Cedar Wing

Cedar Wing

Friday, August 27, 2010

North Cascade Institute's Summer Art Retreat On Lake Diablo

Here are the students from my "Weaving From the Northwest Landscape" workshop at the NCI retreat in July.  They are all awesome individuals who each have inspired me in different ways.  Be sure to check the North Cascades Institute web site for other fantastic classes.  They offer scholarships too.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Recent Work - Images by Donna Souter

How grateful I am for the wonderful photographers who bring my art out from the studio into the public.  Wally Hampton, Jerry McCallom, Art Grice, and now Donna Souter.  This is Cherry Bark on Madrona. (28"x12"x7") 

Monday, August 16, 2010

August 16, 2010 Harvesting Grasses and Leaves

grass fan   28"x20"x2"
Summer has peaked in the Puget Sound area with temperatures in the 90's, clear skies, and gentle breezes from the North. This is the time my thoughts flow to the harvesting of foliage from the many long-leaved plants and grasses I love to use for making cordage for weaving.

From our garden, or with permission from the gardens of others, I harvest handful-sized bundles of leaves and grasses, keeping in mind to leave behind plenty of leaves and seed so the plants may continue to be nourished, and able to reproduce. I use rubber bands for holding the cut ends together, and I hang them over a clothes-line strung up under an eve of the house, out of direct sun-light to dry. I could use the sunlight if I wanted to, for bleaching out the color, but I tend to go for the natural greens. As the days shorten, and the grasses and leaves begin to loose their green, going towards pale yellows, tans, and rusts, I continue to harvest handfuls as the colors are changing, capitalizing on the quality of that change producing a range of colors for the cordage I make.

Siberian iris, crocosmia, Yellow flag iris, cattail, bulrush, common rush, and NW sweetgrass are a few of my favorite leafy, grass-like materials, as well as crocus, daffodil and other spring bulb foliage. Some compost-rescue materials available now through Autumn for cordage include corn husks and leaves, and onion, garlic and leek leaves.

After the materials have been cured, or dried, they can be stored until ready to use. I recommend storing them indoors, in a heated area, out of direct sunlight. Before you use them moisten them only enough to make them flexible. If you think ahead, lay them out on the grass the night before you use them. The dew from above, and the moisture from the earth, are just right for making them flexible for use.

I relish the sounds of the grasses and leaves in the gentle breezes as I gather. There are usually birds hiding in these moisture-loving places. Bugs abound, and wonderful scents are adrift in the swamps, bogs, lake edges, and estuaries where these precious plants help to purify our waters, mitigate floods, and provide habitat for creatures of all kinds.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Melinda Joy West Welcomes You

cedar box   (5"x4"x4")
Welcome.  As a contemporary sculptural artistist, I've been exploring the traditional art of weaving with plant fibers since 1985.  Through the artistic process, I enjoy sharing lessons I've learned from my teachers with students of all ages.  I gather materials in a respectful manner, recycling bark off of trees that are being cut down, pruning selectively to encourage the growth and health of plants, and replanting at every opportunity.

Being a hands-on, low-tech type person (that is, non-computer savey), I will do my best to make weekly postings, or every other weekly, about the art I'm creating, learning projects I am working on, and suggestions for what the seasons may have to offer those, who like myself, desire to learn more about the natural world.