Knitting Pattern || Urbanite Garland

It's amazing how fast a year can slip through your fingers.  Granted, this past year has been a whirlwind of accomplishments… sometimes other things just have to wait so you can make sure they're done exactly the way you want them done.  I designed this pattern a couple of summers ago, and my lovely friend modeled the garment for me last summer as I was preparing to release it… and then Momentum Tulsa happened.  It's been chaos ever since, until recently.  I'm very excited to show you this headband, the Urbanite Garland, which is now available both in my Ravelry store and on Etsy as a PDF download.
The original prototype for the design makes a regular appearance in my wardrobe, in particular on windy days or those when my hair is a little unruly but I don't want to wear it up.  A versatile piece, it fits into a lot of different styles and only takes a few hours to knit.  So if you're looking for a new summertime accessory, something to throw on after a day at the lake or on the way to dinner with friends after a long day at work, this is the perfect piece.

Introduction to "Niche"

I'm excited to announce one of the exhibits I'm creating work for this coming April.  Martin Nature Park in Oklahoma City is a favorite spot for J and I to get out in the "wild" while not having to commit an entire day to getting out of the city.  It's a very peaceful oasis in town with plenty to observe and free from the distractions of the built environment.  It's quiet.
For the past several weeks, I have been working on some pieces for installations that will be placed throughout the park for the duration of April - this is part of Martin Nature Park's Earthfest events.  One installation will go along each of the three trails, in addition to a small one within the nature center building.
I may have mentioned this before, but thus far all of the outdoor installations I've created have been temporary.  I create them, I place them, I photograph them... and then I take them down.  No one but me gets to see them in person; only by photograph.  Martin Park has given me the opportunity to install and leave my work there for the public to see, and to find.  It's thrilling to know that visitors to the park will stumble upon each installation.  As they hike the trails and look for each work with an awareness of the presence of the artwork throughout the park, I hope this will bring the attention of visitors to the phenology and stages of growth of the various plants and other organisms residing there. It will encourage engagement and contemplation of the ecosystems within the park as visitors notice the installations, and can help them to cultivate a stronger connection to nature.
The images shown are just a few shots of my works in progress, and I look forward to sharing more in the near future.  Visit Martin Nature Park at 5000 W Memorial Rd, Oklahoma City, OK during the month of April to see "Niche".

Saprobia || Introduction Part 2

The words from the first part of my introduction to this project describe the biogeochemical cycles continuously occurring over time in natural ecosystems.  Rarely do we think of a tree as a product of the growth and death of all other trees in that place before it... Perhaps as the offspring of another tree's seed, but rarely as an organism nourished by the same building blocks that it will one day again become... in order to support life going forward.

Saprobia communicates this idea through the representation of a tree as a decomposer organism that would contribute in returning it to the soil to continue the cycle.  The project manifests as an installation of various forms of fungi, each constructed from components of a certain species of tree.  These saprobic representations of a species connect the viewer's perception to the continuity of forest mineral cycling and the interconnectedness of all organisms in an ecosystem, past and present.

Saprobia poses the question of what is next for the elements that once comprised a plant. How will they contribute to other life going forward? How can so small a thing have such an impact? The balance and interaction within nature transforms into a muse for our rejuvenation and strength.

For a number of weeks going forward, up until the installation in October, I will share a little about each saprobic form created for this project. All parts of an ecosystem depend on one another in the delicate balance of the environment.  Natural intelligence guides phenology harmoniously, in a magnificent symphony of self sufficiency.  How remarkable it is that we get to witness this strikingly mysterious collaboration of life.

Photos: 1. dye jars with baldcypress leaves, eastern red cedar heart wood, and black walnut hulls 2. working with honeylocust leaves 3. knitting with seed of cottonwood



