- Open email
- Say yes.
- Make a plan
- Execute plan.
I couldn’t have been home a week when I received an email inquiring if I was interested in taking a commission for an installation at Zephyr for Art Week in Marquette, MI. And, yes, yes I was.
They requested a theme that felt welcoming after the last year and to consider light. They were just re-opening their business after a temporary closure and before that they were among the many restaurants that had to switch to a take-out model to get through the pandemic.
My immediate feeling was to use a symbol. A tree of life symbol, found in the image of the Kalaloch Tree in Olympic National Park on the Pacific Coast.
I could go on about tree symbolism and how it relates to strong community roots. The cycle of spring after the hard winter.
This project needed more than a humble window painting. Here was my opportunity to build a couple large flotsam pieces and have them displayed in this beautiful building’s windows.
The flotsam pieces I make are dangling collections of rocks, drift wood, beach glass (found or home-tumbled) and interesting objects, bound together with wire and twine. Inspired by the debris that washes up on Lake Superior.
These Zephyr pieces took inspiration from everywhere. Alongside Lake Superior driftwood I added cholla skeletons from the Sonoran Desert. To catch the light I added in traditional prisms. I put some reclaimed glass and broken depression glass (pink pieces) through a rock tumbler. The natural crystals came from the Smokey Mountains. Seashells from the Gulf of Mexico. An oyster shell from a beach in the Pacific Northwest. A cut geode that passed from person to person to person, from New Zealand.
Any pieces of driftwood that sat outside I washed with deck wash. I bleached and scrubbed the cholla skeletons. Wood that that sits exposed to the elements “blues” and as pretty as that can be it’s really growing fungus. So I laughed a little at myself washing wood.
On a Sunday in June it was time to start the installation of the the flotsam and the window mural. Elements fell into place. My supporter of the arts aka my very tall and graceful husband did the honors of hanging the impossible. The driftwood hung just under the Zephyr window lettering. Perfectly framing the words. The quality of painting on the glass unexpectedly shaped the form of the tree. I found I could manipulate different textures out of the paint. Allowing different amounts of light to shine through. In the end I crowned the piece with loose line work. The lines in my work representing connections. I let go of my need to create tight perfect lines because of the surface. And it worked.
The elements 2D and 3-D worked together. I can’t say I wasn’t worried. I’d never put any like this together before. And though the pieces could speak to each other I wasn’t sure they would.
tree of life
found wood fiber objects
connecting, binding materials together
Special thank you to Lisa Wooten Holmgren for helping with just the right pieces of driftwood I was missing▪️