The Path to our Forest Walk Collection
Designed by Mother Nature,
with a little help from our children.
The season of golden light and gratitude. The bejeweled lure of the autumn woods. Nature unrolls her own red carpet of the forest floor with its rich tapestry of textures in a fiery burst of vivid colors, enticing us in to explore and bask in her resplendent beauty.
Off we go. Never failing to breathe more deeply, to be awe-inspired or reminded of our humanness, when reset in this natural world. Fleet of foot as little deer my girls run through the brambles and branches. Seemingly on fairy wings and with giggles and squeals of excited discovery they fly among secret paths and tree tunnels. Discovering, witnessing and sometimes carefully gathering small wonders. These treasures are tokens of this deeply fulfilling family time, walking together and sharing the magical woods. It is one of our most cherished pastimes.
Arriving home from our walk, we empty our pockets. Jewels from Mother Nature tumble out onto the tabletop - ferns, mushroom caps, moss, twigs, leaves. Even a small bone. I find that children have a knack for finding beauty in things that can pass many of us frazzled adults by - acorns in their leather shells, their jaunty caps intact; Blue Jay feathers with ombre stripes Karl Lagerfeld might have salivated over; crisp fallen leaves and pinecones in pumpkin spice hues.
As an educational exercise, I begin to arrange these happy little artifacts on a cookie sheet into categories - leaves, nuts, bark, lichen - to teach my daughters about nature’s creations. I am in my cozy kitchen and am suddenly awestruck by the beauty before me. As the children chatter away, I realize that this bounty of specimens, in all their organic glory, would make a magnificent pattern for dinnerware. I snap a few pictures of our “scientific findings” on the tray, and the seed of inspiration is planted for our beloved Forest Walk collection.
Wellies duly cleaned off, my adventure continues in the quest for a botanical artist who can faithfully render our treasures. Serendipity leads me to Wendy Hollander, one of the world's leading experts in using colored pencils and watercolor pencils to create detailed botanical drawings and paintings. She is an illustrator, author and instructor of Botanical Art and Illustration at the New York Botanical Garden, whose artwork has been published around the globe. On a sunny afternoon, with my muddy box of found objects rattling away in the backseat of my car, I drive to her lovely farm to meet her.
Over a delightful lunch of greens and small vegetables plucked from Wendy’s own glorious garden, we examine all of my quirky artifacts. I hold up a bright orange leaf and ask her - what about this one? “Poison Ivy,” she says. I drop it immediately and we laugh.
It is obvious that our family’s collection is nowhere near the world of exquisite beauty that Wendy typically revolves in, one of near-perfect, exotic specimens rendered to become framed art on living room walls, and flawless drawings for the pages of books. Mine are a somewhat motley crew of ephemera in their slightly decaying, partially broken, perhaps half-eaten conditions. We find them absolutely wonderful in their perfectly imperfect natural state and decide to capture and celebrate them in this way - as one would discover them naturally while wandering through the woods, rather than depicting their ideal forms.
After Wendy painstakingly illustrates each and every piece individually - from broken twig to twisted vine - I can create the compositions. I arrange the drawings like a wind-tossed sprawl that has floated down from the tree canopy - a different pattern of foraged objects for every plate, dish, and platter. I include themes of love, gratitude, friends and family - particularly poignant this time of year, when we naturally draw in and gather together - from relaxed Sunday lunches to unwind after busy weeks, to cozy family dinners as long nights descend and fires are lit, to Thanksgiving tables heavily laden with food and tradition.
Our Forest Walk collection is an ode to the abundance and to the richness of life.