Artist gives natural materials new life
As a botanical collage artist, Judy Meddaugh creates dry pressed flower collages.
Using a variety of flora, Meddaugh fashions intricate, artful pieces featuring animals and floral quilt patterns.
Hence the name of her business: Meddaugh Alchemy, the transformation of plants into art.
“Two things I hear from people the most are how patient I must be and how detail-oriented I am, and I’m neither of those,” says Meddaugh. “It just works because I love it.”
Formerly a landscape designer, Meddaugh began arranging dried flowers around photographs as a hobby and then gave them as gifts. This evolved into designing animal and flower motifs into wall art. Her most popular works are her wild animal scenes, especially the elephants.
“I’m superinvolved in the environment,” says Meddaugh, revealing a scene of polar bears made from lambs ears and cosmos.
“I lived in Alaska for a number of years and was really concerned with the health and welfare of animals, so this one is called ‘Global Warming, Polar Warning,’ ” she says. “We all know now that polar bears are really suffering.”
Self-taught, Meddaugh learned first by books and then by experience. Fellow artists also contributed pointers on the craft and on framing and matting. Meddaugh has made coaster sets and kits and greeting cards from prints. Her natural materials include flowers, leaves, weeds, tree lichen, moss, shells, twigs, grass, snakeskin and feathers. She has also used beads, netting and ribbons.
“It’s always a challenge to find the right plant material,” says Meddaugh, “but I just love doing it.”
Meddaugh gets her material from her garden at Deer Lake, her condo on the South Hill and from friends. She tends not to use wildflowers, as they don’t hold their color well. Cultivated flowers retain color for a longer period. Sometimes she paints leaves that fade quickly, such as ginkgo and ferns.
Meddaugh says the most popular orders for her work are for zodiac or birth month flowers. Pets are often requested, but Meddaugh is more impassioned about wild animals.
Meddaugh gets her animal images from children’s books and from magazines such as National Geographic. After pressing the plant material with a pegboard or microwave press, she sketches an outline of her scene onto acid-free paper. She then glues on the dried plant material. Finished framed sizes range from 8-by-8 inches to 26-by-26. About one-third of her sales are prints. She exhibits up to 15 to 20 shows a year.
“One of the reasons I quit landscaping is because I was always at the long end of a shovel. I thought this would be physically a lot easier,” says Meddaugh. “But I was wrong, because I probably unpack about 1,500 pounds every time I set up and do a show, and then it all has to go back in the trailer.”
Her future plans include creating North American animals such as cougars, bison, wolves, bats and even turtles. She may try to form fruit images in the Impressionistic style from crushed petals or experiment with acrylic gels. She’s interested in doing more with myths and legends.
“Our lives are so busy,” Meddaugh says. “I just would like people to have a greater appreciation for what’s around them.”