Butterflies take on many meanings to many people, being geographically widespread, they are prevalent and revered in almost all populations of the world in the form of folklore, art, and pop culture. They often represent a positive metamorphosis of sorts, from grotesque caterpillar to beautiful butterfly. Sometimes signaling the transition from winter to spring, or a more personal and metaphorical transcendence of the self, or even thought to act as vessels for the human soul. Butterflies indicate the health of an environment, as they are deeply integrated into the food chain and are important pollinators for many plants, while being sensitive to habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. Butterflies can make many people feel nostalgic, recalling a particular time and place of a magical chance butterfly encounter.
I use butterflies in my work for all these reasons, and I delight in the shapes, colors, and patterns butterflies have. By recreating butterflies with ink and paper in dizzying numbers, I find these visual elements develop a harmony and movement that is fluid and unexpected. Much like brushstrokes in a painting, the butterflies are slowly built up, while navigating and exploring a landscape of colors and textures. A single pin through the thorax holds each butterfly in place, with wings at angles that create a menagerie of shadows and catch and reflect light like the microscopic scales of a butterfly wing. What other creature is as beautiful, benevolent, and symbolic as the butterfly, even in death?
The first step in creating a screen printed laser cut butterfly is to make a drawing. The drawings are made by blowing ink on paper in the shape of a butterfly, in a semi controlled manner, which creates a unique line quality and adds an element of spontaneity in the renderings. Blowing the ink creates a network of branches that echo patterns found in nature, like branching rivers, trees, blood vessels in the human body, and the veins in butterfly wings. The drawings are then scanned into the computer, the individual colors are drawn out in layers, and then printed out on 11×15 inch translucent sheets. These print outs are used to create the stencils on the fine mesh printing screens using a photographic process. Each sheet of butterflies is screen printed by hand, one painstaking color at a time onto quality cotton paper. Some butterflies are printed with as little as 2 colors and some are as many as 5 or 6. Finally the screen printed sheets of 12 -40 individual butterflies are cut out with a laser.