Dream Catcher


Throughout the history of the land on which Canada has been founded, Trees have always played a vital and meaningful role, at times acquiring mythic status. Emerging from the earth towards the light of the sun, as they grow they bear fruit and bear witness as they portage the land’s history. Their rustling leaves are light catchers and within their inner structure, their annual growth rings serve as carriers and record keepers of the land, thus becoming stewards and symbols of our history, desires, collective memory and dreams. As such, they are Storytellers and Dream Catchers.

In the spirit of reflection and reconciliation, as part of Canada’s 150th anniversary, these two iconic universal symbols, the Tree and Dream Catcher, have inspired The Gather-Ring and are brought together within the overall design, evoking diverse cultural interpretations such as the creation stories of the Earth, Sun, Moon and Stars. Additionally, the mutual correspondence between two desired dreams are combined and celebrated: One is expressed on the Arms of Canada with the officially translated inscriptions of “From Sea to Sea” and “They Desire a Better Country” (the motto of the Order of Canada); The other was expressed by the late Anishinaabe Elder Grandfather William Commanda through his desire for the realization of a “Sacred Circle of Humanity”.

The Gather-Ring is also a response to the rich history of its site which is along the Confederation Loop, a symbolic Circle that encompasses and brings together the cultural diversity of Canada as the waters of the Ottawa River flow through, as if dividing but really reminding us of the broader landscape, history, interrelated connections and interdependence beyond the immediate location. Overall, the site and the panoramic view that it offers from within the Confederation Loop towards the heart of Canada’s Capital Region, has been and continues to be a vibrant and symbolic Gathering Circle with a rich diverse history that connects Quebec and Ontario while also including Victoria Island and expanding out to the nearby Chaudière Falls.


From the Earth:
The Mother Tree Base

Responding to the waters of the Ottawa River and its rich history as a means of transportation and trade, to the remnants of the logging industry that once flourished and dominated the site, and to the land’s rich history associated with Trees, The Gather-Ring is firmly rooted and portaged on a base made from a metaphoric and mythic Mother Tree from the earth that is over 1000 years old. The origin and growth of this mythic Storyteller and Timekeeper marks and records ancient times and the initial and subsequent interactions between the Indigenous Peoples and European explorers or voyageurs. Thus, this deeply rooted red cedar base, with its burned-on-the-boards growth rings and branches, contains and portages, as a metaphoric Canoe, our inclusive collective history, memories, stories, desires and dreams. At the sapling center of this Mother Tree base there is a polished Canadian black granite circle, highly reflective of the activities above and simultaneously evoking even deeper time and history within its depth. Etched on this granite circle is the 13-segment pattern of a turtle shell.


Four branches emerge from this Mother Tree and Gathering Circle on the 1867 growth ring, serving a dual purpose: They establish the four Cardinal Directions of Mother Earth, deeply associated with Canadian Indigenous Peoples and diversely interpreted universally by all cultures; Simultaneously, they can be interpreted as markers or symbols of the local and more specific four arms of the initial provinces (Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick), considered as the four founding nations of the new Dominion of Canada. These four British Columbia Douglas-fir columns are also storytellers richly embodied with their own history and origins. It should be noted that the confluence of the Rideau, Gatineau and Ottawa Rivers from the Cardinal Directions at this specific geographical site led to its historical gathering location for a regionwide vast network for trade and cultural exchange for both Indigenous Peoples and eventually the European explorers.

Between these four support columns there are four wooden benches also accentuating the significance of 1867 and the Cardinal Directions. Most significantly, the logs used for these four benches are Ottawa River preserved and recovered eastern white pine logs. As such, they themselves are also surviving Storytellers richly embodied with and from the site’s history, including that of their own origin. They will have an exterior finish that will accentuate their grain pattern, like that of the four columns serving as Nature’s totem poles, thus revealing their own story through this record of their making. Within the Gathering Circle, these benches provide a place to rest and reflect while seating and viewing inwards towards the central origin and distant past, before 1867, or outwards towards the immediate past, present and future, after 1867. Simultaneously, this occurs while also viewing towards the more extensive Cardinal Directions of Mother Earth. As such, The Gather-Ring offers a Circle for Reflection and Storytelling for all regarding our shared history, collective memory, desires, and dreams.

