Now that I have my basic design concepts it is time for me to gather my materials and do some research. This project is quite different from my usual work because I've never worked with hemp before so I have no previous experience upon which to draw to help me get started... it is all new to me. Here are some examples of the materials that I received from Joel at Vermont Hemp Company:
I'm sure you're wondering how in the world is this going to become a Faerie House. This is what is so much fun and so challenging about the project!
I realized that I might want to bring in a bit of color so I ordered some hemp cording that is often used in jewelry-making. There were several different thicknesses to consider and the color ranges too. I found a nice assortment at an online shop and made my order:
I also found several different selections of hemp paper from other suppliers which I gathered and collected. One paper had to be ordered from Japan (I hope it gets here in time!)
Since I had never worked with these materials before, I needed to do a bit of testing. But before that, I just sat with the materials and let it speak to me. I smelled the fibers. I rubbed the rough strands and soft cottony material on my cheek. I nibbled on the seeds, chomped on some stems and explored the materials by bending, playing, breaking and stretching any and all of the pieces I had. It was very educational and inspiring!
One surprise was that the structure of the very dense woody stem is not square, but is diamond-shaped in cross-section. Here is a photo of a larger stem which I cut with a very fine-toothed saw:
I was delighted with this discovery as it gave me my first design feature/element; how to shape the windows! Here I've made my window templates. I wasn't sure what size(s) I might need so I made a range of 3 variations and hoped they would be close to what I'd need for the house I have in mind.
For my next test I wanted to see how the very thin papers were going to respond to the various glues I wanted to use. I was hoping to find a way to make some semi-translucent windows so that the light glow from inside the house would be very visible thru the windows without resorting to plastic film or the sheet mica that I've used before in other houses. After all, one of the challenges I set for myself was to see if I could use just the hemp and hemp products for the building of the house. I realized I'd have to make a few structural concessions such as the wood base, glues and other adhesives, the wiring and lights but I set myself the challenge of making this house without any structural materials except for hemp if I can possibly manage it.
So here are the tests I made for strength, translucency and shrinkage on the very thin hemp papers that I had purchased for this project:
I did think about making one exception to my rule as I wanted to try using some dragonfly wings as doors if possible because the scale was right. I had some dead dragonflies that I had found last fall by the side of the highway. Around here, dragonflies collect in great "flocks" to do their fall migration. They often congregate along roadways and seem to use the open-space of roads as a corridor of sorts. I'm not sure if it because of the warmer air rising up from the hot tarmac or if there are more food insects that also use the roads, but I've noticed this for years. A sad reality is that while dragonflies are fast, sometimes they do get hit by cars. I'm forever scanning the sides of the roads in the fall for fallen dragons. I take them home and dry them out for possible inclusion in Faerie house constructions. Here are the two biggest ones I hoped might work:
Sadly, the first test that I did with the wings did not give me the results I had hoped for. The paper wrinkled and curled and the beautiful glittery quality got lost in the glue.
It was good to test this out, but I'm not sure this idea is going to work. More experimenting will be required!
Finally I was ready to begin actual construction....sort of! Usually I just start building, using my systems and methods that I've developed over the years (and which I'm writing about in my new book- but that is another story!) but this time I knew I'd have to make a paper model first to get all the shapes right and positioned where I wanted them on the base. I'll leave that for the next post but for now, here's a peek!