Early in 2014 I was asked by some friends to create a site specific installation of ceramic leaves for ArtPrize at Parliament the Boutique, a shop in downtown Grand Rapids that showcases handcrafted artisan objects made from leather, fiber and natural materials.
After spending some time there, making sketches and taking photos of the space, I was struck by the synergy of artists drawn together by this work/live/retail space. Their strong entrepreneurial and community spirit is such a positive, uplifting force on South Division in Grand Rapids' Heartside neighborhood. I was particularly enchanted by Parliament’s link to fiber culture since I have always been drawn to using fibers as a secondary material to ceramics in my installations.
This summer I found some crotchet string at a thrift store and got involved in Monday night Fiber Socials at The Lantern where I learned how to crochet the daisy chain. The daisy chain is the simplest of crochet stiches, but like making ceramic leaves or mug orders, I find the repetition of the activity to be soothing. It was thrilling to learn a new skill and to realize that this technique made the single strand of string much stronger and more capable of supporting the weight of my ceramic leaves.
I knew I wanted to create a simple but beautiful installation of ceramic leaves and crocheted string. I had a vision of a column coming down from the ceiling that a person could enter in a sense, with rivers of leaves flowing up towards a void surrounded by a sea of leaves on the ceiling. The void is meant to inspire a quiet moment amongst the overstimulation of everyday life, for the person who finds themselves underneath looking up.
I recalled a netting technique that I had toyed around with in the past and thought that would blend nicely with the crotched strings and allow me to suspend a dense section of leaves from the ceiling. The netting creates interesting shadows and undulates with the weight of the leaves. It reminds me of how the surface of water looks when the tide is coming in one way and the wind is blowing in another, so a diamond-like pattern appears.After about 20 hours of climbing up and down a 10 foot ladder, I was finally very happy with my installation. It embodied the idea I had envisioned all along.
This was the first year during ArtPrize that I spent so much time sitting with my piece and greeting the visitors who wandered into Parliament. One night after hours we prepared a quick meal and cleared off a big table that we scooted right under the hanging leaves, enjoying the fellowship of friends and the transitory beauty of my installation as a magnificent centerpiece.
The next week when it was time to remove the work so that the next show could be installed, I did not feel the familiar slight sadness that in being taken down the site-specific installation no longer exists. This time, I knew I had enjoyed its presence fully.
I have assembled a zine in loving memory of this installation with photos of the piece and quotes that inspired it. Send me a message if you would like a copy!