When I was an art major in college at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, I lived in a small place on the Tar River near my family’ s farm. Driving home late one night after an evening class, I slowed at a little home to turn into our long dirt drive and noticed my neighbor in her garden. She was silhouetted against a bright moon and was obviously at work picking pole beans. The next day I asked my parents why our neighbor was in her garden at 10:30 pm. They said that she planted and harvested by the phases of the moon. I was intrigued as no one’s garden compared to hers! She grew more in an half acre of land than anyone could and her corn grew to Iowa heights! We talked several times about her planting methods and I’ve never forgotten her or her garden.
Fast forward to the here and now and as we approach a total eclipse near our area on August 21, I found my mind turning back to my long ago neighbor harvesting from her garden. And I started thinking.
Ecoprinting on paper is something I have done since my college days. Ecoprinting on silk has been the past 5 years. But as I said in an article I wrote for the spring edition of “No Serial Number” magazine, my immersion into ecoprinting involved far more than the finished design! As incredible as the designs are, it is the “hard to explain” part of being one with Nature in her moments of giving me her bounty of design and color. I like to forage for the leaves. I like long hikes in back woods, hearing the birds, absorbing the colors. The artist in me has been involved with Nature since my teen years of solitary cross country skiing through birch forests in the Catskills and even earlier with years of horse ownership and trail rides. They are peaceful places for me.
Collecting right now, as I practice it, has been more a case of going for a drive through the countryside or on a cool enough day (it IS summer here in the south!) to collect from my own farm. But I started to wonder, just recently, what IF I harvested and processed by the phases of the moon?
I have collected enough to know that the day, the time and the maturity of the leaves and plants I collect influence my final result. The same rose bush today might give me different colors than from a week ago. I totally get that.
But what would happen if I thought about both harvesting and processing based on the ancient principles of the phases of the moon? I think it was the Mayans who had a comprehensive calendar for their crops.
What if I tried my idea for several months? Studies moon charts, kept notes on the results, collected my usual way from the same trees or plants and did a test study? Tried to make sense of something that for our forefathers was as ingrained in them as breathing? I quote from a web page called “Planting by the Signs of the Moon”
Pliny the Elder did it, and so did Benjamin Franklin and your great grandma as well! They all planted gardens by the phases of the Moon, using a method practiced in rural communities for over two thousand years. It was so well established in the first century AD that it became part of the “natural history” that Pliny wrote about in his series of the same name. A method proven successful over that length of time deserves more than a label of folklore. It warrants a trial in our gardens too.
So I’m going to start this Monday during the total eclipse that will be seen at 92% in our area and 100% in places like South Carolina, Great Smokey Mountains, Oregon and elsewhere. The small window of opportunity for me will be around 2:00 pm (EST)
I am curious to see if my free range chickens will think it’s time to roost, or if the brief twilight will have an effect on my other animals (ponies, alpaca) But what I do know is that I’ll later watch the eclipse on NASA’s station (since I don’t have proper eyewear) and concentrate on the experience while I collect my pecan, rose and maple leaves to test.
In the end, it is not as much about results. I am not a scientist. It’s about the experience. My collecting is natural, my results sustainable and beautiful. I enjoy the time it takes to create each piece as much as the time I spend communing with Nature in her environment. I have loved ones that have passed that I often talk to as I gaze up at the moon or stars (funny how it’s not during the day) and somehow I find the idea of an art form I know they would have loved, being practiced during the moon tides to be kind of appealing. So for me, it would be an additional experience added to a process I already enjoy. And what’s not to like?
I found that at shows, people are fascinated by my ecoprinting. The infinite number of leaf prints, especially sharp, crisp ones, is the first area of fascination. The second is realizing that Mother Nature can actually release such beautiful colors onto silk. For many, it is the knowledge that the entire process is a sustainable and renewable art form. But universally, it is the image of collecting leaves on a beautiful day, scattering them onto silk and, in the end, creating a beautiful, unique surprise from Nature that has the most appeal!
So It did not take long for people to start asking if I would hold workshops in ecoprinting. I condensed my process down to a one day workshop that has made it easy for participants to leave with beautiful scarves created with their own hands!
Everyone is Equal!
What I love about the Ecoprint workshops is that Everyone is Equal in experience, creativity and artistic ability! With painting workshops, even for beginners, there is always that subtle competitiveness and insecurity. You can hear it in the conversations “Oh, I’m not really an artist,” or “Is this good?” or “I won’t trace, that’s cheating,” and the list goes on. In Ecoprinting, the participants all learn to initially work the same way with the same methods, but in the end, it is Mother Nature who holds the reins!
