The Salmon Run

The Salmon Run was created as my graphic design thesis at OCAD University with Isabel Meirelles as my advising professor. 

In this project I explored the ways families stay connected to each other and their history over time and distance. My goal for this project was to create a platform for family connection — a way to learn about the past, share the present, and reach out to future descendants. I have done this by creating an heirloom dining set and record book for my own family. Each piece holds meaning and is meant to prompt story sharing. 

Many of the materials and methods I used were those my ancestors worked with in their occupations. They were new to me and as I worked with them it allowed me to connect to my ancestors in ways I never had before. Some of my family members also helped with embroidering the table runner. 

My hope is that the pieces not only prompt stories within my own family, but also for people who gather with us. When you learn about all of the different people that make up your family and the different lives they lived, it opens your eyes to how closely everyone is connected. 

The Table Runner 

(Approx. 4' x 1.5'. Linen, 100% cotton, embroidery floss. Hand embroidered and machine assembled.)

The project began with a poem. In 2008 I travelled to Ireland to backpack around the island for a month. I visited some of the places my family came from as well as many others. One of the places I visited was Carrowmore — a megalithic burial ground. Legend even claimed that the Irish hero and giant Fionn MacCool was buried there. After visiting I was inspired to write the poem The Salmon Run about the diaspora revisiting ancestral lands. 

The table runner is meant to suggest a map. The front is bookended by two knot designs representing landmasses (the old world and new world). Between these, salmon fish move back and forth. The colours and symbols of each fish reference my family's history, place origins, tartans, or heraldry. 

The poem is stitched around the outside of the runner. To read the poem everyone seated around it must participate. It begins and ends at a small dolmen in the corner. Every other line of the poem is separated by a small salmon fish acting as a glyph. In the centre of the runner is a nautical rose. The letters S, D, B, and A replace the standard N, E, S, W. at the directional points of the rose. These letters are the first initials of my and my brother's first names. This is symbolic of how future generations of the family will flow out from from us. 

The Glasses

The table setting has six glasses of varying sizes and styles. Each glass features a different vehicle that relates to a family story. The six vehicles are: a 1978 Ford F-250 SuperCab, a Douglas DC-3, The Hector (a full rigged Fluyt), a transcontinental train c. 1871, a schooner, and a Ford Model T.

To make the glasses I transferred my illustrations onto vinyl. That vinyl was then adhered to the glass. I carefully made sure to remove any bubbles or wrinkles from the vinyl near the illustration. I then cut away the vinyl with an X-Acto knife exposing the glass. Etching cream was applied to the exposed glass. After approximately 4 minutes I washed the glass and removed the vinyl. 

The Napkins 

(Six napkins. 15.25". Linen and 100% Cotton.)  

The napkins are made of cotton and linen. Each symbol on the napkins represents a different occupation held by some of my family members. The symbols were illustrations carved into linocut stamps. After stamping, the napkins were heat set. Each napkin has a different pattern with varying occupation symbols. 

The Plates

The plates designs were made using ceramic paint markers and then re-firing the plates in an oven. Each one  features an illustration of a significant family home. The bottom of every plate indicates the name of the home, who owned it, and where it was located. Around the homes on the top and bottom of the plates are words relating to memories from those different places. These include quotations, names of people, places, objects, activities, and events. 

Photos by: Sean McKibbon, Alanna McKibbon, Solomon Isaak, and Dax Vorona.

Copyright 2022
Alanna McKibbon
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