I know I will receive calls and comments on this story from all of the paper and book arts as well as basketry people. Really, I have never seen such a unique fiber art as what En Burk has developed by harvesting the paper made by hornets in the nest-creation process.
In the streets of Toronto, En Burk gathers the nests of bald-faced wasps, in order to harvest the delicate and exquisite paper. Here are some shots of the harvesting process, which is done using long bamboo poles with a hook on the end. Some nests come down on the hook and others fall to the ground, where En is waiting to catch them.
Here is a sampling of the wide variety of papers that the wasps create. The colourful stripes of a nest are created by the various pigments in the wood or other cellulose that the wasp chews.
In En's words, "We’ve collected nests from ornamental or fruit trees that are predominately red. Oak bark also has a lot of red pigment in it, so the nests in some oak trees are often red. It’s common to have bold stripes of white or a golden colour interspersed with a greyish-brown. The colours range from black through many shades of browns and greys to white. Often there will be flashes of pink or very bright colours that may have come from painted wood or coloured papers that the workers chewed up. Bright greens and blues are common enough, although such colours are usually only occasional stripes amidst the more usual greys and browns.
Some of the most beautiful nests have a mix of colours which tends to delineate each stripe more boldly. But the subtlety of a shining, almost uniformly silvery-grey nest is also very beautiful. It’s impossible to tell what colour the nest is until it’s removed from the tree – usually it’s too high up to see this. So it’s always a delight to catch one as it falls from above and discover its unique beauty."
The papers are used to adorn the vessels that En creates, using sturdy book board as a base, with the wasp nest papers adorning the outside. The boxes are lined with a variety of handmade papers or more wasp nest paper.
When I saw these "boxes" (a word that doesn't do these pieces justice), I was in awe. First of all, the paper itself seems like a delicate piece of God that is hanging up in the trees, completely unnoticed. En grasps how precious it is, takes the time to harvest it, and now the rest of us can see this amazing feat that the hornets accomplish each year.
She then creates these impossibly unique vessels. I am posting as many images as I can here on Valley Fiber Life, but you really must visit her site, where she explains the whole process, from nest hanging in a tree to completed vessel. Is this paper art? Basketry? Three dimensional fiber art? To me, it is all three!
Stop by www.underatree.org to find out the rest of the story.
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