03 March 2020
Cassandra-lyn Palmer is a mixed media artist gaining both inspiration and materials from her natural landscape.
The use of plant dyes in her work are experimental, multi-layered and site specific, used to anchor a work to a particular place and time. As Cassandra-lyn is based in the beautiful Clarence Valley, she has been using materials in response to the devastating bushfires surrounding her home. These include making ink from the ash of the devastating Rappville fires and exposing paper overnight at Myrtle Creek. Cassandra-lyn has been selling her works in response to bushfires at Cowper Art Gallery and the Yamba Farmers Markets with all proceeds going to the Red Cross bushfire appeal.
We spoke with Cassandra-lyn about her creative recovery process:
What is involved in this process of making these natural inks?
I have been using natural inks and dyes for a few years as a way of creating patterns and colours in works. I enjoy the experimentation and often unexpected surprises that occur when mixing different materials together. I often soak or boil the natural materials and mordants directly onto paper and leave in the sun for a couple of weeks. With the Myrtle Creek works, I collected ash and burnt sticks, ground them down, mixed it with Methylated Spirits and created a gritty liquid that was layered onto the various papers. Some papers were more fragile than others – a further connection to the landscape.
What sparked your inspiration into sourcing materials from the natural landscape and when did you start this incredible technique?
I grew up in Wagga Wagga with a very creative Aunty who was a potter. We would always go fossicking around along river banks and paddocks sourcing clay and various materials to make marks and colours in clay. My practice had a resurgence in natural found materials after a move to Cairns in 2013. I was inspired by an abundance of beautiful plant life which I had never seen before. I became immersed in the landscape and began experimenting with plants as part of that connection to the places I was exploring.
The stitching and dying of your paper works connects to the notions of being a female artist and the idea of woman’s work. In your great words, “What society expects from a woman – she must to do it all – and do it well” – Did you see this week’s viral video of ‘Be a Lady They Said’?
That video is fantastic!!!!! It’s not just man’s view of women, but the way us ‘ladies’ judge each other. The rules for outward appearance are very fitting. For me personally, I think about how society expects women to have a full time job and manage the majority of the child rearing and the housework. She must work like she doesn’t have children and raise children like she doesn’t work. She must have a beautiful house, and the children have to have the perfect healthy lunch box. She must find time to be a good friend, a loving partner, devoted to her extended family, walk the dog, follow her dreams, travel, exercise, etc, etc. It is all very exhausting and unachievable.
In the midst of all this I crave quiet, out in nature to create, connect and restore.
Ultimately the Myrtle Creek images were made as I was travelling on the Summerland Way from Grafton to Casino for a black tie ball that I was required to attend. I jumped out of the car at the highway turn off to Myrtle Creek in full formal attire to place paper under a few rocks to capture the imprints of the fires that ripped through 2 days earlier. All much to the distress of my mother, who was hosting the event that I was running late after my stop off, and I had ash underneath my fingernails. I was surrounded by other beautiful ladies with polished manicures. “Why can’t you just be normal?” my mother asked.
Cassandra-lyn runs regular workshops at the Grafton Regional Gallery. Her next workshop, Art After Dark Clay Garden Pods, is on Thursday the 5th of March. Buy tickets here!