Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tomatoes, Flowers, and Butterflies...

They all played a big role in my week. This week I finished my ‘Home Grown Tomatoes’ piece. I ultimately made 72 felted tomatoes for the piece, finishing with a couple of branching stems of little cherry tomatoes. They ripen from the plant outward, so there’s always a couple of green ones at the end to keep you from harvesting the whole branch too soon. Maybe the new owners will put the piece on a sunny windowsill to let it ripen. As I finished with the painstaking work of creating the five little petioles for each tomato, I thought about how looking closely allows one to appreciate the intricacies of nature. But with that said, I’m sooo looking forward to munching on the little cherry tomatoes that pop up as volunteers all over our garden each summer. My husband has unwittingly carried out my evil plan to get them spread all through the flower beds as he mulches. He can’t begin to weed them all out, as Grandma insists we should, so I always get plenty of little red delights each summer. I love sending out Tommie with a bowl to harvest a few when we have company—nothing beats a just-picked bowl on the table.

Finishing a piece means a new challenge, and this week the weather began sunny and bright. I was just feeling good about feeling firmly planted in this town, thinking what a great community of people I live in. That meant it was time to start my ‘Transplanted’ piece, with a root-bound flower establishing in a new garden bed. I dug into my chocolaty brown yarn box, and the yarns really did look like milk and dark chocolate on my studio floor. I created the base of the weaving using a sumac weave with 10 different yarns blended together. Just when it felt like there’s no more room to expand the sumac weave, I dug the hole by making an indentation and added a tabby weave with fewer yarns mixed together. I ended up with a wonderful cavity to plant my root ball in, and the dirt didn’t keep slipping back in to fill the hole as I did it!

For the root-bound flower I chose a red cactus dahlia. This is a special flower in our garden, since my husband seems to slip them in all around—it’s kind of a defining flower for us. To create all the colors and textures I needed I envisioned a huge project of blending and carding green fleeces ahead of me, which I wasn’t looking forward to at all. I needed a deep, rich red for the flowers and a good match for the dahlia green leaves. That normally means getting out my antique hand carders from Quebec, with handles made like the old mission style furniture that are beautiful but a pain to work with. I don’t think ‘ergonomic’ is a French word, or maybe it didn’t fit on the boat when they came over to settle Quebec. Your hands get pretty achy after you’ve done a lot of carding. To solve my problem I borrowed the drum carder from the local Spinners and Weavers Guild, which looks very medieval and even a little scary. Then it became a matter of finding the six or eight green fleeces to make the perfect dahlia leaf color and turning the handle! I did run the fleece through twice, but out came exactly the color I wanted to create the felted compound leaves of the dahlia. I think I need one of those—hmmm—when’s Mother’s day?

Finally, yesterday marked the culmination of a community art project at Wonderlab. I did the first installment for ‘The Art and Science of Color’, and we made a pixilated Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. The pixels comprised 3500 wine corks that I’ve been collecting from all over town (Yes, it’s a very happy town!). They were painted yellow, blue or black by Wonderlab volunteers, which was a Herculean project—thanks everybody! I had sketched and painted the butterfly on a four feet square panel that Andrea Oeding had built and prepped (great job, Andrea!). From 1:30 to 4:30 Saturday the kids of Wonderlab and I, along with a lot of help from still more volunteers, glued the corks onto the painting. Paula, one of the Wonderlab volunteers and biology grad student, took some great photos. Wow, what a project! We came out a little short on the black and blue corks, but the butterfly emerged nonetheless. The border of the project was intended to be a dark green, but we intentionally didn’t paint any green corks. The plan was to mix visually blue and yellow corks to get a green effect, but the soft tints we used ended up looking more like a bed of flowers. So now the glues are drying, after which we’ll seal it before it goes on display on the workshop building in the Wonder Garden next to Wonderlab. It should be visible from the B-line trail, which of course will now have to be called the butterfly line trail.

To close, I just want to say that it has been an honor to work with Andrea and all the people at Wonderlab. Even though the weather didn’t cooperate, with the big snowstorm that closed schools on Friday and put us off until Saturday, everybody stayed positive and enthusiastic. And the best news after last week: we’re a little closer to summer!

Until next week…

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