News Home & Design Artist's Delicately Embroidered Leaf Art Revives a Connection to Nature This textile artist's ephemeral work reminds us of the fragility of nature and the need to protect it. By Kimberley Mok Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who covered architecture and the arts for Treehugger starting in 2007. our editorial process Twitter Twitter Kimberley Mok Published February 19, 2021 05:46PM EST Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checker Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a writer, fact checker, and conservationist with a certification in sustainability. Our Fact-Checking Process Article fact-checked on Feb 22, 2021 Haley Mast Hillary Waters Fayle Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices There is a world of wonder in the smallest, single leaf from a tree or shrub. Unfortunately, we are often so wrapped up in our own thoughts that we don't have the time or presence of mind to even pay that one leaf a moment of attention – perhaps to observe its color, its shape, its texture, or to ponder its place within a larger, interconnected system. That's where artists like Richmond, Virginia-based Hillary Waters Fayle can come in. Known for her ephemeral artwork that features the use of traditional embroidery, paper-cutting, and sewing techniques on leaves, Waters Fayle attempts to revive the interconnectedness between nature and humans by literally "[binding] nature and the human touch." Hillary Waters Fayle As Waters Fayle explains, her love of art-making and interest in nature emerged at an early age. During her adolescence, Waters Fayle attended a summer camp that focused on educating kids about the environment and responsible stewardship practices, an experience that ignited her awareness about greater natural forces and the need for conservation. Hillary Waters Fayle Later on, when it came time to decide on what to study in college, she found it difficult to choose between pursuing art or science, saying that: "It was always something I felt torn about until I learned how to integrate them." Hillary Waters Fayle Waters Fayle's artistic practice involves the careful collection of various natural detritus around her home and other locales: interesting leaves, seed pods, feathers and shed snakeskins, then combining and embellishing them with thread. Much of these thread spools come from her grandmother's collection, or were hand-dyed by her partner, a former textile artist. Hillary Waters Fayle As Waters Fayle explains: "I study textile and printmaking traditions and processes, using them in collaboration with found botanical and organic material to symbolically bind nature and the human touch. These botanical embroideries and blueprints are born of my desire to illuminate this connection, as well as my curiosity about the overlapping of spiritual and religious symbology and sacred geometry with patterns that exist in nature. Now more than ever, it feels paramount to inspire a shifted perspective on the way we view the natural world—to explore and appreciate what is so often overlooked and to realize the potential for existence in balance with nature." Hillary Waters Fayle Waters Fayle's work ranges from colorfully detailed bits of embroidery intersecting on vibrant green leaf specimens to visually appealing leaf "collages" that are adhered together with thread and form interesting patterns. Hillary Waters Fayle Sometimes Waters Fayle will work with a specific species of plant, as in her latest series that revolves around stitching camellia leaves. In other instances, she will branch out and work with ginkgo leaves and maple tree seeds – basically anything she finds interesting and is available. Hillary Waters Fayle Though Waters Fayle may not have ended up pursuing a career in science, she nevertheless keeps that spirit of scientific rigor and inquiry alive and well in her current creative practice: "I think botany and dendrology are the most naturally related to my practice, although I take inspiration from all types of relationships in nature. I definitely have a real interest in plants, trees, the natural world, and its interlinking of ecosystems. I can really get into the science as it relates to my own work, but I can’t claim to be that knowledgeable—I’m not a trained scientist. I was selected to participate in an artist residency a few years ago that invited artists to come spend time at a biological field station. In working alongside scientists and students, I noticed how similarly we worked and how completely consumed we were in our respective research." Hillary Waters Fayle By working at this intimate, close-up scale, Waters Fayle's art compels the viewer to slow down and take that moment to truly pay attention to that forgotten, overlooked leaf – one of a countless multitude that exists in the wild. By virtue of the artist's hand, we are drawn in to give a humble leaf the attention it deserves. Hillary Waters Fayle Ultimately, Waters Fayle's work reflects her passion for making things, while keeping a lighter carbon footprint in mind, she says: "Sustainability has been a huge part of why I choose to live the way I do, and choose to do what I do with my art. Using the leaves is like a loophole where I could make this art and have zero footprint." To see more, visit Hillary Waters Fayle and her Instagram.