MAKE: Nature's Late Bloomers

MAKE: Nature's Late Bloomers

Maryam and I met 5 years ago at an herbal medicine conference. We both were exploring changes and ideas for growth in our lives that revolved around nature. Maryam’s journey led her back to an earlier fascination with clay.  She offered to share her inspiring journey and creative work with Plants ‘N People, my new creative effort.  In this short interview she talks about her connection to the Agave plant that she shares her New Mexico home with. Two late bloomers, Maryam and the Agave plant offer us inspiration for offering beauty to the world at any stage of our lives.  When she's not in the studio, she works as an Inter-faith Minister.  This includes offering worship services, spiritual practice and Dances of Universal Peace honoring the underlying Unity of all spiritual traditions and all people.  Her ministry also focuses on helping to bring a sense of peace and ease to those actively dying.  Her website is www.maryamrose.com.

Maryam at work

Maryam at work

Freestanding sculpture: "Mother Nature"

Freestanding sculpture: "Mother Nature"

Q: Share your life's journey so far and how it led to working with clay.  

I had always been intrigued by clay but as a single mom and entrepreneur, the time and resources to follow this interest never seemed to be within reach. Finally, when I was 61 years old, I was able to take a class, and I fell passionately in love!  Playing with clay was all I wanted to do.  I took a few more classes.  The availability of the University studio wasn’t enough for me, so I bought my own clay and started working with clay at home.  I took a couple more classes. I got a kiln.  Now, 4 years later, you can find me most days in my own studio in my backyard, playing with clay.

Portrait Sculpture in white clay: "Forest Sprite"

Portrait Sculpture in white clay: "Forest Sprite"

Q: Many artists are inspired by nature and the natural environment. What's your relationship with nature?  How does it influence your views of the world and your art?

It is not surprising to me nature has a rejuvenating effect on most people.  I believe the natural world is an expression of the Divine's creativity, beauty and love and offers us a way to reconnect with Divine Presence.  I think Inayat Khan said it best when he said “The priest gives a benediction from the church; the branches of the tree give blessing from God”.   The plants, rocks and trees are very much alive to me.   I have seen faces in them and felt welcomed and embraced by them. Much of the time when I pick up clay, what emerges is a representation of these experiences, like a tree spirit, a fairy, or a goddess rising from a plant.

Wall Hanging in micaceous clay: "Secret Life of Trees"

Wall Hanging in micaceous clay: "Secret Life of Trees"

The priest gives a benediction from the church; the branches of the tree give blessing from God”. ~ Inayat Khan
"Divine Mother" - Unfortunately, it cracked in the kiln!

"Divine Mother" - Unfortunately, it cracked in the kiln!

I feel like creative expression is like a spiritual practice in that it is a way to connect with Divine Presence.  Being in Nature is another way of doing that and Mother Nature is always generous in providing inspiration to us.  Honestly, I’m amazed at the type and quality of sculptural art that is coming now from my studio.  SHE has to be helping me!

Portrait Sculpture in white clay: "Medicine Woman"

Portrait Sculpture in white clay: "Medicine Woman"

Q:Are there one or two plants that have offered insight to your life and your art?

The Agave plant of Southwest New Mexico (Agave paryii) has inspired me to follow my passion for clay without limiting thoughts of “I’m too old to get good at this!”   The Agave plant lives for 40 years or so before it finally blooms near the end of its life.  Then its beauty dots the landscape of the Gila National Forest that surrounds my home. I’m inspired and encouraged by the Agave plant that only blooms and comes into its fullness towards the end of it’s life cycle.  

Agave parryi in SW New Mexico

Agave parryi in SW New Mexico

The Agave teaches me that I can still bloom and add beauty to the world.
Agave's blooms once, producing these amazing flowers that are visited by a variety of pollinators. The plant then dies.

Agave's blooms once, producing these amazing flowers that are visited by a variety of pollinators. The plant then dies.

"Agave Rising" - inspired by the spirit of the Agave plant

"Agave Rising" - inspired by the spirit of the Agave plant

PLANT SNAPSHOT:  Parry's Agave are often called century plants, a misnomer that contributes to the myth that it only blooms "once in a century."  In fact, Parry's agave lifespan is 25-40 years and after many years of growing a sturdy base leaf structure, and perhaps storing energy, the plant is triggered (some botanists believe by water) to produce this dramatic flower stalk, growing as much several feet a day, with a final display of spectacular flowers - its first and only bloom. Agaves are monocarpic, meaning that the plant dies after offering such beauty to the landscape.  During its long life, the plant is used for medicine, fiber, needles and food.


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