The four vertical wooden columns support four state-of-the-art laminated Douglas-fir beams. In turn, these beams support the Dream Catcher’s cylindrical and circular outer ring. The Dream Catcher’s woven web pattern hangs from this outer circle towards the center ring.

Wooden Benches
Dream Catcher

From the Sky: The Dream Catcher

The wise Maker of Makers witnessed and brought into existence a dream-vision of a limitless sky filled with the Stars, Sun, Moon and Earth. Through reflective wisdom, this Maker understood the transformative and regenerative power of spirit dreams and visions and thus granted this precious gift to humanity. Dream Catchers, when wisely made, have the power to filter-in our positive dream-visions and can lead to a bright future in times of need, of reflective re-conciliation, and re-creation.

Dreamcatcher (Sky View)

The Gather-Ring Dream Catcher woven canopy pattern is derived by dividing the outer circular ring into 13 equal segments. The number of segments combines again two themes where 13 is an important factor: One is the fact that Canada has grown to include 10 provinces and 3 territories; The other is the more traditional worldview and culturally diverse creation story related 13 cycles of Grandmother Moon. An overall pattern is derived from the segmented circle consisting of 13 clockwise and 13 counterclockwise spirals. Accordingly, two of these patterns, representing the two combined themes, are united into the final Dream Catcher woven pattern of 26 clockwise and counterclockwise spirals. These spirals all come together and spiral out from a central opening that is directly over the reflective stone circle on the base.

Dreamcatcher (Sky View Above)

Suspended from the outer ring, the canopy web pattern is made from a lightweight shimmering chain which allows for the hanging of reflective pendants as desired. The pendants are hand-made by artist Charlynne Lafontaine from break-resistant glass, that’s flamed, elongated and irregularly shaped to maximize the play with light and reflections. These metaphoric leaves, feathers, dew-drops, or stars are additional Dream Catchers and Storytellers. Being handmade, each will be distinct and will follow the spiral pattern lines secured in a way that allows for them to be freely moved by the wind without hitting each other. This wind orchestrated visual interplay within The Gather-Ring will be resonantly accentuated by the moving reflections of the surroundings on the uneven glass surfaces.

When the Sun sets, temporarily ending its participation, celestial moonlight and stars enter the reflective Gather-Ring. Subtle LED lighting is projected onto this interplay within the canopy web pattern. Interactivity can be as simple as visitors turning on their cellphone lights at night. These individual lights are reflected on to each of the glass pendants and the spiral pattern, contributing to the visual interplay. Visitors can move their individual light as they wish and see how it effects the interplay. From a distance, The Gather-Ring appears as a shimmering colourful light display, at times perhaps evoking the Northern Lights, spiral galaxies, or an ethereal flame. The colour display is done with LED lighting and its interactions produce a rainbow of diverse colour effects. One significant colour sequence is Dark-Blue, Red, Yellow and White, the colours associated with the Cardinal Directions and symbolic of human diversity. The variable LED lighting is projected onto the dream catcher from the four columns and from strip lights secured to the topside of the beams.

Throughout the time that The Gather-Ring is exhibited, the subtle, yet colorful and versatile lighting display will be the evening highlight, visible from underneath and from afar. The versatility of this dynamic and colorful interplay can respond to significant cultural celebrations, rituals, and festivals through their associated colours. This vibrant and subtle interplay of lights in the sky is a reflective celebration of re-conciliation, increasing inclusivity, and tolerance within the cultural diversity of Canada. The lighting interplay responds to the changing seasons, distinctly transitioning into Winter when it will interact with water’s transformation into snow and ice. The spiral spacing is such that it controls snow or ice accumulation, while still allowing for Winter’s distinct light display. The reflective glass pendants are open at the bottom to prevent water from accumulating within.

