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Ash Arboretum

I love walking in local woods, forest and countryside.  Experiencing the gentle dappled light breaking through the canopy.  Listening for the rustle of the leaves as the wind blows or the chirping of birds searching for food or a mate.  Hearing the scuttle of squirrels up and down tree trunks; all of it helps me unwind and re-charge.

Growing up as a child in the 70s, I still remember the sense of national mourning as we lost a whole species of trees to Dutch elm disease leaving huge gaps in local parks, woods and forests. Accidentally imported, it spread quickly, reaching Scotland in just 10 years. We lost over 90% of our elm trees, some 25 million in total and many people, including myself can no longer remember what they look like.  It’s only by looking at old family colour slides or paintings in galleries that I can see these huge trees that once dominated the British landscape.

Now Ash dieback is here and forecast to kill 80% of these trees by slowly blocking its water systems until it dies.  Just like Dutch elm disease, there is currently no cure, only delay and the hope that some of our native Ash trees will prove resistant and provide seeds for re-planting.

Whenever I go to my local underground station I pass two mature Ash trees, half buried in a concrete pavement and partially strangled by ivy.  Yet still they produce hundreds of seeds every year and drop them onto the tarmac where they have no hope of finding any suitable soil to grow into saplings.  The urban environment that has grown up around them has effectively neutered them, yet whilst they live, and generate seeds there is still hope.  Maybe they have what is needed to survive despite the odds stacked against them.  I certainly hope so.  Perhaps if I capture and spread their seeds, I can help them find a new life in less hostile surroundings.

Technical Construction

Free motion embroidery using a bottom thread of jewellery wire, with a metallic gold top thread.  The overlapping, organic swirls mimic the sensation of light breaking through a forest canopy.  Within the delicate lace structure of the embroidery, ash seeds are captured as they fall to the ground preserving them for future generations.  Each ‘tree’ is hung from a steel branch structure with welded joints to create the black, sooty buds in the shape of a mitre.  The stems gently sway in any passing breeze helping to create a sense of immersion in the natural world. 

Published by jencableart

Jen Cable is a mixed media textile artist who loves to draw attention to the outmoded, fabulous, awful and bizarre aspects of culture and everyday society

2 thoughts on “Ash Arboretum

  1. I treasure a delicate elm tree in my garden in Northumberland, she doesn’t look strong but she survived against the odds. For nature sounds try the Radio Lento podcast. Radio Lento’s recordings have been archived by the British library for future generations to hear what the natural world sounded like in the UK in the 21st century


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