Bees Encase Raw-Material Embroideries with Honeycomb in New Encaustic Works by Ava Roth




Art
Design
Science

#bees
#encaustic
#honey
#mixed media

September 18, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Falling Horsehair, Gold #2,” encaustic, Japanese tissue, horse hair and thread in embroidery hoop, embedded in honeycomb, custom double length Langstroth hive frame, 19”x 9.5 inches. All images © Ava Roth, shared with permission

When Ava Roth adds the last stitch grasping horsehair or porcupine quills to her embroidered artworks, she passes the fibrous material on to her black-and-yellow counterparts. The Toronto-based artist collaborates with bees to encase her mixed-media pieces in waxy honeycomb. What emerges are organic artworks that consider interspecies interactions and the beauty that such meetings can garner.

Since 2019, Roth has been expanding the wooden frames of her works to twice the size as previous projects. She receives help from master beekeeper Mylee Nordin, and together, they vertically stack hive boxes, which are known as supers, and insert large, custom-made structures. The artist also has developed a more detailed practice in recent months. “Because this project has required so much trial and error, I was still experimenting with materials last season, trying to find substances that the bees would consistently respond to positively,” she writes. “I was trying to find organic substances that would not harm the bees but also that the bees would not eat or otherwise destroy.”

When the bees finished wax production in late October, Roth says her understanding of the species and confidence in her choice of raw matter had grown. “I spent the winter weaving and embroidering beeswax, porcupine quills, horsehair, and other organic material into embroidery hoops, and then fixing them onto my new custom made frames,” she notes.

 

Beeswax, porcupine quills, Japanese tissue, metallic thread in embroidery hoop, embedded in natural honeycomb

Roth’s projects also have a sense of urgency through their connection to Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon that’s killing colonies and threatening the species’ population. “Honeybees are often considered a harbinger of the health of our planet, and CCD is interpreted by many environmentalists and scientists as a clear indicator of our current environmental crisis,” the artist says.

I consider the bees to be my co-workers, collaborators in every sense. I take cues from their needs, design the project around their capacities, and work in sync with their seasons. Ultimately, this art that we make together is essentially hopeful at a time when we are overwhelmed with despair at the state of the environment, and our role in its destruction.

During the winter, Roth plans to refine her project further after reflecting on another season of interspecies collaboration. Follow the latest updates on her encaustic works on Instagram.

 

Beeswax, porcupine quills, Japanese tissue, metallic thread in embroidery hoop, embedded in natural honeycomb

“Honeycomb Embroidery, Amber,” beeswax, Japanese tissue, glass beads, thread, honeycomb in embroidery hoop, 6 inches

“Porcupine Quill Flowers,” encaustic, Japanese tissue, porcupine quills, metal thread, seed beads, and embroidery hoop embedded in honeycomb, a traditional Langstroth hive frame, 19 x 9.5 inches

Left: “Honeycomb Embroidery, Birch and Moss,” beeswax, Japanese tissue, glass beads, thread, honeycomb, birch bark in an embroidery hoop, 6 inches. Right: “Honeycomb Embroidery, Flora,” beeswax, Japanese tissue, glass beads, thread, honeycomb, birch bark, leaves, in embroidery hoop, 9.5 inches

#bees
#encaustic
#honey
#mixed media

 

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