I’ve just finished my first 3D piece. And I love it.
It’s made from beech leaves, a fallen twig that my son Gabriel brought home, beeswax from the local farmers’ market here in Penzance and embroidery thread.
I’m always surprised when I create something I like – as if some sort of magic visited my studio.
Yet, I know, through this and many other pieces I’ve created over the last 2 years, that this type of magic available every day.
I’ve brought it to life by:
1 – Acknowledging and allowing myself to love what I love.
2 – Being curious about that which fascinates me and making it important.
3 – Carving out time in my day for creation.
These things have not been easy.
I’ve spent most of my 40 years pushing away what I get excited about – thinking it was silly or pointless. Do we all do that once we’ve ‘grown up’? And carving time out – well, as Mother of a 2-year old in a household where we prepare all of our food from plain old meat and veg, that’s a constant challenge.
But boy, it’s rewarding. The hours making this piece in my corner-of-the-bedroom studio were entrancing. And now I sit here, staring at a piece that I love. It’s at our window. I can’t quite believe I made it.
Here’s how this ‘magic’ came to life:
It started with our trip back to the South-East of England, whilst we were temporarily homeless, waiting for our house purchase to go through. It was autumn, and the local park was ablaze, leaves carpeting the ground:
I’d always marvelled at leaves. But I’d never allowed myself more than a passing, “Oh yeah, you like leaves Alison, look for a while and then get on with the other, more important stuff in your life…”
But here, accepting more and more that I’m allowed to love what I love, I let myself be entranced. I scooped to pick some up and couldn’t stop. It felt like I was in heaven. My husband, Rob, and my son, Gabriel, were halfway around the park before I caught up with them!
I wanted to keep the leaves with me. For them to be this beautiful forever. So I took them home and soaked them in glycerine for a few days (an experiment). Then I carefully transported them back, on the 7-hour train ride, to Cornwall and our new house. I have to admit, I felt a little silly. We had enough to transport as it was, and there was I carrying back a load of leaves!
They sat in a box for weeks (along with a lot of other things!), whilst we tried to settle in.
I kept thinking about them, and, as soon as I had the chance, I got them out again.
They were really special.
I knew I wanted to photograph them. I watched the weather forecast for a bright day, organised for my husband, Rob, to take our son out to the park and then got playing. I took hundreds of photos, arranging the leaves, in awe of their beauty.
I had the idea that I’d perhaps have some cards made from the images.
And I kinda thought that was it.
But I still had the leaves.
And they were still so beautiful…
Every week, Rob, Gabriel and I go to Penzance County Market at buy our food for the whole week from the farmers and growers there. That week, as I was looking at the wares, I noticed some bars of beeswax. They were from a lady who also produced vegetables and honey. My curiosity was peaked; I’d read about different ways of preserving leaves, and the one that I hadn’t tried yet was coating them in beeswax.
I bought some and the following week, was dipping my copper beech leaves in wax warmed on a camping stove.
They came out glistening and dried solid, forever emtombed in their beautiful, irregular shapes.
I love to watch leaves fall. And I wondered, could I do something to display these leaves as if they were falling? I started playing with leaves on the floor of my studio.
So, if I was to give it a go, how would I string them together? This took a while. I got hold of some copper wire, but it was too colourful. I wanted the leaves to stand out. I tried jute twine, but it was too clumsy. Eventually, after a trip to the local sewing shop, I settled on one strand from some cream embroidery thread.
At first, I thought I’d sew it onto the stems. But then, as I was holding it to a stem, it stuck to part of the beeswax. Perhaps I could use more beeswax? With a little experimentation, I found I could delicately wind the thread around the stem and then drop a tiny amount of beeswax on the back to help it stay.
And the piece started coming together.
At some time during my process, my son, Gabriel, came home from a walk with his Dad bringing a stick with him. It sat around for a few days. I looked at it and thought, “I’ll use that to try holding my leaf strands up, just to see what they look like hanging…” And once I saw them coming to life on it, I knew it was part of the piece.
When it was finished, I suspended it from the ceiling against the white of my bedroom wall. And I just stared. The leaves, shadows, colours and movement absolutely stilled me.
It was glorious.
I give thanks that I’m allowing this magic into my life. I’m listening to that which I am obsessed about, those places where I see beauty, and I’m making it important. Then, I’m carving the time to play in my corner-of-the-bedroom studio. It’s so rewarding.
Exciting news: This piece will be exhibited in the new artist ‘Limelight’ spot at Falmouth Art Gallery from 27th March – 1 April 2017. I am so excited to have my first ever exhibited piece in an art gallery that I love. If you are anywhere near Falmouth (or want to be) that week, please do pop in and see it.
It’s just gorgeous , I adore autumn and the fall of the leaves , it makes me happy and sad at the same time, your beautiful work of art is divine x
Thank you Helen. I empathise with that happy and sad. Such a powerful time of year.
I love the way you write about this project. It’s autumn now where I live in the US (Central Pennsylvania) and the leaves are astoundingly beautiful as they lose chlorophyll and their secret colors emerge. The single-trunk trees with full canopies look like giant mums. I’ve been collecting leaves too, like I do every year, and they end up in boxes or bags where I’ll come across them later and love them over again. I’ve had ideas of things to try with them, but they’ve just remained ideas. It’s really gratifying to watch you go thru your process — all the way to something finished, especially something finished that you love. Glad there are people like you who share their experiences for the rest of us. btw you can “blame” Diana Strinati-Baur for me finding your site. I saw her FB post about your book, which sounds fascinating. Best wishes! Kim Dionis
Thank you, Kim. How wonderful it is that Autumn comes around every year for us…just such a gorgeous season. Thanks for your words, and thanks Diana, who is such an inspiration. I’m giving you a nudge to do something with your leaves this year 😉