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. 

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