After seeing the pretty wedding name board I painted last year, featuring a wreath of succulents and eucalyptus leaves, this client had her heart set on a hand-painted wooden serving tray.
Of course, my hubby and business partner, Alex, from The Modest Toolbox, obliged with a stunning masterpiece-of-a-tray, hand-crafted from upcycled wood. He used a special home-brewed stain that gives the wood an aged appearance. The brown-grey colour is just perfect to help the colours of the succulents pop!
What made it all just so much more special and personal, is that my client sent me a collection of photos of succulents that she took herself during a vacation in the drought-stricken, but hauntingly beautiful, Klein-Karoo. Their colours were astounding!
I asked xerophyte aficionado Ruan Myburgh, who runs a small new nursery called Green Kalahari, and he had this to say: "The vibrant, warm colours often seen on many succulents, although cheerful-looking, is actually caused by stress such as intense light, cold, or most often, lack of water. Despite the negative associations we humans have with stress, this is well within the range of what plants can survive, and is often artificially induced by growers and gardeners to produce more attractive specimens. In dry conditions, the pores in plants' leaves, called stomata (singular: stoma), are closed to prevent moisture loss. This slows down photosynthesis and halts growth, and as the stress intensifies, the plant produces compounds that mask the chlorophyll in shades of yellow, orange, red, and brown, and so protect the leaves from damage by UV rays. In effect, it is sunscreen applied from within."
*Hat tip to Jason Sampson, Curator Manie van der Schijff Botanical Garden, University of Pretoria for providing the more technical details.
How cool is that?!
My client also requested olive leaves, as her home looks out onto an olive grove. Dreamy, right?
After we decided on a layout for the succulent and olive leaf wreath (say that three times fast - olive-leaf wreath, olive-leaf wreath, olive-leaf wreath...!), I got to painting.
As my client lives just outside my old home-town of Kimberley, I managed to arrange a lift for the tray with friends to eliminate the courier costs. BUT, that meant that I only had a few days to complete the project, still allowing time for the varnish to dry before packaging it.
What ensued was a fabulous few days of painting painting painting...! I hit a slight snag when Eskom left me without electricity on a very gloomy, rainy day... Not being able to see well enough to continue without light, but without the luxury of being able to take a break for two and a half hours through load shedding, I had to get creative! As it turns out, hubby's head lamp, usually used for evening braais (barbecues), works pretty well for an artist in a tight spot too!
I even continued working on the project at my gorgeous "office" at the craft art market on Spier Wine Farm, where I've been privileged to trade for about three years. There's nothing quite like working on site at this charming market: outdoors, overlooking the stunning dam, birds singing, laughter from little huddles of picnickers drifting on the breeze, feeling the dappled sun on my back, the infectious energy of my fellow-creatives doing their thing...
In an attempt to keep up with modern times, with even the art world pivoting towards that ever-evolving digital cloud in the sky, I decided to commit to something I've never even considered attempting before now: Filming a time-lapse video of the entire project from start to finish!
As a total non-techie (especially when it comes to cellphones!), I had a few technical glitches along the way, but I managed to capture most of the work-in-progress. Yey!
So -- it gives me great pleasure to share the video with you now, along with the usual photos of the work-in-progress:
Believe it or not, that pile of wood became the tray. Yup, The Modest Toolbox is a magician! Of course, none of it would be possible without Kitty's stellar supervision!
My "studio"... For this project I opted to work in the kitchen!
Too hot for my usual winter wooly slippers. But I always, ALWAYS wear socks. It's a long story involving a toe monster...
This fat, green gasteria is my favourite amongst the succulents. It actually almost-almost didn't make it into the collage!