My process begins with an attention to the habits and preferences of orb weavers (Araneus diadematus, in particular). They love Rosemary, for instance. It provides structure and cover, and its blossoms draw bees. On a big Rosemary bush, 3 - 9 orb weavers may coexist.
Every season, I observe where orb weavers congregate and flourish. The following season, I make adjustments in my garden to improve conditions for them. For trellises, I use a lot of bamboo. Bamboo has a long history in spider farming. Its stalks, or culms, are divided by solid nodes into small sections. When the bamboo splits, the spiders occupy these sections like apartments, the nodes providing a natural barrier between them.
I use non-toxic materials, and I harvest silk at a sustainable rate, meaning the rate at which the spiders flourish and do not relocate. If natural conditions worsen for them (for example, wildfires coat their webs in ashes), I feed them grubs from my compost bin. I work with a community of 20 - 34 spiders each season, from their infancy (as spiderlings) to death (as mothers). Keeping them healthy and happy with their location are essential to a season-long relationship, the practice, and the work.
I experience my practice as akin to wildlife farming: a cultivated relationship with an undomesticated species for harvest of a commodity resource (silk). My practice is rooted in resource extraction: the clay a mined material, the electricity largely hydro-electric (dammed rivers), the silk made by spiders. I try to stay awake about what parts of the world make possible my work and to be mindful about what I take and for what reasons.
I throw and cast porcelain forms to collect webs on.
My BFA is in ceramics, my MFA in sculpture.
Whether throwing or casting, I am always searching for forms. Every form has historical and cultural dimensions. It means something because of the social contexts that shapes like it have occupied over time. Also, I seek forms that allow me to collect under the spectrum of different conditions I encounter in the field, that hold the webs in ways that speak to me, and that are functional. I want humans to hold, drink from, and wear around their necks these trace fossils. I want you to put these webs to your lips, to draw your sustenance from across their surface. These artifacts subvert dominant representations of spiders as dangerous or aggressive and grow new, more respectful and beautiful narratives.
Also, the utility of the forms is necessary to their preservation (people caring for them) and their geographical distribution. Collectively, these artifacts make up a growing data set.