Saturday, September 25, 2010

Maple Leaf Lantern

Maple Leaf Lantern, originally uploaded by escher....

Do you have those moments when everything seems to come together at once?

After I got home from photographing this I received an email confirming that my client was delighted with the sculpture he had commissioned. I had been waiting nearly two weeks for news and was running out of finger nails to chew! His PA had been ill which explained the delay but we have had torrential rain for nearly all that time and I was dreading that the elements had destroyed my efforts.

I'd had the idea to try and make a lantern a year ago. I tried but it didn't come together. I parked the idea at the back of my mind only for it to reappear now that I have started messing around with weaving.

At the weekend the weather was foul so I collected some Dogwood and Willow and sat indoors with the rain splattering against the window and started to construct a tear drop shaped frame. I liked the bright yellow of the willow against the rich green of the dogwood. I tried to cover it with leaves but that didn't work so I tried paper birch bark instead and I failed at that too. It was probably just as well as it would have been highly flammable!

Finally I decided to leave it open as with a candle inside it casts a nice shadow on the ceiling. Next I had to decide what would form the shade for the lantern. Well there was nothing else for it but something with strong colour.

I found a nice maple leaf, rich red and perfectly sized to fit into the hole in the frame I had put in the front. And finally I wove a stand on the inside on which to place the candle.

Now I must confess I didn't make the candle out of things I had collected in nature. I could have knitted a wick from underarm hair and collected ear wax to make the candle but to be frank I really couldn't be bothered. This land art stuff is supposed to be fun you know! I love to learn about nature and her materials but I'll draw the line at earwax candles!

24 hours later the rain was still hammering against the window. The ground was sodden and the rivers were beginning to burst their banks. The wind was bending the trees over until their canopies touched the ground. Summer had definitely exited stage left closely followed by Elvis. The autumn gales and rain were definitely in full force.

48 hours later it finally stopped raining but the wind had not abated.

I tried to take pictures of the lantern indoors. I wove a ring through its top and hung it from the lampshade in the front room. It was impossible to keep it still and it spun round at a very slow pace. There was no way I could get a sharp picture with the long shutter time that I needed. But anyway I needed to take its picture outdoors and indoor problems were irrelevant. It would need to be soon as the materials would soon curl up and dry.

Finally in the evening I noticed that the wind had dropped. Not just got weaker but had stopped altogether. It was as still as it was possible to be. This is quite remarkble on the west coast of England. The Atlantic rarely affords us still air.

So things were finally coming together. This time I inserted a stick within the lantern so that I could stake it into the ground and it would not spin.

I took it to the trees down by the beck and set it up against the dark foliage. The ground was muddy and saturated and I squelched around as I tried to light the candle within.

There was something scrabbling around in the undergrowth before a plop into the water revealed its aquatic nature. I wonder what it was? There aren't many snakes or crocodiles round my way so I assume it was a mammal of some sort.

I set the shutter speed to 'bulb' and counted out the minutes in my head, tick-tocking my head left and right like a metronome as I mumbled the numbers until I reached two minutes. After several goes I was happy and trudged through the sludge towards home.

The air really was miraculously still. The two and three minute exposures were perfectly sharp and I had the picture I wanted. I didn't believe I would manage it as the willow frame is quite light and would easily blow in even the lightest breeze.

There may be trouble ahead, however, as now I want to puruse this idea some more. But if I have to rely on still air my opportunities may be few and far between. To be successful the first time is great but doing well first go may lead to frustration and disappointment when I try again. But really I have to do this again with several lanterns of different colours. Now how cool will that look?!

1 comment:

ArtPropelled said...

I'm glad you didn't make the candle with under arm hair and ear wax.