Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Notice what you are noticing/ One thing leads to another

Mulberry leaf pattern © Karen Thiessen, 2013
It's cheesy, but I succumbed to the bucket list syndrome in April. It's a nerdy list: read certain books, learn the Roman numerals past 40, do a leaf collection, etc. Yes, I likely did a leaf collection when I was in public school, but that was a while ago. Early this year I noticed that I collect leaves that are significant to me or are simply beautiful. Above are mulberry leaves in a repeat pattern. I think they are "male" leaves and mulberries don't grow on those branches. This summer I discovered that one tree can have two different kinds of leaves. I collected the "female" leaves and will create a pattern with them at some point. Mennonites had a thriving silk industry in south Russia in the mid to late 1800s and this knowledge helped them survive in the early 1920s when all manner of calamity befell them. Silk worms feed on mulberry leaves and every farm was mandated to have mulberry bushes on their property to support the silk industry. Three out of four of my parents' properties had mulberry trees and when we were young my brother and I used to indulge until we were a sticky purple mess. I still like mulberries and enjoy going on urban mulberry walks when they are in season. 
Weeping birch; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Birch trees have historical and personal significance. They were a common tree in south Russia and my Opa planted them on this property in Ontario to remind him of the home that he fled. His grandchildren (including me) loved to peel bark from his trees and that was a no-no. My brother is buried under this weeping birch. When I spot this tree in the cemetery, I know where to find his grave. I collect leaves each year to mark my visits with him. One day I'll play with these leaves in Illustrator or Photoshop.
Chortitza oak leaf bouquet; Photo © Karen Thiessen 2013
I have no personal connection to the Chortitza oak. Its significance is purely historic, but I do find the leaves to have a pleasing shape. I plan to play with them in Illustrator. This summer I visited a number of trees several times and took rubbings from some of the leaves and pressed others for later use.
Chortitza oak leaves; Photo © Karen Thiessen 2013
One thing leads to another. Now I look at trees and if the leaves are unfamiliar to me, I wonder what they are. My curiosity has been aroused. My interest in natural dyeing has been rekindled and all summer I was looking for Black walnut trees. I see a book of trees in my future as well as a leaf collection that won't look anything like the one I likely did in grade 7.

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