Saturday, October 20, 2007

Leaf Spiral

Leaf Spiral, originally uploaded by escher1.

Since I started to look for sweet chestnut trees I have found quite a few. There are three in the cemetery, one of which is very small and consequently produces larger leaves, and ones of good quality. Also we chanced upon one in the park that had dropped some remarkably large leaves. I collected a bag full with the plan of making a spiral this time. It seems that it would benefit from being pinned with thorns more thoroughly so that it would retain its structure better, so I collected lots of long thorns too.

The practice of making the first two horns meant that starting off the spiral was straightforward and I quickly made progress. I joined each leaf to the next with grass stalks and pinned the leaves together with thorns trying to make the structure spiral round as quickly and as sharply as possible. As the leaves spiralled around I just laid each leaf on top of the next without constricting the previous one so that the hollow tube was getting larger and larger far too quickly to my eye, as after I had completed 360 degrees the tube seemed to be very wide and a couple of leaves were required to make one revolution. This would mean that it would take a lot of leaves and a long time to make a decent number of turns in the spiral.

So the next day after work I carried on with the construction by firstly unravelling 50% of what I had already done and reassembling it so that each leaf was tighter to the previous one so the width would increase more slowly. This meant that the spiral was longer and thinner but the leaves had dried out somewhat and were more crispy meaning that the holes made by the thorns would be too big and unsightly.

As the spiral grew it became more unwieldy and difficult to work with. It was important to keep the structure tight so that the spiral continued around itself with no gaps, which meant I had to pay close attention to how I was building each segment. Not as easy as one might first think it would be.

The next day I got home from work and found that it had fallen off the top shelf of the bookcase and was a bit squashed. Again the last section of the spiral had become too large so I again unravelled it so that I could tighten the coils more. This seemed to be easier after making it once – i.e. to construct the turns too large, then deconstruct it and make the turns tighter. In hindsight this was a mistake and I wished that I hadn’t unravelled it. It is much easier to make each new leaf how you want it and to pin it in the right place. It is much less easy to handle many coils and pin them just where you want. This resulted in it becoming misshapen and lumpy and the dried out leaves became too brittle and the coils kept coming undone and I created far too many holes with the thorns.

Next time I will try and build it all in one go, from scratch, making sure that I was happy with each coil before I moved onto the next and make efforts to ensure that it doesn’t expand too quickly. Patience and attention to detail being key and I will also try and achieve that organic shape and quality where each segment is laid at the same angle as the next so it looks like a naturally formed crustacean.

On Saturday the sun was shining so I took the spiral out to look for somewhere to photograph it. I got a very strange look from a passing teenager who looked very curious as to what I was carrying, I don’t supposed he had ever seen anything like it. I headed for the chestnut tree by the entrance to Standen Park, perhaps I would place in on the fallen leaves for a photo. I tried this but it didn’t quite look right. What I was really after was a branch to sit it on and just above there was a perfect hollow on a branch to sit it on and the late afternoon autumn sunshine dappled across it was just what I was looking for. I like the comment I got on Flickr “a cocoon left by a giant but benevolent creature”! Quite amusing really, but I was trying to achieve that organic strangeness inherent in Andy Goldsworthy’s work. Of course this is a copy but efforts made in the setting and lighting for a photograph of a work really pays dividends. I am coming to appreciate more and more AG’s skill with the materials, setting, with light and with the photograph to achieve much more than the sum of their parts.

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