In my mind there is a frenzy of mushroom. Single bolletes with purple tops. Big super white shrooms, and tiny pink orbs on a log. Chanterelles are golden and hard to find next to fallen leaves. And those delicate 2 inch LBMs growing all around the entry to my house are like sentinels ushering me home.
Ah yes! Chanterelles melting on my tongue... cooked in butter for breakfast.
Walking is a daily occasion. Near my home are many forest trails. And fungi can also be hunted in our local state parks. My imagination is filled with the memory of mushrooms. In the studio I translate those memories into clay. Often I refer to my mushroom book or iPad for clarity. Because of this obsession, my eyes just gravitate to the little fruiting bodies anywhere I go.
Yesterday, I see what look like Avenging angels in my neighbors yard, and rush home to look them up. It's a passion that I share with many amateur mushroom enthusiasts!
This month in the studio I am making mushroom ornaments, and what I call 'Mushroom Ensembles'. The Ensembles are sculptures featuring many species of mushrooms at once and with mycelium attached- or at least an attempt to represent the beauty of their connections.
They are in their greenware stage drying and will get fired next week. After that they will be glazed and then china painted. Delivery to the gallery, Childhoods End Gallery in Olympia, WA should occur the first of December!
HEADS UP! the ensembles only just got done in January 2023, I just dropped them off. More ornaments are coming soon.
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So the studio was fun to build, but it didn't seem quite complete. For one it was only 12x16 and didn't have room for all the things I wanted to do. So next I added a front porch for metal working with a view. Then a back porch for the wood working aspects of my artwork. It was evident shortly after that I needed more space for final sealing, and the 'clean work' some of the sculptures require.
There was a 18x10 shed attached to the studio filled to the brim with junk and storage. I emptied it out and viola! a year later it is the 'Guest house' (still working on a cool name). A place to extend the studio, have art and family guests, running water and a toilet and also important: to hold storage.
Using a lot of recycled wainscoting, left over lumber, and discounted or free windows saved thousands of dollars. But I felt I had to buy a good compost toilet- which cost a pretty penny. I had built a good homemade compost toilet in the house but visitors seem almost afraid of it! So for the GH, I opted for a Separett toilet which has more aspects similar to a traditional toilet. It did cost 1000$, BUT it saves 10,000 gallons of water per year and is easy to use.
My first guests arrived a few days after it was 'done' (not really done!). It was so fun to stock it with goodies and nice blankets and pillows. One of the guests was a writer and she stayed for a month writing every day while I puttered in the studio.
After finishing a series and bringing the artwork to the gallery, there is usually a period of recovery. Some artist friends of mine have told me they feel elated but tired, some feel depressed, but everyone has some kind of rush and then recovery.
Six months of prep, the delivery of finished works, and then I lay about for a couple weeks scheming up new ideas. The studio calls to me every day but I try to ignore it. Instead I build up energy like a battery and store it for the next 'batch'.
So after a week or two playing elsewhere, I got back to work. I began making boxes for new flower paintings and the 'no kill' porcelain moth series. As I puttered, I was also working on mundane things like inventories and repairs and cleaning the studio.
Below are some death's head hawkmoth ready to sell. Hawkmoths have long tongues and often act as agents for pollination to orchids, honeysuckles and other specialized blooms. For instance the hawkmoth on bottom right has its perfectly evolved tongue for a ghost orchid....
When moving quietly and slowly through the forest it feels like stalking (remember the hunting scene in Downton Abbey??) In order to see the fragile and delicate blooms of the wild orchids, one must move carefully and LOOK.
Last week I was on a mini vaca in Oregon. I was a bit worried about missing so many days in the studio with a pending show in June and my artwork only partly assembled. As I was up in the wilds of willamette Park I began to have a feeling that it housed the wonderful orchids that I was sculpting back home!
All my research had said June as the month of the blooming fairy, coralroot and mountain slipper. As such, I had thought I was out of luck when it came to actually seeing these wonders before finishing the native sculptures. I had been visualizing them repeatedly in my frontal lobe, which is not unusual when I become obsessed with an art subject. However, I wanted to experience the plants as a part of finalizing the scents I had designed to go with them.
But as I drove thru the forest I began to have a feeling I should stop and hunt for them. Just in case..... I pulled over a couple of times but my knowingness said no....then I came upon a hidden trail. In five minutes I was deep in a old growth forest stalking the orchids.
Stooping to see an unusual mushroom I stood up and my eye went straight to a tiny wee patch of fairies!!!! Their brilliant pink purple was like a signal (I don't think the bees that pollinate them see the color that way) I carefully approached their magnificence, and lay in the moss to observe, sniff and finger their loveliness. I was in total bliss. I was also hoping no one came along to wonder why I was prone in the moss.
I discovered the fairies had more of a rugosa rose scent than the vanilla sweetness I had read about. Once I had spent every moment I felt I could spare, I got up and headed out to the car. On the way I was stunned to see in another light filled niche of the forest.... a coralroot! I actually screamed with joy!
As I immerse farther into my orchid imitating, I discover more about the orchids, the pollinators and their mutual or deceptive relationships.
