Like many of you we hunkered down for the Covid pandemic. It took awhile to calm down and realize life would go on if we took care, wore our masks, and practiced good sanitation. Those activities consumed me and I pushed all work to the back burner. Then, also like many of you, I launched into Zoom calls with family, friends, and participated in lectures and classes. It has been a comfort to meet new people and talk with folks whose work I have long admired.
Here are a few photos of work I’ve completed during the last 6 months. Check out my page on Instagram at #nancyruthleavitt. Take care friends.
P.S. I will be discontinuing my Wordpress blog and just maintaining this one on my website.
The last week of December and first week of January are a quiet time here in Maine - not because of the weather but because of the diminished light. And, because I have chlorophyll in my veins I am slow and sluggish and content myself with doing handwork. This year I am making hand-cut snowflakes for use in my projects. It is a repetitive task but yields varying designs. I start with a selection of square white paper which I fold into 12 sections.
Then I cut away triangle shapes from the folded paper.
I unfold the snowflakes and press them with a clothes iron.
These snowflakes will be embroidered between sheer iridescent fabrics to create a wall hanging.
Stay warm, Happy New Year!
Autumn and Still the Garden Glows
Autumn and Still the Garden Glows is the third book in a series with text by Celia Theater from her book, An Island Garden. She writes, "...the whole garden is a mass of bloom and fragrance, still haunted by birds, bees, butterflies, and dragonflies..." Contemporary garden writer, Reeser Manley concurs, "The garden in late September, before a killing frost, is filled with an exuberance that borders on desperation."
Autumn is the last hurrah in the garden and I have long since stopped trying to tidy up my own garden and instead let everything go. It is as if everything is on fire. As Thaxter wrote, "...Autumn laying here and there a fiery finger on the leaves..." As the temperatures plummet, the goldfinches come closer to the house to feed on flower seeds.
This 30 page book is painted in watercolor and gouache on Arches text wove. The binding is painted Katie MacGregor handmade paper.
Happy summer all.
It is quiet here in summer. Most of my neighbors are away and the university students don’t return until September. Everyday I work in the studio and the garden. In the afternoons enjoy listening to BBC PROMS online from July through September. Every year there is such a remarkable range of music and performers and the episodes are archived for easy access.
In July, writers Mark and Robin, from the UK, back in the US for a summer on the Maine coast, visited the studio for a binding day and a paste paper day in July. Here they are showing their bound books. It is always a pleasure seeing them each summer when they return to the Maine coast. We pick up our conversations where we left off and share our writing over tea and lunch.
My current work involves getting ready for a retrospective show, which will be held at the Glickman Family Library at the University of Maine, Great Reading Room, from January 28 through April 30, 2019. The exhibition will show over 40 of my books plus wall pieces. The lecture and exhibition reception is Wednesday, April 3, 2019 at 4pm. Here is a photo of the working plan notebook and my wall schematic. My friend, Kathy, a behaviorist, is kindly helping me keep on track.
Thanks for reading this post. Enjoy the rest of your summer.
Hope, 2018, MS #114, 14.5 h x 10.75 w x 2.5 d inches.
Description: This box houses a hand lettered copy of Emily Dickinson’s poem 254, c. 1861, “Hope is the things with feathers. . .” and a flower illustration composed of fabric and paper snowflakes.
Materials: The artist’s gouache lettering on Katie MacGregor handmade paper and hand-cut paper snowflake illustration on batik fabric.
Recently I was asked why I have been making and using snowflakes in my bookwork and installations. I apologize for the long answer.
First: In January of 2013 a call was put out to send 20 snowflakes to the elementary school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, to welcome the children back to school and honor the 20, six and seven year children, who were murdered on December 4, 2012. That year I decided to cut a snowflake for each person killed by gun violence in this country. Although I have cut thousands of snowflakes over the past 5 years, I cannot keep up with the nearly 13,000 gun homicides that occur each year in the United States. Whatever your opinion, it bears thinking about.
Second: I am interested in math and geometry in art, especially in the Gospel books created between 600 and 1000 CE. Early scribes used their knowledge of the Pythagorean theorem and simple geometrical tools to develop a characteristic style of decoration that integrated complex interlacing geometric designs. This style of illumination succinctly illustrated the early Christian principle of God’s existence everywhere, from the smallest microcosm to the largest macrocosm.
A hand-cut snowflake exhibits similar traits. A square of paper of any size, when folded into triangles and having shapes cut out of it will create a lacey 6-sided design. The resulting repetition of geometrical designs and variations are endless.
