Here is a quote from a favorite author of mine, Sharon Blackie, “This world does not belong to us. The world is a great dreaming being which shelters other beings, and we are just one among a countless number of species who live in her and of her.” This quote describes my ideas and intuition about the nature of the Earth, and our relationship to her, perfectly.
I am not an herbalist, though I would love to be able to call myself that some day. I’m an artist and a wannabe herbalist for now. I am on a path using the tool I am most comfortable with, visual art, to make sense of the beautiful chaos of the world around me. I’m using art to connect to the magic and gorgeousness of the land and plants around me, and give expression to the emotions I feel when I’m in the woods or a wild meadow. I think that the kind of art I am doing is a co-creation with the land and plants.
MANDALAS -- In August of 2020 I finished a series of flower and plant mandalas. Painting that series was part of my own set of rituals I decided to follow for at least a year. It was my way of honoring the Earth, my local land, and the spirits who reside here. I had been making mandalas like these for a while, but I had never painted them or photographed them until I started the series. The mandalas I created were left out on the land as offerings.
WEED SCAPES -- Everywhere you look and anywhere you go on our planet are wonderful plants that decide on their own where they want to grow. They are often mowed or poisoned away with little thought to their gifts. I spend time all year careening off of the road to park on the berm and take pictures of beautiful weeds I see on the roadsides. My old phone was all filled up, so I had to get a new one with more memory. I use the pictures I take to paint these scenes. In addition to painting, I sew and glue bits of information about the plants I find onto the canvas. I put in facts about medicinal uses and folklore. If I’m familiar with the history of the land, I’ll put information about that into the paintings too.
Other bits I will often include are photographs of people and animals. I add these because I am inspired by another author, Robin Wall Kimmerer, who said in her book, Braiding Sweetgrass, that not only do we love nature, but nature loves us back. It makes me think that land that has been tended, farmed, or even trod upon by generations must notice us and may have a memory of those who touched the earth and plants there - not just the rosebush that your grandmother planted and cared for, but the weeds growing at the end of a cow pasture.
Margaret Shipman, January 2021
I moved to Vermont in 2004 with my husband when we fell in love with the community of earth and art loving people living here and making their voices heard. We live with our son and various pets in an old farmhouse. I spend my time painting herbs, flowers, weeds, leaves, and seasonal changes. My husband is an avid beekeeper and gardener, which keeps our land always evolving and interesting.
Brattleboro Reformer, September 2020, Adding Something Different, Kris Radder
Vermont Winter Vacation Guide 2017, Love Where You Live
The Commons, February 24, 2016, Drawing a Crowd, Richard Henke
The Commons, February 10, 2016, Shipman Paintings on Display at Amy's
Southern Vermont Art & Living, Winter 2013 - 2014, The Art/Life Balance, Arlene Distler
photo by Kris Radder of the Brattleboro Reformer.