Q: Tell us about yourself! When did you first get into art?
A: I have been an artist all my life. My passion for art began with art lessons at the Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh in my early childhood. That passion for art was fueled by being a student at The Ellis School in Pittsburgh, PA. During middle school and high school, I had the privilege to learn and explore mono-printing techniques, batik, drawing, painting, silversmithing, and further my passion for clay. In college, I started selling my art in small shows and stepped that up a notch in graduate school by participating in juried art shows.
Q: Tell us about your plant stained paper. How did you discover it?
A: I design each one-of-a-kind paper piece by creating lovely color and patterns using fresh leaves, flowers, seeds, and other natural elements. The papers and plant elements are pressed then boiled for several hours. After cooling, I peel the flowers and leaves off; the papers emerge from the process stained with the enchanting beauty of nature...each piece unique. The finished papers are used as art pieces, journals, photo albums, sketchbooks and more; for any reason that you would normally use a blank book.
My plant-staining journey began in 2006 on our farm in North Carolina. I was given some freshly-sheared wool from my friend on a nearby farm. I attempted to dye the wool by boiling it with fruits and leaves from our persimmon trees, held in place by a piece of paper and a rock. Although the wool did not dye, the paper did.
I began experimenting with all types of plants from around the farm. Shortly after, I opened a pottery studio and decided to put my plant-staining discovery aside to focus on my thriving new business. Several years later, my family and I moved to Florida and I finally gave myself the time I needed to fully explore the possibilities of eco-staining. I conducted countless hours of research alongside hands-on trial and error, and started to understand the science, as well as the required techniques, to develop the process into an art.
Q: Where do you get the flowers and plants for it? How do you choose which ones will be right for the piece?
A: Many of the flowers are provided by a small business with a long history in Lakeland: Petals, The Flower Shoppe. Linda Vinesett, the owner of Petals, and her staff graciously put aside the flowers that don’t meet the quality level for their arrangements. Instead of these flowers being thrown away, their beauty gets to shine in a unique preserved way. These natural beauties may not make the grade for quality floral arrangements, but they have colorful essence that make a lasting mark in art.
As an invited artist to Walt Disney World, I also am fortunate to use trimmings of plants grown in the Disney nursery and ones that have been placed all around the parks once they are no longer “magical” enough to be displayed. My biggest “pinch-me moments” of access at Disney occur when I get to use plants that are harvested from the greenhouses at the Living with the Land attraction in EPCOT. It is exciting to walk behind the scenes with Les Frey, horticulturist and the Student Program Manager of Agricultural Sciences at Epcot, and choose from such a diverse palette of color and texture. Living with the Land is a zero-waste facility and I am honored to be even a tiny part of their mission.
Q: Tell us about your pottery. What items do you make, how would you describe your aesthetic?
A: As an adult, most of my art has revolved around pottery. I have always loved the form and texture of ceramic pieces and the added functionality of unique vessels just blows me away. My pottery style for commissioned pieces has evolved into a sort of 3D scrapbooking in a way. Mugs are my favorite. With the emphasis on function for the base form, I love to sculpt added elements that are more than decoration and mean something to the user.
Perhaps influenced most by my plant-staining, my pottery takes on a strong nature aesthetic. One of the new collections I am working on is heavily influenced by nature and organic forms. The other collection I am creating is all about color. As much as I love plant-staining, I am limited with the depth of resulting colors which are muted compared to the actual plants. In pottery, I can go crazy with glaze colors! I am, and always have been, obsessed with purple, so this new collection is a study in deep rich glaze colors with an emphasis on purples.
Q: Where do you draw inspiration from?
A: Nature is my favorite setting and my journal is my sounding board, my brainstorming companion. It is my voice from a different perspective. When I write, I change. I evolve. Never again will I be the same as I was when I wrote those words. By having those thoughts written down, I can look back and see what I was thinking and analyze the path I took between then and now.
Since I began this journey of eco-staining, I have grown. My journal is my evidence of growth. I don’t write diaries. They are not word for word accounts of what I do. My journal writings are reflective and descriptive. I get inspired to write and when I return to read them, I get inspired in a different way. That inspiration keeps me focused on my goals.
Q: How can we be involved?
A: At the Polk Museum of Art I teach a variety. This spring I am teaching Journaling with Art and Words and Elements of Art where we will experiment with a variety of techniques as students learn about the seven foundation elements of art including line, color, shape, form, value, space, and texture. In both classes we will be exploring techniques with watercolor paints and pencils, pen and ink, and drawing.
It takes bravery and a village to be an artist; to put your voice out their to be heard. It is more than a career. It is a way of life that starts at the core and exudes to encompass everyone around. That is why I am so passionate about our community buying local art and supporting artists. Artists are residents contributing their unique voice to the community and that enriches us all.