Scrying with Agar

When I returned to check on the gel plates, I saw some interesting results, varying from obvious spread marks and  feathery swirls to beautiful fantasy landscapes.

bonnetcircle

Above: Lycoperdon Perlatum (Common Puffball) sample

oyster1

Above: Pleurotus Ostreatus (Common Oyster Mushroom)

The Common Oyster Mushroom gave a fluffy, cloudy pattern, and with the combination of the sample in gel, looked like a bird of some sort, with a brown eye.

sample

Above : Sample of Mycena Galericulata (Common Bonnet)

The most beautiful were from the samples of liquified Boletus Subtomentosus. One sample had been spread over jelly, the other sample had been mixed with “broth”, a protein additive to feed the bacteria.

IMG_3136Above and below: Boletus Subtomentosus (without protein broth) – Looks like a snowy landscape on a moonlit nightdunsinanecircle1

dunsinanecircle2

Above: Boletus Subtomentosus sample with added protein “broth”

What I believe gave these samples (and the Common Oyster samples) an advantage over the others is the fact that they were spread using a glass rod spreader, as if one were making a crepe. This is the method I will use in future when I try out any more samples, as it covers the whole dish as opposed to a few spots here and there.

I’m in awe of these beautiful pieces of nature’s art, which appear as if drawn in pencil on off-white paper. To me, they are an imaginary landscape, where distant towers or tall buildings balance precariously on a steep hill within a rugged hilly landscape. What is even more remarkable is that both plates resemble a similar landscape, but the latter looks as if it is further into the distance. The moon lights the scene, casting magical moonbeams over the kingdom….or perhaps we are looking at the scene through falling snow, the white spots giving a sense of perspective with their variations in size. Perhaps this is a picture of Dunsinane Hill, and the Hill fort where Macbeth lies waiting, anticipating his future, and the spots are the foot soldiers heading towards him to seal his fate. These landscapes certainly have a magical, even supernatural quality, and makes me feel that something special has grown from a small sample found in Birnam Wood.

I almost feel as if these gel plates could be used as a sort of divination method, a bit like the ancient art of scrying, where the past, present or future could be told using such tools as crystals,glass, mirrors, water, fire, or smoke. Such images are likely products of our imagination or subconscious, although some believe that they come from spirits, gods or demons. According to http://witchesofthecraft.com the symbol of the bird in scrying means ascension, good news, or bird headed beings. Although I couldn’t find hills, I found mountains which means obstacles or a specific area (Dunsinane Hill perhaps?) This element of foreseeing the future also ties in with the prophecies in Macbeth. I feel that this experiment links to my theme in a few ways – the site-specific gathering of the fungi, the images they have produced, and the unpredictability of the images, shapes and patterns, which may be interpreted by my imagination or that of others.

Mushroom Magic!

Recently I came across a method (online) of making paper from mushrooms. Apparently the cell walls of fungi consist of a biological polymer called chitin, similar to cellulose—which just happens to be the key ingredient in plant-based paper.   I found a few pages detailing how it can be done, and also a YouTube video. I decided to give the technique a go, as I thought it might be an interesting way to use some of the plants and fungi I have been finding…and perhaps I could then make the handmade paper into a sculpture to art form of some sort.

The information advised the use of Birch Polypores and also Tinder (Hoof) Fungus, and luckily I knew of a few places where I could source these. After a few hours I had gathered an impressive selection, so headed home to begin the experiments.

IMG_1940 1

Above: A birch tree bearing fresh Birch Polypores

IMG_1952 1

A substantial harvest! 

IMG_1967 1

Above: Tinder or Hoof Fungus (Fomes Fomentares)

The next stage was to soak the fungus overnight. The “hooves” were so hard, I realised that they needed to be soaked for a longer period of time, so I stuck to the polypores on this occasion.

IMG_1959 1

I began by putting the softest pieces of polypore into a blender with a small amount of water, before liquidising the mixture. In the first experiment, I also added a small amount of shredded paper, and some dried Himalayan Balsam petals.

Initially I tried to follow the YouTube video, but realised that it was literally impossible. Either the maker had added a secret ingredient which made the pulp really strong and bonded it together, or he had edited the video and waited a few days until the piece was almost dry.

IMG_2009 1

Above: My first attempt – a DIY disaster!

It was impossible to flip the mixture over onto a cloth without it sticking to the mesh or the cloth I was putting it onto. So I decided it might take a bit longer, and that I would resign myself to leaving the paper on top of the mesh for a few days, to dry naturally before I attempted to remove it.

IMG_2019 1

 Ingredients added were elderberries and himalayan balsam petals

The second experiment was pure mushroom pulp (without any shredded paper) with dried nettle leaves. the mixture looked like homemade mushroom soup and was much more gloopy than the first.

IMG_2029 1

I also added a few larger pieces of nettle into half of the mixture, and lichen into the other half…

IMG_2038 1

I fear that I may have poured this a bit to thickly, but I will leave it and see what happens!

My final experiment was to see if I could shape the pulp over a mask form. If this works, I would be a potentially great way of making a human form from foraged woodland materials.

IMG_2056 1

Mushroom Mask!

Having left all three experiments to dry for a couple of days, so far only one of them is dry enough to remove – the first one. Here it is below:

IMG_2151

The paper is a shade of light grey and has a translucent quality in parts

IMG_2154

Above: Note the translucent areas at the top of the paper

IMG_2155

Elderberries have left their red stains in places

The other two pieces are still not dry. The mask is looking more promising, but I have left them both outside today in an attempt to “bake” them in the sun. The jury is still out  on whether they will work or not, but alt least it is another technique explored which may be of use to join my natural materials together.

Conclusion:

If the two experiments made solely from mushroom pulp don’t work, I may resort to adding in the paper again, and perhaps to keep the integrity and concept of the piece going, I will shred the lines from Macbeth and add these into it. I especially like the translucent areas in the paper (which were created by a very thin layer of the mixture), as I am always drawn to the illumination of sculptural pieces.