Elderberries for Paint, Colds and Fertile Ground

When preparing the elderberries to make Sambucus syrup for colds, I reverted to childhood using the berry mash for paint and beads. Gratefully I was invited to show in “Fertile Ground”, a Berea Arts Council exhibit to celebrate women’s roles at the forefront of community local food culture. Otherwise, I was wondering where I would display something so different from my usual style.

Elderberry painting, 22x30", Kathleen O'Brien

Elderberry painting, 22×30″, Kathleen O’Brien

This is how it began. At first I was just smearing it around, I had no preconceived notions. When I noticed how many seeds were sticking, I began to make the round shapes, and liked the idea of it looking like the berries.

Elderberry branches, Kathleen O'Brien

Elderberry branches, Kathleen O’Brien

Aren’t these branches beautiful? Their color makes them stand out on the bush. I’ve waited three years to get to the point of making the syrup. Meanwhile I’ve used the blossoms  as botanicals in collages. I wrote about how much work goes into preparing the blossoms, in “to do or not to do”.

Elderberry Straining Cloth - the last diaper, Kathleen O'Brien

Elderberry Straining Cloth – the last diaper, Kathleen O’Brien

Even the straining cloth is beautiful, and this is being worked into another artwork – more on that later. It happened be the last diaper I had saved from the 70’s, so useful for cleaning projects. It might sound weird to use a (clean) diaper, I know, but emotionally, it was like an initiation into Elderhood. It brought deeper meaning to my child’s play.


elderberry beads drying, Kathleen O'Brien

elderberry beads drying, Kathleen O’Brien

I added clove oil and flour to the mash and rolled these one inch balls, rotating them every few hours for even drying, then made the hole to dry slowly from within. No cracks, please!

Elderberry or Sambucus Syrup , Kathleen O'Brien

Elderberry or Sambucus Syrup , Kathleen O’Brien

Finally, the desired end product, about a quart all together. I cannot report on it’s effectiveness, because we’ve been well. It might be a good idea to have some now as we transition into autumn, to build our immunity.

"Elder Harvest" in process, elderberry beads drying, Kathleen O'Brien

“Elder Harvest” in process, elderberry beads drying, Kathleen O’Brien

Meanwhile back in the studio I scraped seeds off, drew a lot, collaged elderberry leaves, tiny watercolors and paint chips.

"Elder Harvest", painting collage, 22x30", Kathleen O'Brien

“Elder Harvest”, painting collage, 22×30″, Kathleen O’Brien

Here’s the statement about the art I sent to the gallery;

Our garden gratefully produces food, herbs and medicinal herbs. Elderberry Harvest was painted with Elderberry mash, after making Sambacus syrup for colds. Having magenta hands, I left a subtle hand print and collaged elderberry leaves. Never liking to waste anything, I then created beads from it and added paper beads into a necklace.

Elderberry Bead Necklace with paper beads, Kathleen O'Brien

Elderberry Bead Necklace with paper beads, Kathleen O’Brien

I will be a part of the artist talk for the Fertile Ground Preview exhibit on September 27, from 2 – 3 pm at the Madison County Public Library, Berea.

The Fertile Ground Exhibit is at Berea Arts Council, 139 North Broadway Suite B, Berea, KY 40403.  It shows from October 2  to October 7, with the artist reception October 2 from 5 – 8 pm.

Please feel welcome to attend.