- Community Voices: Lucy Golden Creates Art From Nature
- by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul
Jewelry artist Lucy Golden became immersed in the outdoors at a young age. She and her two sisters spent their childhood roaming the woods and fields of Pennsylvania, where her father was a Presbyterian minister, and New Hampshire, where the family spent vacations and summers. She began foraging for wild foods as a child, a venture she continues around her home in Franconia, New Hampshire. She scours the woods for mushrooms and other treasures, raises giant silk moths from egg to adult, and endeavors to take at least one dip in a local river every month of the year. She is a juried member of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, and her jewelry is inspired by the natural world, both close to home and further afield.
We were outdoor kids, both in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. We knew every nook and cranny in both places. In Pennsylvania I spent a lot of time on a friend’s grandmother’s farm, and her mother taught me what every plant and tree was, and how many of them could be used as food. I was fascinated. I owned every Euell Gibbons’ book and started foraging early. My mother was always supportive of whatever treats I brought home and helped me prepare them for family meals.
I was fortunate to be raised by parents, especially a mother, who valued the great outdoors and its inhabitants. We often had temporary pets from outside that she would help us tend. There were snakes (her fear of which she hid, lest we assume it), mice, bats, and nest-fallen baby birds. With Mom’s assistance, we collected and documented all kinds of remnants of the natural world: nests, bird eggshells, feathers, and we kept dead things in formaldehyde. When I was in fourth grade, Mom and I had a nature show on our porch, open to the public for a donation of a nickel.
I found that parenthood reinforced and refreshed my love of nature. There is something about watching your child experience the magic that is the natural world – whether it’s the spring migration of spotted salamanders, the first frog eggs, or a wandering caddisfly larva – that brings you back to that childhood place where the excitement is all-encompassing and infectious.
I feel tremendously blessed to be involved in an endeavor in which I can explore and share my interests. Much of my subject matter focuses on the natural environment, and my intention is to foster a connection with nature through the jewelry. By wearing that connection, in its jewelry form, it is shared further. Whether it’s mushrooms, plants, moths, caterpillars, fish, or something else, my hope is to connect others to something that is precious to me, and to communicate the beauty and importance of the things that share the environment with us.
Sometimes my customers are drawn to a piece of jewelry featuring a favorite moth, butterfly or mushroom, but sometimes they seem to be drawn to that feeling of being in the great outdoors that images from the natural world trigger. I sell a lot of my work regionally, but also end up mailing it around the world via website orders. I am always curious as to why someone in Finland, or Australia, is purchasing a species that is often New England specific. I love that the jewelry travels, and think it could be kind of fun to hand-deliver it to some of these places.
I have lots of favorite places in the woods, and many of them feature old foundations. I am fascinated by the layers of history that exist in our woods, and how the forest has regrown and recovered after having been primarily pasture 100 years ago or so. I marvel at how previous inhabitants survived challenging conditions in northern New England, from farmers to miners to woodsmen to townspeople. I am also intrigued by the iron furnace that stands in Franconia, as well as the iron mines in the woods of Sugar Hill. Blue-green slag, a byproduct of the iron smelting process, can be found downstream in the Gale River, and one of my favorite pastimes is to slag-hunt, and then to set found pieces in silver as jewelry. This is definitely a real-life instance of one culture’s trash being another culture’s treasure.
One of my most profound wishes is that my work in some small way reinforces and enhances that special relationship that all people have with nature, whether it is an active relationship, or one that is still developing. “Biophilia,” a term coined by Edward O. Wilson, the well-known biologist and ant expert, postulates that humans have an innate attraction to nature. I believe that it this attraction, and its resulting relationship, that is nature’s best defense, and ultimately our own, too. We will take care of what we love, and fostering this love of the natural world and our environment is of the utmost importance, especially now. If my jewelry can help to draw attention to the beauty that surrounds us, then my day is done. Until tomorrow, of course.
For more about Lucy Golden, check out her website, as well as this article from NW Spring 2014 featuring her activities raising silk moths: Night Flyers: North American Silk Moths Face Invasive Challenge.
This interview is part of a bi-weekly series, exploring the many ways that people’s lives connect to northeastern forests. It is made possible through generous support from the Larsen Fund.
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