In early 2019, I decided it was past time to delve into a media I had been wanting to explore for years, but had not allowed myself to do. My reticence was that it would take me away from my painting practice. But my residency in Wales provided me with the permission and the resources to explore that new direction, and to find ways to integrate it with my painting.
I should credit an artist I met while in Wales, Philippa Sibert, whose incredible mixed media fiber pieces were very inspiring. They combine botanical eco-printing, hand embroidery, text, fabric collage and painting into one textured, soulful piece. In her work, I saw the possibilities of this media, and in returning to Colorado, promptly began experimenting.
As with any new process, it took my awhile to “get it.” Botanical eco-printing is essentially a chemistry experiment. The tannins of the plants react to the mordanted fabric. (Mordanting is a process of preparing natural fibers for dyeing, using either a mineral like alum or iron, or oak gall.) You don’t know what each plant is going to yield in terms of color, and the results are always surprising.
I created three panels on raw silk, onto which I then painted and hand-embroidered. The eco-prints were made with dried eucalyptus, rose, chamisa and safflower leaves and flowers. The pieces have a layered quality, with little details to catch the eye.
I called the series “Sanctuary,” named for Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who described the Sabbath as a “sanctification of time.” Like the natural world, it is fleeting and impermanent, and must be savored. By using dried, gathered and discarded plants for the piece, I reference the way time and natural processes impact our lives and the world around us.
These pieces were then sewn onto linen panels, and hung from found branches. Below the works are rocks gathered from beaches and lakeshores in Wales, California, France and Vermont, wrapped in hand-felted wool cords.
I am excited for this new body of work, and eager to delve into it further! Stay tuned, as I often say!