Wildland Gardens

In wildness is the preservation of the world – Thoreau


As you might know, I am an artist. Since moving to Arkansas, I’ve been working to connect my gardens to my art. Both in the subject matter and in the materials and processes. At Wildland Gardens I grow the cotton I use for my paper. You can see my artworks at www.cowpersmith.com


Fire Start, 2015, Pigment print on handmade cotton paper, 17 x 15 inches




I grow Nankeen Cotton, an heirloom variety with soft golden-brown medium length fibers. My cotton is grown without chemical additives and is interplanted with the bright zinnia flowers that frequently make appearances in the prints. After being picked in late fall, I hand pluck the seeds from the bolls. The cotton is cut and boiled with baking soda before being blended into a pulp. The pulp is strengthened by adding a small amount of recycled cotton paper and sizing. The pulp is thinned with water in a huge sink and I make the paper using a hand-made mold (deckle). Each sheet of paper is intentionally unique.

Cotton is one of the most important crops in the history of Arkansas. Not only does cotton represent slavery, plantations, and Arkansas’s civil war history, it also epitomizes industrial agriculture. Over the past 100 years it has been grown in increasingly large plots of land, it is bombarded with chemical additives and has been engineered to meet the requirements of mechanical harvesting. By growing it on a small scale, to make art about farms, nature, and domestic objects, I am forming a new (and return to an older era) relationship to this plant and it’s products.


Brown Nankeen Cotton growing with Zinnias in the garden








Boiling the cotton with baking soda




Layers of felt and cotton paper







Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s