Windfall New England Birch Bark Collages

Caroline Goddard | Windfall Harvested Birch Bark Collage on Archival Paper | 8 x 10 inches | www.hopestatestudio.com

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I’ve been putting this work out in the world without too much explanation of why or how up until now, so I thought I’d share a bit more about my concept, process and the places that inspire the work for anyone who is curious! And, at the post end, you will find a link to my new online store, where you can purchase these original pieces, with a little discount code as a thank you to all my readers.

These collages have grown out of several years of exploration, and started with a piece of birch bark lying in the road. I picked it up on a walk, and remember wondering how such an exquisitely varied, delicate and colorful material could have become a ubiquitous – and almost painfully reduced – signifier of the concept of north and winter. What followed was a self-assigned graphic design challenge of sorts (make something modern that doesn’t immediately read as birch bark and that explores the colors other than white in the material), but eventually became an intuitive creation process that has given me much needed permission to get out in nature, and work in a meditative space at home.

My process is a seasonal one: in summer, I am so busy with my photography business that I can barely do anything else, but I do take time to collect windfall birch bark from the woods on hikes. In the winter, on the other hand, I block off entire weeks to devote to collage (I think I do better having one creative thing on my plate at a time), and when I’m walking into the natural world, I just focus on observing the colors that the cold brings to the landscape. I almost never forage for bark at this time of year, because windfall is generally buried beneath snow and ice, and it is too hard to tell if standing trees are dormant or dead. (I never take bark from a living tree, and very judiciously take bark from dead trees that are still standing, as they are still beautiful!).

Winter is also the time of year, however, that my homespace and the daily rituals that I observe within it become all the more important. Lighting a candle in the gloam of the early morning, finding beauty in everyday chores like doing the dishes and the laundry, making tea after a brisk pre-sunset walk with my dog, and curling up with an inspiring book each night are practices that I began during the winters that I lived in Portland, ME, where this work was born. They’ve stayed with me, and have helped me learn to love the season, and actually look forward to the restorative pace it brings.

Caroline Goddard | Windfall Harvested Birch Bark Collage on Archival Paper | 8 x 10 inches | www.hopestatestudio.com

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The birch bark I collect is soaked, washed and carefully peeled apart to reveal an incredible variation in color, and to tease out the tissue-thin layers of bark that are ideal for collaging. I’m always looking for unique patterns and shapes within each piece I find, and I let the material guide my cuts and compositional choices – in that sense, I often feel on the cusp of making something sculptural. Above are images of a little northern hideaway and its surroundings, where I know I can slow down long enough to create for days at a time.

Caroline Goddard | Windfall Harvested Birch Bark Collage on Archival Paper | 11 x 14 inches | www.hopestatestudio.com

I am fascinated by the light and the shapes of these trees, above, during snowstorms, and the colors that appear when we task film with rendering sweeping expanses of “white” in a photograph. Below, my creative nest during an artist residency at World’s Fair Gallery in Providence, RI, where I also had the first show of this body of work last winter. I pull out my collection of rocks when I feel like I am overthinking my shapes, and use them as templates and launching off points for organic forms in the compositions. (They also make great paper weights during glue-ups). 

Caroline Goddard | Windfall Harvested Birch Bark Collage on Archival Paper | 8 x 10 inches | www.hopestatestudio.com

Caroline Goddard | Windfall Harvested Birch Bark Collage on Archival Paper | 8 x 10 inches | www.hopestatestudio.com

Thanks for reading and looking this far! My collages are now for sale on my new website, hopestatestudio.com, and I’m offering my readers 10% off art between now and the end of 2019 with the code: FRIENDSOFHOPESTATE. They can also be viewed in my new studio space at the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket, RI, and I encourage you to get in touch to schedule a visit if you are interested in seeing them as nature intended (with your own eyes).

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