Forest Bathing and Fibre Explorations in Haliburton County, Ontario

7 September 2022

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There’s something about a meditative walk in the woods that puts my soul at ease. It’s as if my whole body can finally take a deep breath, helping me to brush off the burdens of the day and find some peace. The Japanese call this act shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” and it is one of my favourite ways to decompress.

If you are like me and enjoy spending time in nature, perhaps you should put a visit to Haliburton County on your road trip list for the fall. Nestled in central Ontario, Haliburton County is a 2.5 to 3-hour drive from the Greater Toronto Area, depending on traffic. It is sandwiched between the Muskokas to the west, Algonquin Park to the northeast, and Kawartha Lakes to the south. The Haliburton Highlands are full of artists, musicians, and makers of all sorts who draw their inspiration from the scenery around them. It is a land of crystal lakes, tall reaching pines, and, currently, two very unique forest fibre installations.

Pop Goes the Forest

Located just outside the village of Haliburton, Ontario, the Haliburton Sculpture Forest  is an open-air sculpture gallery that winds its way through the woodlands surrounding the campus of the Haliburton School of Art and Design. Presently, the Sculpture Forest is also host to “Pop Goes the Forest,” an installation by textile artist Susan Kendal. The exhibit was originally commissioned by THEOP (The Deep River Theatre Operating Committee) and was first installed along the Lamure Beach Path in Deep River, Ontario, from August, 2021 to May, 2022, before being moved to the Haliburton Sculpture Forest in June of 2022.

Kendal’s exhibition consists of brightly coloured macro sized interpretations of lichens, fungi, and bark that have been constructed out of nylon paracord or Ottertex (a waterproof canvas fabric). The installation has been placed high in the branches and trees of the Haliburton Sculpture Forest, adding a delightfully unexpected textile contrast to the heft of the metal and stone used in the majority of the sculptures. The materials of Kendal’s pieces do a fabulous job of mimicking the natural textures of the organisms she is emulating, while the bold vibrant colours draw your eye to the gigantic scale of her creations.

image description: bright green yarns hang from a tree, arranged to resemble moss

Boreal Oak Moss, by Susan Kendal

image description: a tree adorned with knit fabric pieces which suggest lichens

Rosetta Lichen, by Susan Kendal

image descriptions: large fabric sculptures in the form of oyster mushrooms, hanging from a tree

Oyster Mushrooms, by Susan Kendal.

“Pop Goes the Forest” is on display until October 27, 2022, though the Haliburton Sculpture Forest itself is open year-round. Admission is by donation and can be paid online or through donation boxes scattered throughout the Forest. For more information about this exhibit, or the Haliburton Sculpture Forest, visit haliburtonsculptureforest.ca.

image descriptions: large fabric sculptures in the form of mushrooms, hanging from trees

Polypores (Turkey Tails) and Oyster Mushrooms, by Susan Kendal.

Art in the Forest

If you have a few hours (and a lot of good quality bug spray) the “Art in the Forest” exhibition on the Wild Woods Walk trail at the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve is certainly worth the trip. The 6.8 km moderately challenging loop trail travels through the forest of this private nature reserve, beckoning you to continue exploring as new pieces of art surround you in the trees. Depending on the time of day, the artworks can contrast vividly against the scenery or blend in so cleverly that you almost don’t notice they are there. You may stumble upon a flight of monarch butterflies anchored to the bark of a tree, or follow the lines of bright vermillion prayer flags strung amongst the branches. You might chuckle in delight as I did when I looked down to see a series of gnarly tree roots crafted entirely out of embroidery threads. Surprises occur at every bend as woven tapestries, felted plants, and handmade quilts compete for your attention alongside the occasional (real) woodland creature. Although the exhibition is concentrated at the beginning and ending thirds of the trail, you won’t regret completing the whole loop, as the path itself is beautiful with or without its fibre adornments. Admission to the “Art in the Forest” exhibition is included in your day use hiking pass ($8 for adults, children 17 and under are free) payable at the Haliburton Forest office or by booking online.

Enjoy the gallery below. Click on each image to enlarge and see it in full.

Art in the Forest is the brainchild of Connections Fibre Artists, a group of artists who work together to raise awareness of the fibre arts. For more information about the group and their exhibitions, visit connectionsfibreartists.com. To learn more about the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve, visit haliburtonforest.com.

All photos by Victoria Bingham.

Copyright © Victoria Bingham except as indicated.

About Victoria Bingham

Victoria Bingham currently lives in the Haliburton Highlands of Ontario with her dog, Molly. She is an avid supporter of arts and culture and can often be found in the audience or on the stage at local events. She loves cooking, baking, embroidery, and knitting, and is attempting to learn how to garden. She is also the resident studio minion at indie yarn dyeing company, indigodragonfly.

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