Friday, March 28, 2008

The Bottle Tree

(Click on image to enlarge.)

In January I received an invitation to participate in The Sumter County Cultural Commission's exhibition Roots, Memories and the Southern Bottle Tree. I knew immediately that I wanted to create something unique. The opportunity continues my interest in West African art. The exhibit opens with a public reception on April 12...the same evening as Alvin Alley II's dance performance. Participating artists receive complimentary tickets to the show and the post-production cast party. Wow! My two passions, art and dance, together!

I thought and thought about how I'd build an entire tree. I happen to have several cases of empty blue mineral water bottles (for another idea!). Blue bottles seem to be the most frequently seen in bottle trees. Nothing seemed "right" until I stumbled upon the idea of creating the safe haven, the protected little house beside.....what else...a blue bottle tree! Everything fell into of my tree stumps, the felt leaves, zigzagged cording, a dried flowering stem of our palmetto tree, and the "cottage", an ideal "home". The cottage is made of embellished natural and synthetic felt, cheesecloth, and wool rovings that were free motion machine stitched to resemble stones. The embroidery was cut from an old Hungarian felt vest worn by both my infant sons. The base is foam-centered board. The roof was "thatched" by stitching pine straw to brown painted foam-centered board. The windows were cut from plastic plates with lace and rickrack hung behind it. I cut and painted balsa wood for the the door and pieces of "fillet" (from the frame shop) for shutters. I drill tiny holes and stitched these into place. The piece will be delivered after my return from England!

(Above: View of the back of the house.)

Below is a bit about the Bottle Tree tradition:
In Africa the kongo tree altar is a tradition of honoring deceased relatives with graveside memorials. Plates were hung from branches as token of love and to repel evil spirits. This tradition migrated to the southern United States where slaves would place bottles in trees in hopes that the evil spirits would be attracted by the shiny, colored glass. Once inside, the evil spirits would be trapped. Homes would be safe. The tradition endures all over the South.


Doreen G said...

Wow Susan this a marvelous--you have put so much thought into it and every detail is covered perfectfly.

Micki said...

Fabulous piece. I love the whole idea of it. I had heard the story of the Bottle Tree in a movie.

Unknown said...

I am once again in awe of how your mind works! This is fabulous. So many wonderful parts!

Maya Sara Matthew said...

Thank-you for the story of the bottle tree,very interesting.What a beautiful blue bottle.

Nikki said...

I love all the little details! The rock walls of the cottage and the thatched roof are perfect. A very inviting safe haven under the bottle tree.