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Often times I am brought in to design an entire estate.
Sometimes I come in to do a piece, and the relationship grows, and
the process of refinement begins. This particular project is a small
jewel, a garden design undertaking for an urban setting, for a
client who has a doctorate in American Indian studies, specifically
on the women basket makers of the Cherokee nation.
The garden sits in a busy but residential setting, surrounded by
woodland. My client and I have worked together for several years
developing her garden horticulturally and most recently in enhancing
it architecturally by making additions and refinements to the house.
One way we have enhanced the architecture is by commissioning a
craftsman to create a patio of intricate patterned brick in the form
of Native American symbols.
It was to be expected that given her scholarly work in the area, and
my great affinity for Native American culture, our collaboration
would become an exercise in pattern-making. I collect Native
American basketwork, all of which is made out of indigenous material
and full of intricate, wonderful patterns. To me the art or garden
making is the art of pattern making, putting the pieces of puzzle
together whether in a great landscape setting or in a mosaic
Here we commissioned a craftsman to use variously colored brick to
emancipate the interior of a basket, a particular basket which I
happen to own. In every American Indian basket there's always a
break in the design to allow the spirit to come and go, and so our
basket has a break as well.
In another garden space which she overlooks from her office, my
client asked for a terrace rich with symbols and so we designed a
garden using the turtle. This creature plays a large part in Native
American mythology, giving us the story of how the Earth was born.
On axis through the arbor are the Pleiades, rendered in blue and
gray Tennessee crab orchard stone. The constellation of the Pleiades
is prominent in the early spring sky, and has inspired stories in
all ancient cultures which relied upon the skies as milestones
marking the passage of the seasons. The Greeks said the stars
represented the seven daughters of Atlas. They were turned into
stars and cast into the skies and are part of the constellation of
Orion. They appear in mid-May in the sky, and announce the beginning
of good weather; a herald of spring.