Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fall(ing) Leaves I: Tilia americana (Basswood)

Tilia americana (Basswood)
It's been over five months since I last posted and a lot has been going on. I may get to all of that but I decided that perhaps the best way to get back to posting routinely might be to do some short posts on recent, seasonally-appropriate work - sort of easing myself back into the saddle.

Considering that we're well into Autumn now, I thought I'd "crib" from my Facebook page and do a series of posts on "Fall(ing) Leaves". with some photos of some leaves I've done as well as some information about the plants they represent.

We're going to start off with Tilia americana, American Linden or Basswood. This is the native relative to the oft-seen Little-leaf Linden, or Tilia cordata. This species favors moist woods - nearby they can be found at the Environmental Interpretive Center at U of M Dearborn. Shorter than the European species, they top out at about 80 feet and have the broadly columnar form common to the genus.

They are among the latest blooming of our native tree species and are often referred to as "bee trees" for their fragrant, nectar-rich flowers, which hang pendulously to protect the precious nectar from being washed away by early summer storms. The flowers and the rounded, woody, pale gray-green nut-like fruit are joined to a pale green bract. The dark green leaves (paler underneath) are broadly ovate to cordate (heart-shaped) with serrated margins and are, at six inches in diameter, twice the size of the European species.

I collect most of the leaves I use, although there have been occasions when folks have generously "donated" leaves, which I always appreciate. Some leaves need to be used fresh, while others can not only be re-hydrated but even reused (oaks are especially resilient). Basswood leaves are on the delicate side, so I try to use them before they dry out.

There's a great deal of synchrony in my work in that I strongly associate certain colors - both stains and glazes - with certain types of leaves. I'm also constrained in my choices by a limited range of stain colors - especially as my (somewhat rigorous) aesthetic requires that I use stain colors that are somewhat close to a color the leaf would be at some point in its annual cycle. Because these leaves are relatively dark, I decided to use my Green - Peacock Mason Stain and combine it with Amaco's Potter's Choice Blue Rutile. The combination has been very popular - these leaves generally walk out the door.