Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fern Plates (artwork)

Ferns are a very old plant. So old, in fact, that they have a different reproductive system than most other plants. Theirs is two-stage: the spores from the ferns fall and germinate into a separate plant that looks nothing like a fern. Then that plant matures and produces spores, which then germinate and grow into a fern plant again. 
This was in the back of my mind while I hiked in the woods and reflected on life or, more specifically, dreams. I have a lot of lucid dreams, especially when I am under stress. I was having a lot of vivid dreams while I was doing an intensive program at Pilchuck School of Glass; I think the dreams were my brain's way of decompressing and escaping. We often think of the conscious mind and the unconscious mind as being two pretty separate things but I think that the divide between the two is less black line and more expansive gray space, perhaps a space bigger then either state alone. It is into this space that I escape when I am in pain- the line between meditation (my best pain management tool) and dreaming is a very fine one indeed. 
In some ways, the mind is like these ancient and primordeal fern plants: two distinct states that blend together and dance back and forth endlessly. These dishes are a reminder to me that life is full of rhythms and cycles, that little miracles are hidden everywhere, and that it is just as important to nurture soul as it is body. 

The patterns on these fern dishes were made from drawings I did of some of the ferns I found on campus. Drawing the repetitive patterns of the fractal leaves was calming and centering.

After I finished all of my fern drawings, I photocopied them onto a transparency. Then I placed that transparency on a photo-sensitive emulsion paper called RayZist and exposed it to light. I rinsed off the emulsions and created a stencil to use to sandblast delicate ferns onto my plates. 

 I pressed the stencil onto my glass pieces, which I had blown and engraved with lenses on the bottom. I covered the lenses with duct tape to protect them from being sandblasted. 

I then sandblasted my plates, washed them, and removed the tape and stencil material. The fern imprints were ghostly and almost disappeared when wet. 

To finish them, I continued the lines of the ferns with silver enamel inside the lenses, then fired the pieces to make it permanent and food-safe.
It's rare that I make artwork to keep for myself since I have to sell whatever I make to make a living. But these special pieces are a gift to myself, to remind me that life is just a cycle and that both my subconscious and my conscious minds will continue to nurture one another to allow for growth. The silver-embellished lenses will be a reminder with every meal to focus on what is important in life. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Elderberry Chutney (wild love)

Mmm, elderberries. Their heavy clusters hang from all of the bushes on the side of the road and remind me that all too soon the land will be blanketed in snow. I always like to have some elderberries on hand during the winter- they are powerful tools to combat the common cold and add a lovely taste of autumn to mid-winter picnics. Though I am more interested in foraging for culinary reasons, I like to know what properties the plants I work with have so I can heal through food. Rather than taking a tincture when I am sick I would so much rather dig into a delicious snack that will also help me feel better. In this case, a spoonful of spices makes the medicine go down!

This tasty chutney is loosely based on this delicious recipe and also my mom's recipe for apple chutney that she makes to accompany curried dahl, one of my favorite childhood dinners. This chutney is great with curry, or try it with some hard cheese on crackers for a tasty picnic. (I just had it on some turmeric spiced crackers and it was delicious.) I'm definitely saving a few jars for some cross-country ski expeditions this winter.

5 c elderberries, separated from their stems
2 small onions, chopped finely
3 c. finely chopped apple
1 c. raisins
2 c apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs. finely chopped candied ginger
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. mustard (dried and powdered)
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garam masala
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
3 c. brown sugar.

Bring all of the above to a boil over medium heat, then simmer for about 3 hours or until everything has softened and melded together and some of the
water has evaporated out.

If you want to can your chutney, sterilize some glass jars and then spoon the hot chutney into the hot jars. Place the lids on and screw the caps on loosely (not too tight!), then boil in a waterbath for 12 minutes or so. Allow the jars to cool completely before tightening the lids. Once opened, keep refrigerated.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Sand or Sugar: First Post

When it boils down to it, almost all of my work is made with either sand or sugar. The ceramics and glass I do are comprised of mostly silica (sand). There's magic at play: sand and mud and powders are transformed before my eyes into durable glossy items. Sugar, like glass, can be pulled into strings or hardened into sheets or even blown into bubbles. These two materials are so different and so similar. It's a beautiful thing.

So what exactly is it that I do, anyways? I describe myself as an "experience designer."  I believe that art should be experienced beyond something hung on a wall or displayed on a plinth. There is beauty in functionality and I create objects that are designed for interaction. You can see my finished portfolio at

I hope to give the gift of an immersive experience to the people who come to my events.  This allows them to experience emotions and activities not typically “allowed” for adults; child-like wonder, ultimate safety, excited discovery. I admire the uninhibited nature of children and hope to break some of the inhibitions adults carry through my curated experiences.

So what's this blog for? This is where I will document all of my in-process: test recipes, inspirational links, in-process pictures of my glass and ceramic work, information about my curated events, instructions on foraging wild foods, etc. This is my creative journey. I hope you're buckled in, because it's going to be one hell of a ride!