Thursday, March 18, 2021

The Roots Project: The Beginning


Indian grass (left) and Reed Manna

The Roots Project began during the Covid-19 pandemic, has continued for the past six or seven months, and is ongoing, with new experiments growing as I type. The project began when I lifted some wheat grass up out of the hydroponic system I was growing it in and noticed how wonderfully fascinating the roots were. I "harvested" the wheat grass a little later, lifting the roots entirely out of the water, and hung the whole thing to dry. Then I found a little spaceman in one of my bins of rubble, and the result was the first piece in the Roots Project.

Roots bottle series #1

Roots bottle series #1

Roots bottle series #1

I decided to take a deep dive into working with roots and seeing what was possible. The first step was to order three different types of native grass seeds: Indian Grass, Reed Manna, and Winter Wheat. The hydroponic system I have been using for years, fashioned from recycled plastic soda bottles, was already ideally suited for root growth and harvesting.

Hydroponics using recycled soda bottles

Grass varieties used

Within a month I had a little prairie growing in my front windows overlooking Lake Merritt in Oakland.

The prairie

This long, slow art project was ideally suited for floating through pandemic isolation with a measure of calm. I had only to wander up to the living room and watch the grass grow and see how the roots were developing to feel I was accomplishing something.

Below is the first of the harvest and the second in the Roots bottle series.

Roots bottle series #2


Another close-up

This piece is made from Indian Grass, which has a lovely red tinge to its roots. Tucked inside the roots is a small, corked vial with a message inside. And yes, I wrote the message, but because of pandemic-brain have absolutely no memory or idea at this point of what that message says. Which works perfectly with roots and buried memories, and loss and the passage of time, and the messages that never get delivered — from words of love to sage advice.

Another early experiment was the hanging shown in the first photo in this post and again, below. The hanging itself was too latter-day-hippie and ho-hum for my sensibilities, but it was my first foray into teasing the roots apart and learning how strong they are, and how different the roots from different grasses look. 

Pink-hued Indian Grass (left) and the stronger, white Reed Manna

A series of posts will follow over the next week or two, illustrating how I began to become a little more bold in working with and manipulating the roots, moving on from the bottle series to jewelry fashioned from roots, to a collaborative jewelry project that involves actively working with the roots as they are growing. Stay tuned. 

1 comment:

  1. This is all so great, thank you so much! Just reread the roots series. I think my father would sympathize with your frustration about communicating wisdom. You are right that it strengthens the plant. Just sometimes hard to receive the wisdom and acknowledge it in the moment.

    Erika Otter


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