Category Archives: Nature my Muse

Inspiration from the Cloud Forest

I  recently returned from a trip to Costa Rica where we had the opportunity to visit the Santa Elena cloud forest in Monteverde. This high elevation forest has canopy level cloud cover which provides a continuous source of moisture resulting in dense and abundant vegetation. Visiting this amazing environment you feel completely immersed in a magical green world of overlapping leaves and entwined branches. Plants, trees, lichens and mosses grow everywhere, even on each other. Each one competes for their own little bit of light and it becomes difficult to see where one tree or plant begins and ends.

Santa Elena cloud forest in Monteverde

Inspired by the multitude of leaf designs in this lush environment I began working on some designs for my textiles as soon as I returned home. The cotton fabric shown above has been dyed in layers of colour and then discharge screen printed with one of my new leaf designs. Even the pink of the bougainvillea which grows all over Costa Rica has found it’s way into my work. This is a nice sized piece of fabric, about 3 metres long. I’m planning on making a skirt with it as part of my summer collection.

Screenprinted and dyed leaf design sunglasses case made of 100% linen with mother of pearl button and handmade loop closure
Screenprinted and dyed leaf design sunglasses case made of 100% linen
For more of my textile designs on accessories, housewares and small art pieces please see my shop here on Etsy: Inkyspider

Hibernation can reveal buried treasure.

‘Hibernation’ textile art – screenprinted, hand dyed and machine embroidered.

I grew up in a warm climate where the idea of hibernation didn’t really exist. Winter was not something we really experienced and it was only after I moved to Canada that I understood that the shorter days and cold weather of winter months meant more time spent indoors. Don’t get me wrong, I love to be outdoors even in the winter, walking, skiing or snowshoeing, but reality is that more time is spent at home in the cave. For someone like me, an artist who works at home, the cave is my studio.
Usually at this time of the year I spend some time reorganizing my studio. As a typical fiber artist I have way too much fabric. Much of it I have dyed or surface designed and not yet used for a project. Some pieces are large and neatly folded on shelves or in drawers but some pieces are small and spill over boxes on my studio floor. It has been mostly amongst these little bits that I have discovered my treasure. It began with me making small textile art cards as thank-you’s to my customers. A friend who was visiting my studio pointed out that I should consider making more of these little textile ‘paintings’ and offering them for sale. I gave up painting a number of years ago to pursue my interest in fiber art so these new pieces have become a nice meeting of the medias for me. It’s also a great way to explore some of these images, textures and colours as ideas for integrating into garments later.

‘Karamatsu Shibori Flower series – two’ – Shibori resist dyed, screenprinted and machine appliqued 5″ x 7″

‘Whirled in a Tree series – two’ – hand dyed, screenprinted and machine embroidered – 5″ x 7″

‘Primitive’ – ACEO (2.5″ x3.5″) – dyed, screenprinted and machine embroidered

Detail of ‘Whirled in a Tree series – one’

These small surface designed artworks are available in my Inkyspider shop on Etsy.
Most of these pieces have been mounted on mat board and are ready to put into a frame.



Enchanted Beans

Beans are probably one of the first seeds that children may grow at home or in the classroom. They sprout really quickly on a dampened cloth or paper. The miracle of life beginning unfolds dramatically in no time at all. One of the most amazing things about bean seeds is that you can recognize their variety when they are still seeds. With almost all other plants you cannot actually differentiate them until the plant grows and produces fruit or flowers.

Beans come in the most incredible array of colours, patterns and sizes. That they were chosen as the magic seed in the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk is not surprising to me at all. They have a magic quality to them that captivates me every time I crack open a pod to reveal them resting in their little chambers.Their womb-like shape holds a promise of life which I find thrilling.
Beans have enchanted me since the first time I grew a scarlet runner pole bean and was rewarded by their beautiful big seeds at harvest time. I was a painter then and did a whole series of paintings inspired by these amazing beans. They have since found their way into my textile designs as whole moving pods and stylized seed symbols. I think their presence in my art will always be with me.

This season I grew six varieties of beans but because we had a lot of rain this year it was a struggle for them to reach maturity here in the Kootenays. A bean ready for drying will separate inside their pods which will dry out and rattle when moved. I then pick them and dry them in their pods in baskets until they are crisp dry and ready to be shucked.

These are a beautiful pole bean which I grow every year from my own seeds. Even in this wet season they have done well. They are prolific, reliable and taste amazing fresh or dried (detail shown in above photo). If you look carefully you will notice that a few of them are a dark bean, a kind of reverse patterning of the mostly light coloured ones.

These beauties came from my father-in-law. They are a big ivory coloured Italian Roma bean. They taste meaty and delicious as a shelled bean but because of their size they seem to be having a hard time getting to the drying stage this season. I’ll try again next year and hope for a warmer drier summer.

These are a very tiny black turtle bean which I have’nt yet tasted. They struggled a bit with mold in the damp weather but I managed to still save some and will get a few meals out of them.

A very light coloured kidney bean which grows as a bush bean and did quite well for me this summer. They tasted great as a green bean but I still look forward to tasting them as a dried bean. These are the red kidney beans I grew last year: Red Bean Harvest

Both the kidney bean and the black beans I purchased from Salt Spring Seeds. They have a fantastic variety of heirloom seeds and a great little booklet called “Saving Seeds“. Next year I look forward to trying more of their varieties as well as trading seeds with other growers in the Kootenays where I live.

For more on how I have used the image of the bean in my art please see my blog post on Total Art Soul here:
Beans in my garden inspire beans in my art.