Materials: yarn, dried vine, wire
Dyed-in-the-wool is an installation that I recently created for Rare Earth, an exhibition at Plug Projects in Kansas City.  Rare Earth "features work that borrows materials and figures from the natural world to reevaluate the nature of nature and examine the many landscapes we all inhabit. Geodes, lichen, wind and water, fungi and fauna explore the possibilities of symbiosis, the interventions of pollution, and imaginatively refigure the terrestrial through painting, photography and sculpture. Considering human mediation into all of the ecologies we encounter, Rare Earth offers viewers new modes of seeing the world around them."
It is said that there are three ways in which to add pigment to a garment - after it is woven into its finished form, after it is spun into thread, and before it is spun - when it is still a mass of raw fiber.  The phrase "dyed-in-the-wool" refers to fiber that has been subjected to pigment - raw fiber - wool that has not yet been manipulated into something else.  Applying this idiom to human existence ties it to our foundational beliefs and ways of our nature.  What we were melded into before we dumped experience on top.  How our upbringing shaped us.
When I was considering a title for this installation, the idiom "dyed-in-the-wool" struck a chord with me not just because of the obvious literal connection of a fiber sculpture that was quite literally knitted with wool, but because it conveys exactly my perception of vegetation in an urban environment.
Do you ever walk by an abandoned lot or an alleyway and notice the vines and herbs that have sprouted through the cracks in the pavement, clung to the brick of an adjacent building, and in a way seem to have reclaimed the space?  It's remarkable that despite the extremely harsh environment we see in our urban areas, this flora still perseveres.  They are, after all, engineered for survival.  We eliminate the growing conditions conducive to coexistence with plant life, and yet they still find a way.  They are "dyed-in-the-wool" growing machines and will continue to thrive in very little soil volume with poor soil fertility, little water, an abundance of contaminants and air pollution.  Yet, how often do we walk on by without giving it a second thought?
I do want to note that I am in no way discrediting the huge problem that invasive plants have become in natural areas surrounding our communities.  Native plants and wildlife have been displaced due to this issue and I recognize that it's a very serious matter.
This piece is my effort to point out the wonders that we are surrounded by, how remarkable they are and that this beauty can exist despite the challenge of urban conditions.  It can be so moving to take a moment to just observe the growth and life around us.  A moment of encouragement, replenishment and hope.

Decomposition: Riot

I had the opportunity this past weekend to install my jack o lantern fungi in southeastern Oklahoma as part of the Decomposition series.  These are the largest forms I've used for an installation to date, and have a very different effect than the dozens of tiny mushroom caps seen in Colony I and Colony II.  Rather than sheer numbers, the "WOW" factor comes from the loud, warm hue, clustered around this unique stump with a cylinder of heartwood still standing majestically in the center.  A loud, warm, aggressive hue, a tightly packed cluster.... like a riot.
I enjoy this series more and more as I go along, and get more and more excited projecting future installations.  I'm also thinking I need to plan out some ideas on how to create an installation and leave it in place without offending my environmentally responsible conscience.  The materials I use are just too invasive to feel good about leaving out in "the wild".  I'll start brainstorming more on that, and actually I already have an idea brewing although it's for something outside the Decomposition series.  Hopefully I'll have time to start on that this summer...

Decomposition: Colony III

This past week was a bit of a blur getting ready for my first gallery exhibition, but I am very honored to have been awarded Curator's Choice for my "Decomposition: Colony III" installation at Momentum: Art Doesn't Stand Still in Oklahoma City this year!  There were so many outstanding pieces and talented artists in the exhibition, and I feel very grateful to have shown my work alongside them.  I am even more overwhelmed, grateful, and encouraged to the curators for this event, PLUG Projects from Kansas City.  This has been a very humbling, inspiring and motivational experience, an opportunity that I owe Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition a lot for making possible as well.  While my drive to make art is still going strong because I simply enjoy what I do so much, it was encouraging to see the response to my work by peers and other artists.  I've made some great contacts and am seeing what a great, welcoming, art community is here in OKC.  Now I know for sure that I can't let my visions falter and go unrealized.
Aside from the enjoyment that came from nerding out over wood decay, moss, plants, and assembling all of my other materials, I think my favorite part of the exhibition was watching people observe my piece.  While I avoided hovering nearby because it made me nervous, it was fantastic to see people crouching down to look at the knitted mushroom caps up close, and further inspecting the other components of the installation - the exact response that I was hoping for.  I'm excited to continue on to the next phase (possibly two) of this series which will hopefully come to fruition in the next month or so (installation plans are already slated for April).
Thank you for all the support and kind comments.  I've checked off a major bucket list item here and can't wait to see what comes along next.
If you are unfamiliar with the Decomposition Series, you can see previous installations at the links below:



















Momentum OKC Starts Tonight

 After several hours of assembly, my installation is complete and the exhibition begins this evening!  The photos in this post are some behind the scenes shots - they don't show the final product though, so I hope you can come and see it in person.  If not, I will post photos next week of the installation in full.  Thanks for the encouraging response to this news via this blog and Instagram; your support means a lot to me!