Orchids can be deceptive with their pollinators. Many orchids produce visual aspects to seduce a bee or other insect to land on certain parts of their flower in order for the packets of pollen-pollinia- to be dispersed to other orchid plants (upper right pic).
In another deception, many other orchids use scent to attract insects. It can be the rotting smell of decay or pleasant scents mimicking pheromones or other kinds of flowers.
This research has led me to a new way to express imaginatively in the world of orchids....
Last week I assembled essential oils and research and began to set up a little fragrance lab of my own.
I am mimicking intuitively the scents of the orchids I am sculpting. Though I have only seen a few of the native orchids in the wild, I have never smelled them so my scents will only be reminiscent of the descriptions of other orchid sniffers!!!
What will be done with them? Well they could be diffused near the sculptures. Or they might be best used as perfume, a reminder or an incentive for you to go out and see these beautiful and rare orchids of the Northwest.
Either way each sculpture will include a bottle of custom scent in its purchase. The orchid scents are customized for Mountain Slippers, Phantom orchid, Stream orchid, coralroot, and Fairy orchids.
I love to work in porcelain and copper. So recently I started mixing them in different ways. Here are a few orchid pots I made for the upcoming 'wild orchids' series. Top one is New Zealand porcelain with copper feet. Even with thick walls it has some translucency. And the pressed pattern adds to the effect.
The bottom pic is a sampling of thin walled copper pots. Made rustic and battered looking like they were 100 years old! Using various gauges of copper wire and sheet, I created these pots to look like an artifact from a archeological dig.
Thank you Lori for loaning me your press wheels!
For any artist getting ready for an exhibit it can be a balancing act. How much in advance do you make your work? How many pieces can you complete before that final hang date? Are they good enough? are they finished?!
Well that's what I am doing in the studio now. The Native orchids are taking over! Dozens of blooms, foliage, insects and silk velvets (yes my secret new ingredient!) are scattered over the worktables.
In case you were wondering, these are the type of orchids in the works:
' Exotics' which are non native orchids
'Wild Orchids' the natives of the PNW.
Some are for tabletop and some are wall mounted flowers. The wood mounted wall pieces suggest the reverence of an altar. The porcelain plant protected inside them. The 'potted' pieces seem like little treasures...a memory of the orchid even when not blooming in nature.
Figuring it all out is tricky with all the complexity and time management issues I have to be patient with myself. However, today I just had fun making dozens of mini moths, hover flies, wasps and bumble bees. The many insects offer a pallet of sorts to choose from in the final construction of the orchid sculptures.
Sometimes I think I make flowers just so I can display the insects....which I adore. Even in my flower garden I strive to find more varieties of flowers which can attract and benefit insects. Orchid research has brought me new favorites like the hoverfly -a pollinator of stream orchids(among others) and the early-out bumble bee- a pollinator of the fairy orchid. Parasitic wasps have been known to be pollinators of the coral root.
This is the photography of Jeremy Buben
Jeremy is the owner of Food Art Collection Gallery in Seattle, WA. Go to www.Foodartcollection.com. I know Jeremy from having shown work at Jeremy's gallery in 2020 and 2021 Dutch Master's shows.
He has an exquisite collection of artwork with the theme of Food! And as you can see he also has great talent as a photographer of art. I am so honored to have his help with pictures of my work.
Above are 3 of the 4 'CRYSTALIS' sculptures completed this year.
Wild ORCHIDS OF THE NORTHWEST
Inspired by the beautiful Orchids of the Northwest, I have ventured into the discovery of rare orchids with magical names like: Fairy Orchid, Phantom Orchid, Ghost Plant and Chatterbox.
Delicate and challenging, the flower petals have to be crafted with thoughtfulness and patience. Rolling the edges thin for a bit of transparency, and yet solid in the middle to withstand the many sandings and handling during painting.
As I finish the first 40 orchid blooms (many extras due to their delicacy) in their greenware and bisque stages, I run the mini kilns to keep up.
After researching the insects and mycelium that work together with each plant, I make minute hover flies and fungus representatives to add in each piece. There are over 50 detail pieces-mushrooms, pollinators, snails, mosses, and stones that lay in wait in tidy rows. These will be used to accentuate the main orchid pieces.
As the detail pieces fire in the kiln, I lay my worktable out and mix the paints I will need. it has been kiln load after kiln load to fire all the additional detail pieces so I am looking forward to the trancelike work of painting.
Next month I will begin designing the intricate copper structures. Using a braising torch, repose tools and paints to form realistic foliage. The sketches line the walls of the studio waiting to be fulfilled into form.
Just finishing a tiny little series of botanical sculptures with Chrystal geode bases (made of porcelain, gold, china paint and real Chrystals).
Its been a long slow time putting these works together. In addition to everything else I am doing: solar installation, adding a guest house and installing other utilities.
One piece is on display at Ghost Gallery, Seattle, WA. The other pieces should go up in February and be on sale online/and in the Gallery.
I will list the pieces -if they don't sell right away- on a new page next month.