rick is an advocate for more public art, and feels that it is a great way to get people out of their homes and collaborating with one another to not only enrich the community experience but also to share their identity with those traveling through.
To take a look through Rick’s Bluff Hollow website: (click here)
Enjoy our interview with Rick and thanks for helping to share his work through comments, social media and email:
The more I learn about mushrooms the more I love them! Fortunately for Gary and I our trip to the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia would lead us to the doorstep of fibre artist and mushroomist Ann Harmer and her world of the magnificent mushroom. Ann lives with her husband Rick and their two friendly pooches on a parcel of land near Katherine Lake where we had camped the night before. They moved from Burnaby about a decade ago after falling in love with the area. Rick says it was Katherine Lake that pulled them there. Outside their door is a rainforest which harbours all the right conditions for mushroom life. Before moving to this area, Ann had decided she wanted to learn all about mushrooms not realizing this endeavour would lead her into a creative realm using the humble fungi.
I was curious to find out if using the mushroom to make dyes was some sort of ancient art form. As Ann explained it only began when a woman in California was creating a dyepot out of flowers, and merely out of curiosity happened to throw in some little yellow mushrooms. It turns out she got a beautiful yellow dye and the rest is history. Now people all over the world forage for pigment mushrooms. They even get together once every two years for a pigment mushroom symposium to discuss all things fungi.
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Typical mushroom hunting season on the coast begins in July and goes into November. During that time Ann can be found out in the forest with her two dogs on the hunt for pigment mushrooms. Only a fraction of all mushroom species contain a pigment that is suitable for dyeing. I must say I was astounded at the colour palette; everything from earthy browns and greens to pinks, blues, and orange hues. Most of the mushrooms Ann hunts for are not edible but there is the lobster mushroom that she and Rick share. The lobster is a deep orange colour on the outside with a white fleshy inside. Ann peels the outside for her colour palette and Rick uses the tasty inside for his palate.
Some of Ann’s mushroom hunting involves locating a species that contains chitin. Chitin is the substance that helps to create the hard shell for arthropods such as insects, lobsters, and spiders. In the case of the mushroom, Ann can make a strong paper-like fibre which she turns into bowls, beads for jewellery and sculpture pieces such as hats and shoes (future project).
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The humble mushroom is an incredibly versatile species. It has been used in bioremediation as well as making a material that could replace plastic one day and not to mention they are wonderful to eat. And now as we have learned, it earns a noble place in the world of the visual arts. Before we left Ann and Rick that day we spent some time chatting over a cup of Earl Grey tea and some Candy Cap shortbread cookies that Ann had made. Candy Caps are a mushroom that taste and smell a bit like maple syrup. Even Gary couldn’t resist them!
To find out more about Ann Harmer please click here to get to her website.
Join us as Ann talks about the process of using mushrooms as dyes. We always love your comments and please help us spread the word about Ann on social media and through email. Thanks!