Meet the Artist - Wild Bergamot
We’re excited to introduce the Hudson Valley duo behind our new 2019 art pack, Wild Bergamot. On the right, meet Dina Falconi an herbalist with over 30 years of passionate investigations into wild-plant identification, foraging and cooking, and on the left, Wendy Hollender, a botanical illustrator who teaches all over the world.
The Wild Bergamot art pack, also known as Monarda Fistulosa and Bee Balm, was inspired by the illustrations and information in their book, Foraging and Feasting, an exquisite field guide and wild food cookbook by Dina, and illustrated by Wendy. We were intrigued by the nature of their collaboration, as herbalist and artist, and asked them how they first started working together and what the process of creating their book looked like.
Dina: Nine years ago a longstanding wish of mine was fulfilled. Wendy Hollender, the talented botanical illustrator of this book, moved into my neighborhood. For many years I had visualized creating this book where the arts of foraging and cooking merge. I had been teaching classes on the subject for a long time. I knew that if only I could find an illustrator to collaborate with — someone who would allow me to direct the visual images to clearly express plant identification details — I would be able to make this book. Bringing Foraging & Feasting’s illustrated plant pages to life has been a deeply involved process of vision, guidance, orchestration, and design, requiring strong commitment and clear communication, especially with the artist Wendy. My goal for the illustrations is to honestly and effectively educate the viewer, fully offering all the plant identification clues in a true and concise manner, while also wooing / seducing them into loving the plants. With Wendy’s deft skills, we have been able to produce illustrations that are both educational and artistically beautiful. She has infused the book with grace beyond my wildest expectations. I am forever grateful to Wendy for taking this journey with me.
Wendy: I always look for opportunities to learn about plants and knew that this would be a good opportunity for me to expand my knowledge about the plants for the book. It took a bit of time to figure out the best way to work together. Dina finally hit on the idea of giving me a detailed plant specification list before introducing me to each plant so I would know all the necessary components to illustrate.
I work using a combination of colored pencil and watercolors. I like to draw first defining the structure of the plant in a neutral colored pencil. Once I have the start of a drawing I will add layers of color with watercolor and more colored pencils. For this project we all agreed on a colored background which I created first with layers of watercolor. Then I worked on top to create the composition. I love old botanical illustrations. There is a series of botanicals by Giovanni Battista Ferrari from Hesperides sive de Malorum Aureorum Cultura et Usu Libri Quatuor, first published in 1646. They have exquisitely rendered twisting ribbons for titles. I decided to use that idea for the banner as we did on the cover of Foraging and Feasting. For the plant drawings I worked from Wild Bergamot blooming in my garden and Dina’s comparing many specimens to get a convincing drawing with the correct structure and color. I also enlarged the flowers under magnification as it is easier to then understand their complex structure.
There are of course many plants identified in Foraging and Feasting but we chose Wild Bergamot for its beautiful color, attractiveness to pollinators, and abundance on our farm (one day we hope to harvest our own seed for our seed packs – alas not this year). It is a native wildflower that graces the landscape in mid-summer with its light lavender blossoms, offering nectar to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. To humans, Wild Bergamot provides food and medicine. Its leaves and flowers are highly aromatic and spicy, like Greek Oregano, and are used similarly. You can sip teas made from the leaves and flowers, add them to sauces, soups, and salads; make tinctures to support the upper respiratory system; or, most simply, toss the lovely tubular flowers onto any dish. From these tubular flowers, it’s easy and fun to shake the seeds out of the seed heads.
About the artwork for Wild Bergamot, Dina told us, “Wild bergamot is beautiful. This illustration is beautiful. And every detail in the drawing is critically significant. As an herbalist who forages it’s extremely important to observe all the details of a plant so you know you have the correct species. This can be a matter of life and death (especially with mushrooms). Botanical illustration is key to plant identification and plant identification is key to foraging. I hope this art inspires folks to seek out and engage the wild plant kingdom (and nature) and to relish in all the wild food, medicine, and beauty that surround us.
Wendy adds, “I hope this painting conveys my deep appreciation for the beauty of this magnificent plant and the gift it is for us to have and use. Make sure to experience the complex aroma of the leaves and use it for flavoring in recipes.”
Talking about the broader relationship between art and seeds, Dina says, "Art and seeds are both creative gifts that hold strong potential for generating life. They can sprout and give rise to many future generations of thoughts, feelings, and in the case of seeds, actual plants. Both can be food for the mind, body and soul. My kind of wild gardening is like making art with plants, where nature is my partner. We work together to create abundant and diverse ecosystems where food, medicine and beauty flourish."
Here at the Hudson Valley Seed Co we're inspired by the relationships between art and seed, plants and people, and by the natural and cultivated ecosystems that bring beauty, nourishment, health, and joy to our lives. Learning to recognize the important roles of wild plants that surround your garden while bringing some, like Wild Bergamot, into your cultivated space, is a way to honor all of these relationships.
To learn more about Foraging and Feasting, visit botanicalartspress.com
See more of Wendy's designs at drawingincolor.com