On the Formation of Snow, 2018, MS #115, 20 pages, book measures
12 h x 9 w inches, box measures 13.75 h x 10 w x 2.25 d inches.
I pledge allegiance to the land of snow! Here in the north during the winter months I create hand-cut snowflakes from paper and scissors and use them in artwork such as the handmade paper in this book. The binding is a three colored ‘snow’ flag. The book text explains how snow is formed and its importance in redistributing water around the globe to sustain all life on earth.
Materials: Watercolor and gouache on Katie MacGregor handmade papers. The artist’s hand-cut snowflakes were embedded into the white papers during the papermaking process. The artist’s binding is composed of handmade papers covered in transparent fabric and embroidered snowflakes. Joelle Webber created the dark blue fabric covered box. The book rests on a compartment with a sliding piece of plexiglass under which is a collection of hand-cut snowflakes.
Thank you for reading this blog.
The snowflake installation at the Church of Universal Fellowship has become an annual display during the months of January and February. This year’s offering, entitled ‘Snow Flurry’, consists of hand cut snowflakes rolled into and hanging from three clouds of snow white tulle all suspended from 40 lb. fishing line. The whole piece weighs less than a pound.
My 2,000 plant specimens have been sorted, labeled, boxed and passed on to a New England university herbarium where they will be cared for properly. Over the last 3 years I have enjoyed sifting through the plants collected as early as 1817, pondering the many environments around the globe they came from and researching the hundreds of botanists represented in the collection. I am grateful to the herbarium for taking them, thank you.
A GREEN THOUGHT
Height 14 ½ inches by width 9 3/8 inches, 43 pages, manuscript #113
The lettering is completed in watercolor and gouache. The illustrations and book cover are created with watercolor, gouache, pastel, paste, fabric and decorative thread on Arches text wove and Katie MacGregor papers. Joelle Webber of Mermaid Bindery bound the book and box.
The title is taken from stanza 6 of The Garden by Andrew Marvel (1621-1678).
‘Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less,
Withdraws into its happiness;
The mind, that ocean where each kind
Does straight its own resemblance find;
Yet it creates, transcending these,
Far other worlds, and other seas;
Annihilating all that’s made
To a green thought in a green shade.’
The text for A GREEN THOUGHT contains poetry/prose by Andrew Marvell, Li Po, and Brian Capon, along with a discussion of the color ‘green’ told by the artist. Topics include: the origin of the word ‘green’, the function of the pigment chlorophyll found in green plants, and the importance of green in our surroundings.
Green is the love of nature and plants are life.
Completed late summer and posted at Christmas 2017.
Nancy Ruth Leavitt
The garden is lush and green from the cold and wet spring – a condition that plants love. In spring one is engulfed by the garden, cleaning up leaves and twigs, pruning, weeding, edging, carrying away refuse, mulching, deadheading blossoms - it is endless.
This year my goal has been to identify all of my perennials with genus species names and the native range of the plants. With an estimate of over 275 perennials, over 80% of the plants are from somewhere else. This has inspired my garden name, “An Immigrant Garden, welcome to a collection of plants from around the world." The immigration and migration of plants has been happening since the beginning of photosynthesis.
It takes 100 hours for the garden to look good enough before I can sit back and enjoy the verdant splendor. In this brief moment of the few longest days of the year I want to be a stone in my garden – just sitting still in solitude and peace.
Thank you for reading this, Nancy
There are approximately 850 snowflakes distributed in this snowflake installation. The hanging installation consists of 540 hand-cut snowflakes and the remaining 310 snowflakes are found in the altar vestments, musical instruments, hymnals, bibles, window ledges, tables, and collection plates.
This installation is composed of 540 hand-cut snowflakes made from 250 sheets (19 by 25 inches) of Finch opaque white paper. The snowflakes were sewn into 60 lines with 700 feet of white all-purpose sewing thread and hung from 6 lines (150 feet of fishing line) and tied onto 2 four-foot metal strips attached into the molding on either side of the sanctuary. The work hangs over 13 feet above the floor and is approximately 8 feet wide by 5 ½ feet in height and 40 inches in depth.
A garden is a living collaboration of nature and art. Composed of numerous shapes and volumes of plants, it is a tapestry of green woven from a variety of leaf textures and colors. Flowers are lovely but secondary to the importance of the color green. It takes approximately 100 hours of weeding, digging, edging, and mulching to get the garden ready for the annual Peony Garden Tour in June. Over 100 garden enthusiasts toured the gardens this year and now we head into high summer. The garden is beautiful and a wonder to behold.
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