Dream Catcher

Interactive Storytelling and Cultural Exchange

In the spirit of reflection and re-conciliation, The Gather-Ring is a symbolic circular offering for cultural exchange, storytelling, discussion and contemplation for all communities and visitors. These are the accumulated dreams, memories, desires and stories related to the theme of dream catching and record keeping. Such gatherings can be very evocative when each visitor or participant provides their own light. The brightness of the reflected flame is increased through cooperation and increasing communal participation. Contact will be made with the local indigenous community to encourage this essential aspect of The Gather-Ring and for it to be open to all for this interactive shared activity which would be highly encouraged. The project website will provide additional information regarding related possible activities and themes of The Gather-Ring.

The Architect-Artist

Manuel Baez

Associate Professor
Email: manuel.baez@carleton.ca
Phone: 613-520-2600, ext. 2879

Prof. Manuel Baez interdisciplinary research explores the relationships between design, culture and the evolution of structural, technological and scientific innovations. The evolving research investigates the versatile and generative potential offered by complex processes and systems lurking throughout the environment and in biology, along with their related material, cultural, and technological implications. The work seeks to examine how complex structures, forms and cultural motifs emerge and evolve while simultaneously revealing richly interrelated correspondences. The morphological diversity revealed by these investigations offers new insights into the generative diversity lurking within natural processes as revealed by modern analytical tools and such related theories as Complexity, Emergence and Bio-Design. The implications of these developments are relevant to the realms of architecture, engineering, art and other disciplines at a time when the insights emerging from our deeper understanding of complex phenomena are being embraced for conceptual inspiration.”

Charlynne Lafontaine


Charlynne has been working with glass since 1990 and began her pursuit of glassblowing at Sheridan College in 1993 studying under Dan Crichton and Kevin Lockau. She was introduced to flameworking in 2003 and has taken classes with Emilio Santini and Alex Hamilton as well as Karina Guévin and Cédric Ginart. Since 2007 Lafontaine works and teaches out of her studio creating sculpture and jewellery of coloured and textured flameworked glass. Her work has been featured in the arts publication Art & Science Journal, CBC News and Ici Radio-Canada, Apt 613, Glass Art magazine, Ottawa Life magazine and exhibited in stores and galleries in Canada and the United States. In 2012, working with Ryan Lotecki, Lafontaine completed the Somerset Street West public art commission for the City of Ottawa. Later that year, she was shortlisted for The Bronson Centre public art commission. In 2017, along with Manuel Baez, Lafontaine was awarded

Additional Project Team Members

From Carleton University:
Discovery Centre for Undergraduate Research and Engagement Director Alan Steele Department of Systems and Computer Engineering Instructor Cheryl Schramm

From the Gathering Circles 2017 Summer Studio at Carleton:
Sally El Sayed, Sophie Ganan Gavela, Argel Javier, Cheshta Lalit, Lesley Li, Danica Mitric, Sepideh Rajabzadeh, Raumporn Ridthiprasart, Catherine Sole, Tharmina Srikantharajah, and Wendy Yuan.

Additional contributions from the following students:
Hamid Aghashahi, Erin Allen, Jonathan Caron, Andrew Cornthwaite, Rafael Fantacci, Sara Farokhi, Frangiscos Hinoporos, Eingy Hussein, Michael Jaimeson, Gregorious Erico Kwa, Cole Peters, Ramon Renderos, Robert Shaheen, Antoinette Tang, Oliver Tang, Yoyo Cheuk Tang, and Laura Yongmin Ye.

The Gather-Ring would not have been able to be realized without the generous support, assistance and contribution from Tim Priddle and The WoodSource. Thank you.