Crafty by Nature

Crafty by Nature

Go Outside and Get Naturally Crafty

comments (2) April 20th, 2009     

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Jen_W Jennifer Worick, contributor
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This elegant but organic sculpture by Patrick Dougherty took several weeks to construct.
Looking up at the top from inside the Summer Palace.
Branches and twigs of all varieties were used to give the Summer Palace form and texture. I can imagine trying something similar on a MUCH smaller scale for a wreath or candle ring.
It was quite cozy and picturesque inside the stickwork sculpture.
The top of the Summer Palace reminds me of a minaret.
This elegant but organic sculpture by Patrick Dougherty took several weeks to construct.

This elegant but organic sculpture by Patrick Dougherty took several weeks to construct.

Photo: Jennifer Worick

I had the good fortune to visit the lovely Morris Arboretum during my trip to Philadelphia. The highlight of the walk around these amazing grounds (began in 1887 as Compton, the former summer home of siblings John and Lydia Morris) was a stickwork structure by artist-in-residence Patrick Dougherty. Entitled “The Summer Palace,” it’s constructed entirely out of sticks and branches of all types, and you can even walk through the different interior chambers. I felt as though it was a cross between a soft-serve ice cream cone and the Keebler elf house. Coming upon it from a distance, I was enchanted. Inside, I marveled at the artistry and was swept away by the sensory experience. The verdant smell, dappled light, and serious coziness made me, well, happy.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, CraftStylish is hosting a Crafty by Nature contest this month, daring you to concoct stuff out of natural or recycled items. I spent last summer doing just this, and the result is a collection of 50 projects in Backcountry Betty: Crafting with Style, out next month from Skipstone Press. Using found items like beach glass, sand, rocks, and my beloved pine cones, I found the book to be both a challenge and a delight. Every day, I stretched my crafting chops as I contemplated the pine cone or mulled over the various uses for a twig or bark. This was a hoot and freed me up in so many ways; the result is a book that includes a pine-cone room diffuser, a birch-bark picture frame, a pressed-leaf lampshade, clamshell candles, and beach-glass mobile, among loads of other nature-inspired crafts. I encourage you to get outside and start hunting and gathering for natural materials.

Don’t strip a tree or harm the environment when foraging for crafting supplies, but do pay attention when walking the dog or jogging along the waterfront. You never know what sort of treasures are crying out to be restyled and honored in a craft project.

Inspired by Dougherty’s structure—which will remain at the arboretum until the elements eventually deconstruct it (which will take years, since it’s wonderfully engineered)—I’m planning on trying my hand at a makeshift bird's nest or wreath that can circle a pillar candle. If you can’t get outside as much as you’d like, bring the outdoors in.

What have you made from natural items?

In the future, you can find me at my website or blogs, Things I Want to Punch in the Face and Prairie Tales. My new book, Backcountry Betty: Crafting with Style, is in stores now.

posted in: nature, found items, stickwork, patrick dougherty

Comments (2)

annquill writes: ooh, happily I live close enough to go - thanks for the post!
Posted: 9:55 am on April 21st
kaytet writes: I love Patrick Dougherty! His work is so beautiful!

Posted: 12:21 pm on April 20th
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