BIG THING #2 aka 52 Forms of Fungi || #4

You might recognize these little guys from my Decomposition seriesColony I and Colony II.  Well, they are making an appearance again because of the second big thing that I alluded to last week... a third installation will take place this next week at Momentum: Art Doesn't Stand Still in Oklahoma City.  This is the first time I have taken part in a juried exhibition, and I am very honored to have been selected for participation.  All of the Decomposition phases have thus far taken place in an existing natural setting, so another unique aspect of this installation is that I am recreating a natural environment to use for placement of the knitted fungi replicas.  It is challenging, but also exhilarating.  It incites the same response in myself that I seek to encourage in observers... attention to detail, awe at natural complexities, and an awareness that there is so much more going on around me than I could ever in my lifetime begin to fathom.
I learned how to use a sander today, which to my delight was actually pretty fun.  This made me happy because woodworking is a long term aspiration of mine... so at least now I know I don't hate one of the main components!  In any case, if you live around the Oklahoma City area I hope you can come out to the show, this Friday or Saturday from 8 to midnight, at 50 Penn Place (across the street from Penn Square Mall).




BIG THING #1 aka Off the Needles || Foundation

Remember the "big things that are happening" that I vaguely mentioned a few days ago?  Well, this is the first one.  Last year one of my very dearest friends, Emily, and her husband had a baby and I knew I needed to make something extra special to commemorate this event.  Thus, "Foundation" was born.  Little Beatriz (pictured below - how adorable is this sweet little girl?!?!) was born in mid summer, so I was obviously running a little bit behind on this project but it was way worth it.
A tree's root system is the foundation of the organism - it provides anchorage for the tree's weight, it absorbs the minerals and moisture necessary for metabolic processes, it exchanges gases that are crucial for tree survival and it stores sugars that provide energy to fuel the tree.  Without this foundation, the tree would be nothing.  This blanket that I designed symbolizes that support structure of Beatriz' family.  The growth rings in the center represent the five years her parents built their relationship before bringing her into the world.  I hope it is a piece that she will cherish for years to come, if not at least to keep around because it's a dang soft (and warm) blanket to snuggle beneath. :)
The blanket is made from Knit Picks Swish Worsted.  It incorporates a chart of 6 identical sections knitted in the round.  I plan to publish the pattern eventually, although it will require a little bit of tweaking.  I am going to adapt it with 8 sections to make the growth rings a little rounder - they turned out a little too geometric.
Regardless, it feels so good to finish this project!  I don't even know how many hours of work went into this - weekends and weekends!  Since it was knit in the round, I couldn't really see how it was progressing because it was bunched up at the needles the whole time.  I designed the chart as I went, since I could see the last several rows I had knitted the whole way through to gauge how the pattern was turning out.  Once I started to bind off, the finished product took my breath away.  I will work on trying to make this available soon!


Big Things Are Happening

I had hoped this morning to show you the final product of a project I have worked on for nearly a year, but I still need to do a little photo processing.... so maybe it will be up here later this week!

Another milestone is in the works and I will be able to share more about that next week sometime.  It's very exciting, slightly daunting, and it's definitely something that I'm proud of myself for following through on.  This past year has been a wild roller coaster of new things and stepping into a world that I've always only felt like an outsider of.  Here's to pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone!


52 Forms of Fungi || #1

This first installment of the 52 Forms of Fungi project makes me realized that I should add one more parameter to the guidelines: the fungi may or may not be fictional.  I bought this silver embroidery thread quite a while ago with the intent of knitting some little mushrooms with it for another project that you'll see very soon.
Let's be honest, it's highly unlikely that metallic, silver fungi exists anywhere in nature other than maybe Rivendell (which is totally a real place..... totally..), but nonetheless, isn't it just so dang pretty?  These little pieces were the perfect start to this fun project, and I'm looking forward to sharing more!


Knit Hacker

This morning I woke up to the pleasant surprise of having my fiber series "Decomposition" posted on the Knit Hacker blog.  It's exciting and humbling to see people picking up on my work and I am immersed in gratitude for this kind of support - the support of my readers, friends, and family.  I am grateful for the abundant visions that bounce around in my head and the ability to act on them.  Do what you feel you are meant to do, friends, and you will be content.

Decomposition: Stacks

Here is the final product from my installation of Stacks, the next phase of my Decomposition series.  For more information about this phase, or to watch the behind the scenes video, check out my sneak peek post.  You can also see previous phases of the series at Colony I and Colony II, and the Decomposition: Colony sneak peek post.

