I made my first quilt of leaves in 2005. I stitched hundreds of leaves using the stems as both needle and thread. The process was tedious and time consuming, but the result was fabulous.
Following the work of Robert Smithson, Nils-Udo, Andy Goldsworthy and so many other great environmental artists, I cherish the notion of creating from creation and returning my work to the earth. The ephemeral quality of environmental art is part of it's magic. We are all just transient visitors and no more important than the leaves on the forest floor. It is our moments that matter and my work celebrates a brief and bright little flash.
When I wander our Canadian forests rich with life and colour, I feel small and wonderstruck. I envision more than I could ever create and find inspiration in the tallness of the oaks and the dapples on a tiny fern. When our trees are healthy and hearty so is our world. Environment Art speaks to that connection and regard for this earth and it speaks to my spirit.
After being trapped in downtown Toronto for several years, I recently moved to the town of Carlysle, Ontario where nature thrives in all it's glory.
The leaves of autumn 2016 were impossible to resist. God's paintbox overflowed spilling lemon, emerald and crimson all over my world. I found a better way to connect the leaves using a paste that dissolves in the rain. The effect is not as homespun as sewing, but the work is faster and allows me the freedom to create in abundance.
Each quilt is around six by four feet (The exact size of my kitchen island and just tall enough for me to carry without dragging).
The colours fade as soon as the leaves come inside. Drying them properly is time consuming but so necessary. Leaves with mould or fungus tend to poison an entire quilt if I am not careful.
Once they are crispy and flat I lay them out and attach them.
When the quilt is done, I take it outside and offer it to a barren tree. I let it hang and dance with the wind until bit by bit, it drifts off into the sky and back to the earth.
The end is tragic and lovely. My favourite part of the process. It reminds me to look carefully at the beauty of this world and to cherish so many fleeting joys I tend to miss otherwise.
As far as I know, I am the only person in the world making quilts of leaves and nice as that is, I wish you all would give it a shot and experience the simple pleasure of it all.
People are often curious about my process so here it is;
Get out into the world and really enjoy the leaves. Look close. They are like colourful little snowflakes, each so lovely and fragile.
Don't worry about matching colours. Mother Nature has done the hard part for you.
Dry your treasures in books or newspaper or nuke them for a few minutes if you are impatient.
You can soak them in glycerine for a few days if you want them to stay vibrant, but sadly there is no way to make them live long.
Lay them out on a flat surface in the pattern of your choosing and make a cup of tea and a snack. You will be here for a while.
Dab a bit of white glue, glue gun or anything you like that will stick to the edges of the dry leaves. DRY being the operative word.
Overlap or underlay for different effects.
Cover it all with plastic and weight to keep it flat and strengthen the bond.
The next day, uncover your masterpiece.
Try not to be sad about how much the colours fade.
Take it outside on a VERY STILL sunny day and stand in awe of your creating.
Hang it in a tall bare tree on a nice blustery day and let it dance and blow away in the wind.
- Nancy Zimmerman