The Braiding the Knoll project happened during a two-year fellowship I completed at Penland School of Crafts in western North Carolina. The project stemmed from an ongoing interest in visualizing human connection to the land, as both beneficiaries of nature's abundance and as agents of destructive development practices. The devastation that we as humans have wrought upon the land that sustains us is distressing and unsustainable, and I hope to use my art practice to respond to these concerns in a positive way by personally connecting to the environment I work in.
I wanted to pursue a project that manifested an act of care and tenderness for the land where I lived, and which brought attention to an element of the environment that might be overlooked for its humbleness; in this case, the grass. The decision to use braiding as a means of structural construction came as I was musing about acts of care that we as humans show for each other. Braiding, both of hair and as a textile technique, has long been a way for affectionate connection, especially between women. I used this sisterly connection as a basis for this project.
Penland School is located in a remote location in the Blue Ridge Mountains and is adjacent to a large meadow which frames the view of the mountains. Each year the meadow is mown into walking paths which include mown circles for picnicking or reading. I braided the rim of each of these circles over the course of a week. The project became an exercise in observation, in allowing my thoughts to quiet enough to hear the grass rustling under my hands, notice the incredible variety of pattern and color in the field, smell the earth baking in the heat of early summer. It was satisfying and surprising to see the strength of the grass over time: the braids stayed sturdily intact for over two weeks before they were mown. The response to the project was unexpectedly enthusiastic; I did not anticipate that so many people would appreciate as much as they did this visualization of human-to-nature connection.