The Decomposition series is a study on the intricate textures of fungi and how they blend in to their natural environment. At a glance and from a distance, these knitted replicas meld in as a part of the magnificent cycle that transforms living plants to detritus and further into minerals that nourish other living plants as they draw these minerals up from the soil. For instance, when viewing the installation at a distance, the pieces appear natural and as though they are meant to exist there. However, on a closer encounter one sees that these are not fruiting bodies at all. The delicate knit stitch stands out and draws you in for closer inspection, much like the intricacies in the texture of fungi draw me in. These elements spur on a stream of questions that carry me meditatively in to a place of introspection. While this is a personal project, I hope that it excites the same way of thinking amongst its viewers, elevating to a greater level of awareness of one's surroundings.

Stacks was inspired by a common fungus found on young and thin barked trees, called split gill fungus.

Sneak Peek || Decomposition: Stacks

This past weekend I had the opportunity to execute the next phase of my Decomposition series, entitled "Stacks".  This phase surrounded the textures of a type of fungi that I see quite frequently on trees in the landscape, typically younger trees or those with thin bark.  Called "split gill fungus", this type colonizes trees that are stressed, either through poor planting practices, inefficient watering, and previous wounding and sun scald.  I am always mesmerized by how split gill fungus looks, and am very excited to include it in my fiber art series.

I used a Japanese maple in my parents' back yard in Tulsa for the setting, which turned out beautifully with the deep red leaves and bright, sunny day.  It added some lovely contrast to the white replicas.

In addition to the photos, I have decided to venture into a new media to provide you with glimpses into my work... video!  My husband was gracious enough to film part of the process for me using the Super 8 app on my iPhone.  I am most excited about it, because this is my first video editing experience ever!

Guys, I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but even though we've had our iMac for the greater part of a year, I still hardly know how to use it.  I FINALLY figured out how to use Command + click to replace the PC right-clicking function, and that was because a friend told me.  So know that it's a BIG DEAL that I just taught myself how to use iMovie in one evening.  A really big deal.  I had a lot of fun with it and am looking forward to making more of these... what kinds of videos would you like to see here on the Bromeleighad blog?

Without further ado, here is a behind the scenes glimpse at the most recent phase of Decomposition.  Check back in a week to see photos of the final product, Decomposition: Stacks!

Sneak Peek - Stacks from Leigh Martin on Vimeo.

On My Needles || Palladio

This is the first time I have knitted something other than an accessory with an "art yarn", if you would call Berroco Captiva that.  I've seen the booklet that this pattern was published in a million times at LYS and every time I am enamored by the garments and consider buying it... but don't... and then by the time I visit again I've forgotten and the same thing happens all over again.  This time I remembered though!  And I knew that I just had to buy it - there are 3 or 4 items that I would love to make from it and if that's not justification enough... I don't know what is.
The pattern is called Palladio, and it is by Amanda Keep.  This pattern is part of the Berroco Captiva #318.  I love the yarn so far - it's very shiny and elegant looking, with wonderful drape.  I chose a sea foam greenish color, which suits me fine because the sheen of the yarn and the color just makes me think of mermaids for some reason - it's really pretty.  It's also a pretty quick knit, as I've only worked on it for a few short sittings and I'm about halfway done with the front side.
Another thing I'm working on is the next phase of my Decomposition series.  It's pretty fast moving, and I'm hoping to execute this one in the fairly near future.  Part of that depends on weather conditions, but I have a plan.  And it involves the phrase: "Dad, can I glue some stuff to the dead part of your Japanese maple?"  Dad, if you're reading this I'll explain when I see you this weekend...  and I'll prune the dead part after I'm done.  :)
I'm also planning for another phase....
Aaaaannnnnd there's another top secret project in the works but you'll have to wait a while to see more on that.  Partly because I want to make sure it works.  But also partly because it's awesome... and I want you to see it in its full glory rather than just bit by bit.
I know I've been posting less lately, and most of what is lacking includes posts on work that I admire by other folks, or "inspiration" posts.  I've spent more time on my projects and trying to improve the ol' blog, so I guess you could say I've been more inspired by what I'm doing lately as opposed to outside influences.  That seems like a good thing, don't you think?  I won't completely discontinue the inspiration posts, but hope to incorporate some more original content as I develop ideas.  Thanks for reading, and I will leave you with the only Halloween decoration that is currently in my house.  October is almost here!

Decomposition: Colony II

I'm excited to show you Colony II, the second installation from Phase I of my Decomposition series!  This site was so foggy and eerie, but was filled with decaying western red cedar logs and stumps and coated with moss.  The color contrast between the mist, the mushroom caps, moss and burnt orange wood fiber was breathtaking.  It made all the difference on the outcome of this particular installation.
If you missed the first installation and want to find out some background information on my project, you can find it here:  Colony I.
I also posted a sneak peek of some behind the scenes photos which may be viewed here:  Decomposition Sneak Peek.

