Meet the Face of our 2019 Catalog - Pollinator Petal Patch
Why do flowers come in so many colors? One theory is that the colors attract pollinators. But insects, including solitary bees, honeybees, butterflies, wasps, and flies, don't see color the same way we do. Their compound eyes can detect most of the colors we can - but they also see UV light, invisible to humans. To their eyes, every beautiful bloom is a veritable bullseye, a combination of visible and UV light patterns that guide them toward sustaining nectar, thus continuing the cycle of life.
We were delighted then when coloring book artist Bri Barton, who places color and natural transformation at the heart of her work, agreed to design our Pollinator Petal Patch art pack. A self-described artist, plant-tender, teacher and activist, Bri uses paint, ink, shadows, and light to create art that is collaborative, participatory, and informative, like the pollinator coloring page she created for this seed pack.
In fact, this was the inspiration behind turning the centerfold of our new 2019 catalog into a coloring page contest. Keep reading for our interview with Bri Barton and her musings on art, nature, grief, and the life of a pollinator.
The Winner will receive a Pollinator-themed Goodie Bag.
Bri, tell us a bit about your art, medium, process, and why you make art. I am an artist, plant-tender, teacher, and activist. My work elevates and embodies racial and environmental justice, anti-imperial history, earth worship, and defiant celebrations of life. Intense observation, exploration, discovery, problem solving, experimentation, and the harmonious quiet of the “eureka!”: these are overlaps of art and science and I teach both in illustration classes and through garden education.
You are also the creator of participatory projects hub, Everybody Colors, and the writer and illustrator of Everything Dies! A Coloring Book About Life. Can you tell us a little more about this? I wrote and illustrated the book after six loved ones died within eight months. What began as my own personal grieving process turned into a celebration of life and death that I have been sharing with others since 2015. Everything Dies! addresses a deep need to reshift how our mainstream culture deals with death and dying. Open dialogue is a critical part of this shift, and open dialogue is what this book aims to facilitate. Plus it’s fun and beautiful and art is good for you!
What draws you to coloring books as a medium? Coloring books, being financially and conceptually accessible, are an effective, engaging, and inclusive way to explore complex topics. Most of the work that I do is collaborative because I believe that art is more powerful when made in community. Since the line drawings in coloring books are incomplete until another artist colors them in, I see coloring books to be an extension of that creative philosophy. There is an intimacy in the interactions coloring books provide. Coloring is meditative; it is an engaging, creative activity that doesn’t involve a screen. Finally, making something beautiful feels really, really good, and everyone deserves to feel really, really good!
We love how your artwork for Pollinator Petal Patch turned out, particularly the way the viewer discovers that the insects are coloring in the flowers one by one as they touch them. What are your favorite aspects? I love the composition of this drawing. Everything is sort of spiraled together; there is no up or down. The flowers form a little planet around which all these bees orbit. I wonder how insects’ understanding of up and down is different from our own. When you can perch on the underbelly of a spirderwort petal or circumnavigate an aster stalk, gravity has a different role in your life than a mammal our size.
I’m also a pretty huge sci-fi nerd, and so I think of Ender Wiggin in Ender’s game orienting himself for zero-gravity space battles by saying, “the enemy’s gate is always down.” Maybe some pollinators move through space similarly, always oriented to the nectar - “the flower’s nectar is always ahead!" Also, there are over a dozen pollinator species in this drawing! Can you ID them all?
What do you hope this work says about you as an artist? This piece was a way to use color as a metaphor for the relationship between pollinator and flower. Without bees, wasps, butterflies, and other pollinators, food systems and ecosystems collapse, and we lose so much of the vibrancy that life on this planet has to offer. Habitat loss, rampant pesticide usage and widespread pollution are leading causes of insect loss. Color in this coloring sheet while you meditate on how important it is for us to preserve and cultivate habitats for pollinators. These flowers provide food for pollinators essential to healthy ecosystems and food systems! Plant them everywhere! Celebrate pollinators by creating food and habitat for them. We need them, and -- right now -- they need us.
Finally, can you tell us your thoughts about the relationship between art, seeds and nature? Making art and growing plants is about creating something that wasn’t there before. You are bringing something into existence that could not exist without your hand. Before you picked up this pencil, there was no image on this paper. If you don’t plant these seeds here in this soil, this plant won’t live here.
We are creative beings. Every single one of us. Art and food (by way of seeds) are a part of who we are. We share them with people we care about. Art and seeds are part of the foundation of our shared human experience, and it is within both art and seeds that the great cultural diversity of humanity is expressed.
Art and seeds need to be protected from homogeneity and cultural imperialism. Celebrate and support independent artists of all sorts! Make your own creative entertainment! Save seeds that are culturally relevant to you and your neighbors! Eat locally and seasonally! Support local farmers and immigrant rights!
In countless ways, all cultures make art and all cultures tend to plants. Seeds, like creative practices, get passed along from hand to hand, from generation to generation, full of stories. Seeds were spread through diaspora, migration, dream seeking, homecomings, and so many other forms of human movement. We are part of a long, evolving chain of human expression and cultivation. What we eat and what we create tells us where we came from. What seeds we save and practices we pass along will shape the stories told by our descendants.
Thanks so much to Bri for her wise words. Remember you can get involved in the art too - download the coloring page here and share with friends and family. Color just for fun or enter our contest and win a Pollinator Goodie Bag! The competition closes on February 28th and we'll have prizes for adults and children.