Guest Blog Post by Savannah Stanton, owner & creative at Savannah Stanton, LLC.
I grew up traipsing through wooded trails full of lush greenery, climbing tree limbs & reaching for their leaves that shielded my body from sun & sleet. In those early years I became fond of the seasons and the annual process of growth and decay showcased by vegetation big & small. Playing in the fallen leaves, standing perched on stumps as lookout posts for surveying my surroundings, & enjoying the fruits of their photosynthesising labor.
Fast forward many years & I now work in wood as my primary artistic medium. My educational background and current graduate studies fall into the incredibly niche arena of wood science. A defining moment in my undergraduate studies that set me on this trajectory began with an introductory class my Freshman year called “Are You Wearing Mold?” wherein I was exposed to spalting. Few outside of the woodworking world will have heard the term, but spalting can be defined as any color on wood that is caused by a wood decay fungus. It’s not the chocolate tones in black walnut nor is it the brilliant pink of box elder maple!
Most of you might have seen or heard of spalting as black line or zone lines. That is a small part of it. There are also spalting fungi that secrete yellows, oranges, purples, greens, reds, & seemingly every other color under the sun. One of these pigmenting spalting fungi that can be readily witnessed in my neck of the woods in western Oregon is Elf’s cup.
If you look closely enough, when you walk through the dense, dewey forests you just might see the miniscule turquoise fruiting bodies from this fungus — an incredibly slow wood decayer that secretes an unmistakable vibrant blue-green pigment onto rotting trees resting on the saturated forest floor.
Recently, I layered a concentrated amount of this fungal pigment onto a woodturned piece of quilted Bigleaf maple. Brushed on layer by layer, fungal pigment slowly filled the basin of this square piece creating deeper blues and capturing the ripples of quilted figure spanning the breadth. Highly UV resistant, this unique coloration technique ironically will persist for eons, much like the waves it so effortlessly depicts. Acting forever as a window to the untamable waters of the world.
Later named Oculus for its circular ‘window’ to the rippled illusion of ocean waters like a ship portal gazing into the watery expanse, this artwork is one of two pieces currently showcased at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg, Oregon as part of the first Biennial Yamhill County Artist Showcase. The collection of works will be on display & available for purchase through December 4th. There is no cost of entry to visit the gallery, so consider spending a rainy autumn afternoon ambling through the works of local artists! Then go visit your favorite forest & see if you have a renewed sense of beauty as you encounter the decayed remnants of leaves and branches that lay at your feet.