Decomposition: Colony I

I'm excited to finally show you the first phase of my Decomposition series.  Phase one is called "Colony", and these photos depict the first of two installations that I had the joy of constructing.  View the full documentation of the installation in my portfolio.

I have yet to develop a formal statement about the series which will incorporate knitted replicas in the form of several types of wood decay fungi.  I've hinted at it here and there in previous blog posts, but I will explain a little further:

The series is a study on the intricate textures of fungi and how they blend in to their natural environment.  At a glance and from a distance, these knitted replicas meld in as a part of the magnificent cycle that transforms living plants to detritus and further into minerals that nourish other living plants as they draw these minerals up from the soil.  For instance, when viewing the installation at the distance of the bottom photo the pieces appear natural and as though they are meant to exist there.  However, on a closer encounter one sees that these are not fruiting bodies at all.  The delicate knit stitch stands out and draws you in for closer inspection, much like the intricacies in the texture of fungi draw me in.  These elements spur on a stream of questions that carry me meditatively in to a place of introspection.  While this is a personal project, I hope that it excites the same way of thinking amongst its viewers, elevating to a greater level of awareness of one's surroundings.

The second installation of "Colony" will go up on this blog a week from today, so check back to see it! I hate to choose favorites, but I was actually even happier with how the second one turned out than I was with the first.  I am also exploring inspiration for the next phase and hope to begin construction on that very soon.


Sneak Peek || Decomposition: Colony

As I've mentioned, one of my goals for our trip to the Northwest was installation and documentation of the first phase of my wood decay fungi project, Decomposition.  To my excitement, I found two spectacular sites to utilize and created installations at each of them.  I can't wait to show these to you!  For now, this sneak peek will have to do.

The above photo includes the mushroom caps in the wooden box that I used to transport them, along with a photo that served as the inspiration for this whole series.  It shows a decaying log in the rain forest of Costa Rica that is covered in a "colony" of what appear to be very small ink cap mushrooms.  The intricacies of texture in different types of fungi is what has moved me to begin this particular series, and I must say that carrying out my vision for this phase in a setting exactly how I visualized it has left me with more creative fulfillment than I've ever had.  Needless to say, full steam ahead with the next phase.

Here are a couple of photos J shot of my putting it all in place, and one more of the caps in the box.  We got a little scared on our departing flight when we realized that the little box probably looked mighty suspicious in the airport X-ray machine... and probably even more suspicious had my bag been searched.  Apparently it went undetected, though.  Good thing. :)  Also, note the mosquito on my shoulder in the first one - we were getting SWARMED the whole time we were up there, although oddly enough I was bitten very few times.

I will post photos of "Colony I" a week from today, and "Colony II" will go up a week after that.





Decomposition || Colony Trial

These little guys have kept me busy lately, reinforcing the cap shape with wire and wrapping the stems.  I'm finding that I wish I had made more of them, but I still think the project outcome will be fun and as expected.  If it works out, there is always opportunity to make more of them for a larger scale installation eventually.

This first phase is titled "Colony" and after we return home I plan to get to work on some Ganoderma - a lot more color, a lot more technical and shape dependent.  I have some exciting ideas for how to execute that phase though, so I can't wait to get started on it.

In any case, while we were in Arkansas camping last month, I took a few pieces along with us on a hike just to test them out.  Here is a sneak peek of a "Colony".  After we return from Oregon, I'll post the real deal.

On My Needles || Another Mantra

I enjoyed creating my first Mantra Scarf so much that I recently decided to chart out some different phrases to knit up as well.  The one I'm working on currently is for my best friend Sarah, but I have decided to continue making these and to offer them in my online shop once I have enough inventory to open.  The mantra woven into this piece is "Feel Everything", a phrase that has stuck in my head since I started listening to Fiona Apple's new album. I've been using fair isle technique for weaving in the floats, and this is my first attempt at English/Continental style knitting.  It's somewhat difficult to get the hang of, but I'm getting used to it (and my fingers are cramping up less).  I must say it's odd knitting with two strands of yarn, one in each hand, but I'm glad I've been able to practice a new technique and improve my skills through this process.  My hope is to finish this scarf later this week (time permitting - Oregon is coming up fast and I still have over a hundred bits of fungi to assemble for my first Decomposition installation.)  In any case, have a look!  :)