Winter Ferns

This new process of Botanical Etching has a lot of experimentation built in. My process evolves a little with each piece that I compose. I did several works in December and January using brined leaves that I harvested in October before most trees had completely dropped their leaves.

This winter, I explored working with fresh leaves harvested in January. A road trip to my favorite farm in Beaverdam sent me home with a collection of ferns, blackberry, and cedar. A composition with winter ferns and brined lenten rose foliage gave me a look at works with both fresh and preserved leaves.

Winter Ferns. 12" x 24", January, 2015. © Cathy G. Vaughn, all rights reserved

Winter Ferns. 12" x 24", January, 2015. © Cathy G. Vaughn, all rights reserved

Red Bud Landscape

Yesterday I packed up two dozen of my recent works and headed over to Chris Cunningham’s photography studio. Chris is such a delight to work with, and is an excellent photographer. This is my most recently-finished piece, composed from Red Bud leaves from Beaverdam, VA.

Red Bud Landscape. 18" x 24", July, 2015. © Cathy G. Vaughn, all rights reserved

Red Bud Landscape. 18" x 24", July, 2015. © Cathy G. Vaughn, all rights reserved

Sunny Sunday

Having a sunny Sunday in January is always enjoyable. It’s a good time for cleaning, reflecting, and planning new work for the new year. Having a little anvil time makes any day better.

Cathy in the shop

Happy accidents

In July, I committed to buying a big sheet of copper (10' x 3') and doing some large-scale testing. I had never handled a sheet of copper that large. I learned how to use a sheet metal brake to score and cut large sheets into manageable sizes at the local roofing supplier. Not sure of how I would ultimately use these pieces, I kept one piece at 6' x 3'. I had in mind to do an overall random pattern with a good variety of leaves, that I would then cut down and use as warp and weft for a large scale woven panel in a room divider I designed.

My friend Molly was coming to town from Beaverdam VA, and offered to bring some leaves from her farm. It was a hot day, and I opened the loading dock bay outside my studio to set up the sheet for my first large-scale test, and to enjoy a light breeze and sunshine. I laid out a large tarp, and unfurled the copper. The leaves--an assortment of red oak, mimosa, cedar, sugar maple, birch--were starting to wilt and curl in the heat, so I needed to work fast to get the leaves onto the sheet and covered. Once arranged, I covered the leaves with plastic sheeting and folded the tarp over the top of the copper.

An unexpected delivery to the loading dock meant moving my operation from the nice flat concrete into the back of my truck, where the sheet was curled in a convex curve between the wheel wells. I decided to let time work in my favor, and left the sheet covered for two weeks.

When I removed the plastic and pulled away the leaves, I was amazed with the depth of color rendered onto the sheet. Below is a detail from the leaf etching.

Mimosa (top left) and Oak (right) detail. ©2014 Cathy G. Vaughn, all rights reserved

Mimosa (top left) and Oak (right) detail. ©2014 Cathy G. Vaughn, all rights reserved

Testing, testing

My first foray into botanical etching was done with some scraps of sheet copper I had left from a custom built planter box project. I had been looking for a way to add dimension and color to some of my fitted tracery pieces and thought leaf imprints might be a good place to start. Dani Cage’s use of leaf litter to add color to copper clad table tops in her willow furnishings was an inspiration.

I started with leaves from my yard: fig, ginko, japanese maple and redbud, along with an assortment of weed trees in the alley gave me the raw materials. I was curious to see how the chemicals in the leaves would react to copper. Below is a detail of a fig leaf etched on copper.

Detail from Fig verdigris on copper sheet, July 2014

Detail from Fig verdigris on copper sheet, July 2014