I’m including some images from a few recent workshops. I am fortunate in that my mini-farm contains all the plant material we need, right outside the doors of the 2 art studios! Although I work at my
smaller silk studio, and often outside on the deck, it is the larger “Painting” studio where I hold the Ecoprint workshops. I can fit up to 6 (my max number of students) comfortably with my spread out techniques and best of all, we are out of any wind….you can imagine the frustration of laying plants onto a silk scarf on a windy day :-).
All my workshops run from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. There is plenty of time to relax after the bundled silk is in the pots. This is when we all eat our bagged lunches, tour the silk studio, engage with the ponies, chickens and assorted livestock on the mini-farm. On a gorgeous day, we sit under the trees and simply soak in the atmosphere while the silk processes in the steamers.
There is no doubt that the most exciting time is when we open the bundles of silk and see the results!
As you browse, you’ll see the faces say it best! Enjoy the closeups. Visit my workshop page to see what dates are available and contact me with any questions!
Roses in history, in quotes, in art and poetry. Perhaps no other flower has been written, photographed, cultured and painted in all of history.
“What a lovely thing a rose is!” -Arthur Conan Doyle (The Naval Treaty)
“I feel as if I had opened a book and found roses of yesterday sweet and fragrant, between its leaves.” -L.M. Montgomery (Anne of the Island)
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” William Shakespeare
As artists, my husband and I regroup by exploring back roads, both paved and unpaved. In our many travels we began to bring not just camera and sketchpads, but shovels, buckets, water and pruning shears. And we began rescuing flowers and taking cuttings from abandoned homesteads.
Sometimes we only discovered totally overgrown homes hidden off dirt roads by noticing a burst of pink, red or white flowers through the growth. On closer inspection we would discover huge rose bushes, or old varieties of Sweet William or daffodils, continuing to grow and bloom with happy abandon, unaware that no one was on the crumbling front porches enjoying their beauty and fragrance any longer. So we began to take cuttings, dig a few bulbs or flowers in hopes of transplanting them to our mini-farm for them to be seen and enjoyed.
Before long we had our own bushes of Seven Sisters, Old Dawn (climbing) Red Blaze, wild white roses, Lady Banks, Old Glory, tiny leaved Scottish Roses…..and some nameless ones. My heirloom rose garden includes a red variety of Seven Sisters that my mother collected from her old family homestead (long abandoned) in Mississippi while researching her roots.
As a painting artist, I have painted and photographed my share of beautiful roses over the years. But no art form has excited my creativity as much as collecting and imprinting designs and colors from those roses I have rescued!
In the world of Eco or Botanical printing on fiber, more often than not it is the leaves that leave the best impression, not the actual rose. And it seems fitting as no one immortalizes the rose leaf in poetry and quotes. Even the thorn has numerous symbolic mentions…but the leaves? Yet without the leaves there would be no rose! I don’t think botanists will ever cultivate a bronze, green or copper colored rose. But in my work with the rose leaves on Silk, I regularly re-create these colors!
So much, I have learned, depends on what day, what month and what rose leaves I use…from the tiniest to the largest. The colors vary, the shapes vary…but the sentiment stays the same for the leaves as it does the beautiful petals. A wondrous surprise every time I work with my rose leaves and silk.
I like to think that the women or men who once planted and loved these roses, would be pleased to see their simple pleasures re-created as beautiful imprints on silk. And that someone cared enough to stop by their once active homes, lost to time and encroaching developments and rescued their roses and flowers to treasure as much as they once did.
When I discovered that Floridian Kathy Hays, an expert in all things related to contact (or eco) printing, was going to be in my NC area, I jumped on the chance to have a one-on-one workshop with her. I could not make her 3 day workshop in Florida so she put together a jam packed session! We started early at my studio stirring the vat like a witches brew!
The day was perfect for working outdoors! I had previously washed all the silk to be used as that was my main focus. But indigo works beautifully on all fabrics. The photos below will take you through the basics of our process 🙂
Perhaps the most amazing thing to observe is the Green of the initial Indigo turn to blue as it is exposed to the air-oxygen. I think that if we find it magical today, think how the ancients must have felt watching it turn from green to blue in front of their eyes!
There is no doubt we were having fun!
During and after the workshop I continued to work with my silk, enjoying that feel of working outdoors, creating something beautiful and improving my skills in yet another area of my new favorite medium! Seems my printmaking skills from college have come in handy after all!
Enjoy the collage of a few of the results! Up close and personal: see my site!