Nature Reading and Turtle Art Quilt: To Honor the Elders

Many of my ideas are prompted by books I have been reading. Or perhaps I read those books because there is something in the world that prompts my interest. In any case, I seem to process and express and explore through the art; my medium was once bookwork, now it is textiles. Not that different, in my mind. Small pieces put together to make something greater than each alone to create a new view.

As I have mentioned in previous turtle posts, Sy Montgomery's book [Amazon link], Of Time and Turtles had an impact on me. I hand dyed quite a bit of cotton, velvet, and linen, and realized I had enough material for at least three quilts. I worked on this one concurrently with On Turtle Time, going back and forth to break up the tasks of free-motion quilting for one and beading for the other. The beading on this one definitely took some turtle time.

To Honor the Elders
30.5" x 30.5" (77.5 cm x 77.5 cm)
Hand drawn and handmade stencil with fabric paint; hand-dyed cotton and line; ice-dyed cotton; reverse  appliquéed; gold seed and bugle beads; hand and free-motion quilted

After cutting the large stencil and hand-stenciling the turtle in gold, knowing I would reverse appliqué it, I immediately decided I would bead what I call the "burst" patterns on this Green Sea Turtle's shell. I ordered gold seed beads and gold bugle beads from Aura Crystals. If you like Japanese seed beads, they have them all! Their website calls itself "Your zen in beading."

The back (which has my swimming turtle Spoonflower cloth in black and white that I hand dyed)

To honor the elders, in this case, means to stop for a moment, to listen, and to learn. 

Turtles were on earth 260 million years ago. As far as we know, the earliest human only goes back 2.4 to 1.4 million years.

Other nature books I've dipped into recently [Amazon links for book titles] that have helped me to listen and to learn:

Alfie & Me by Carl Safina
Safina and his wife nurture an injured owlet who grows up is able to be released into the wild; eventually she finds a wild mate, has owlets herself, and comes back to visit. Interspersed with the story of Alfie (Owlfie) the owl, Safina examines creation stories and beliefs in various cultures, philosophy, religion and how much the Western world has distanced itself from animals and the environment, due to a certain value system. In the course of the explorations, he also mentions Robin Wall Kimmerer's book, Braiding Sweetgrass, as well as ideas from Robert Macfarlane's book, The Lost Words, and Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. Once I accepted that this was as much a philosophy book as it was about the owl, I was hooked.

What an Owl Knows by Jennifer Ackerman
Like the turtles, owls go back in time before us. But because they are busy at night, fly silently, and are deeply camouflaged, they are much harder to study. Not all owls are the same: she writes of the largest owl, the smallest owl, and the variation in between, describing their sounds, how they hunt, their mating, their nesting, their diet and environments needed. Various stories are woven throughout of owls as pets, anecdotes about owls, and the adventures she had while working with owl researchers in the field. While I wish she had organized the chapters owl by owl rather than contrasting them, I was still very much entranced by this book and the owl family, and it indirectly inspired my owl quilts, Where's Owl?, and Owl Construction, and We're Gonna Live in the Trees.

At the Edge of the Sea by Rachel Carson
Somehow I missed the part about Rachel Carson being a marine biologist. This is a poetic look at that seashore and exactly the book I have been looking for that describes the life of the animals inside the shells. She describes the plants as well, and the intricate and interconnectedness of all flora and fauna with the tides. I made a few seashore/seashell quilts a little while back, Study for a Finding (2021), and All the Pretty Bones (2022), that were recently included in a nice grouping in an online magazine, TILT 004

And a wonderful illustrated owl comic, Woven, made and sold by Joshua, a Canadian artist, at his False Knees website. The moving story of a barn owl, who happens to be an artist. 

I also follow Rosemary Mosco for a joyful natural science education. She wrote the very engaging and scene-changing book, A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching: Getting to Know the World's Most Misunderstood Bird, among others, also at her website.

It's all connected.