Once I decided to move forward with the use of plaster as the canvas, I looked to my nieces to work with me to create their plant portraits.
We made plaster masks of their faces, and they sorted through and selected plant material and accessory items that they loved or that inspired them in some way.
I taught them the basic method I’d been using on plaster masks – polymer varnish on both sides and a weight on top of a piece of parchment paper on top of the varnished element.
While they dedicated themselves to the craft, I tidied up loose ends and sometimes got carried away with wiring cottonwood branches and gluing down seedpods.
This fall I was considering that mounting surfaces created a contextual impact, and wondered what alternatives might be possible .
I’d experi-mented with fabric, paper and paper over chicken wire, and then I remembered quick dry plaster.
After trying a few masks on myself, I found most leafy material to be a challenge on the curved and uneven surfaces of plaster, while stemy material, like tamarind, worked really well.
I found that using wire to adhere branchy pieces was more reliable than botanical glue and/or a ploymer varnish over leaves (although everything got a top coat of the varnish with a UV filter).
The first one I made (right) I covered in tobacco I picked in Weston, MO, and it applied easily right over the plaster.
Then I added a part of a squash leaf, fennel (and other) seeds, eucalyptus, a plant souvenir from Colorado, fern, and finally, beads.
Nick Cave’s Soundsuits are fantastic collages on (often) formed and (sometimes) moveable cavases. His work inspires me to embrace my own imaginings.
I wanted a wearable plant suit. I have some great pieces of bark, like this piece on the left, as well as interesting branches like pussy willow, Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick Cottonwood, and Red Twig Dogwood that would be perfect on a suit.
Biologically, we owe our existence to plants. They’re the basis for all our food (even animals eat plants, after all) …. and all our air.
They sustain us in every way, and yet we’re so disconnected from the plant world.
The past weeks I’ve been working with embroidery floss, gemstones and plant material on archival mat board.
Experimenting with layering materials alongside plant material created new light and new views.
I love the texture, color, contrast and richness the mix creates.
I have several new and old pieces up at Cafe Gratitude in Kansas City and will be there for March’s First Friday from 6:30 to around 9:00 with wine to share.
Cafe Gratitude is at 333 Southwest Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64108.
Tour a tour of the art studio, hear a talk about the importance of plant preservation in spirituality, economy, history and beauty, and a make-your own art card session from the collection of preserved plants.
When: Jan. 19, 2:00 – 4:30 pm.
Registration: Pre-registration required (register by clicking here)
An introduction to the art of plant preservation and how it’s been used throughout history by spiritualists, physicians, philosophers and scientists will be provided. A 15-20 minute talk about who has preserved plants throughout history (and why), and what remains preserved today. Some discussion about the impact of plants on our lives will be included. We will also talk about the science behind preserving.A
You be able to see a wide variety of preserved plants and finished art pieces in the artist’s studio.
The Make Sesssion
You may bring a favorite quote and/or flat, preserved plant to use and/or some selected pieces from the collection (shown in the image below and on the right) will be available to use. Additionally, prepared cut mat board and all supplies will be provided to make one or two (as time allows) 5″ x 7″ pieces suitable for framing or sending in the mail. All materials will be artist quality and appropriate for plant material.
Sage was loved in ancient Arabia because it was believed to help one live a long, healthy life. Some even believed it contained the power to imbue immortality.
It was sacred to ancient Romans, who believed it extended life.
In the language of flowers, sage is a petal of domestic virtue.
The botanical name for sage in latin, Salvia Officianalis, refers to both its ability to save or heal, and its being prescribed as medicine.
Today it’s used in alternative medicine, and most commonly to add flavor to dishes that include chicken and eggs.
Some gratitude (in the form of art cards) for the Business Alliance for a Sustainable Economy in Kansas City (BASE KC), the speakers and organizers of The Climate Event held at the end of September.
The founding principles of BASE KC really speak to me: that sustainable economic development is compatible with shared prosperity, environmental protection, and social justice.
Representatives from twelve local, regional and international organizations shared large scale green initiatives they had been taking. A few of the stellar organizations and their representatives were: Dennis Wierzbicki with Grundfos (based in Denmark); Amy Hargroves with Sprint; Cindy Circo, KCMO City Council and Mayor Pro Tem; Bryan McGannon, Deputy Director of Policy, American Sustainable Business Council (based in Washington D.C.). A full list is at the BASEKC website.
The Herbarium associated with the Denver Botanical Gardens has an excellent specimen collection related to the plant diversity of Colorado and the Southern Rocky Mountain region. And that’s not the best thing about it.
It also has one of the few actively curated ethnobotany collections in the U.S. One of the items reported was the widespread use of plants in the Cedar/Juniper family by dozens of Native American tribes for things like as a talisman to help protect against evil spirits, medicine, fuel and dyes. And although I love this kind of stuff, it’s still not the best part.
The skeleton of this collage is a preserved orchid plant. Like most root systems, the roots of orchid plants are surprisingly strong. Most of the roots original to this plant are still intact.
Other elements in this collage include a variety of poly-cotton threads, Macrocarpa leaves, Honey Locust thorns, one milkweed seedpod lining, and an old orchid bloom.
Orchids have a long history of inspiring people. As early as 479 B.C., Confucius compared all that was virtuous to orchids. For this reason, Chinese artists placed orchids in their work to evoke qualities of humility, integrity, and refinement.
Orchids must have been the inspiration for at least one song Confucius wrote. He’s credited with composing “Youlan,” (The Solitary Orchid”), one of the earliest pieces of written music that survived the centuries.
Native tallgrasses have always thrived in the Flint Hills. The rocky terrain has prevented plant based farming, so native plants (at least those not displaced by invasives like Bush Honeysuckle) have perpetuated through centuries of droughts, floods, wildfires and controlled burns.
Milkweed occurs frequently among the grasses in the prairies. Monarch butterflies depend on (and can’t exist without) milkweed. I’ve tried to cultivate it and can’t. (I hate it when I’m at an intersection in the late summer and see the Monarchs fluttering aroung – it’s like they know the flowers they need used to be there.)
In the winter, as the fallen seedpods begin to disassemble and deteriorate in the elements, the inner linings of the seedpod separate from the casings.
The innermost surface of the seedpod is shiny and metallic. It’s quite extraordinary. I’m still trying to find an appropriate way to appreciate the pieces I found.
This post shows two small pieces of seedpod lining with prairie grasses.