Birdworks Fiber Arts

Organic Structures: Fiber Art | October 2019

Roald Dahl once said, “Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.” My Lichen Series reflects many years of wandering around in those unlikely places. Hiking, canoeing, and occasionally living in wilderness cabins, particularly in Alaska, have given me the opportunity to experience the magic at a walking or paddling pace. I record it in sketches and through thousands of photos. I take most of the pictures on my hands and knees. The patterns, lines, and colors seen close up help define natural beauty into artwork.
Time, process, and change are persistent themes in my work while patterns and shapes and lines in the natural world fascinate me. Lichens, mosses, ferns, fungi: all produce organic structures that speak of the passage of time and the changing landscape over which we humans have much responsibility.
Sometimes in the field, I study tiny plant structures using botanical keys and a hand lens. Back in my studio, I relate my sketches and photos to scientific drawings, such as the work of biologist and naturalist Ernst Haeckel. I draw and sometimes trace individual plant and cell forms, often from field photographs. I audition them in various sizes using my copy machine to enlarge and reduce them to fit the motif I am constructing.
I like a mandala or medallion form. It speaks to the cyclical nature of the seasons and the variations in the shapes of the different species. While the science is interesting, the shapes, lines, and forms are what attract me.
I dye and print the majority of my fabrics, using a variety of mark-making techniques. On a regular basis I devote studio time to producing small pieces of cotton fabric in interesting, often experimental patterns and color combinations reminiscent of tiny friends from the field. Those fabrics form the color and pattern palettes for the quilts I make. My work is primarily hand-drawn and cut, fused appliqué, machine-stitched, machine-quilted, and often hand-embroidered.
I also have been influenced by my long-ago undergraduate job as a darkroom technician for a botanist who studied pollen and seeds of subtropical plants. I didn’t realize back then how those tiny structures would influence my artwork and how I would see the world.
ARTerrain Gallery by Charlotte Bird
Images in this gallery may not be copied or otherwise used without express written consent of the artist.
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