Leah Kelley is a Youth Garden Educator with a passion for embroidery. In July she stayed at Getaway Chattahoochee outside of Atlanta as part of our Artist Fellowship Program. She foraged for plants to inspire new embroidery projects, and found peace in returning to nature. Here’s what she had to say about her creative process, her relationship to nature, and her Getaway:
“I’m seeking to gratefully grow seeds of compassion. As a kiddo, my Grandma taught me gardening. My mom is an award-winning preschool teacher, so I fused the two together. I’ve been a youth garden educator for the past nine years, and I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do than witness the joy of a kid tasting their first juicy tomato fresh from the garden, or the pride of a child seeing the seed they planted begin to sprout. I’m currently studying for a Masters in Social Work and Public Health at UGA .
“My vision is to create a youth therapy farm someday, utilizing horticultural therapy and the myriad ways that nature heals us, in mind, spirit, and body.”
“I began embroidering vegetables about six years ago when I was working at a farm in Texas. I found embroidery brought me peace, and it was something fun to do while sitting after a full day of farm work. Plants, flowers, and produce bring endless inspiration for my art since I love to grow, harvest, and use them as nourishing food and herbal medicine!
“Being in nature helps to calm my anxiety and to bring me into the present moment. The more I learn about the resilience of plants and how trees and ecosystems work together, the more I am in awe of it. Embroidery is a time-intensive craft, giving me plenty of time to contemplate the wonder that nature brings, intricately woven together.
“My art brand name, Cotyledon /ˌkädəˈlēdn/ is the biology term for the leaves that come from a seed. I fell in love with the word the first time i heard it, hence why I chose it as my brand name, even though it’s impossible to pronounce or spell. If you’ve done some gardening you may have heard plants grouped into mi-cot or di-cot, meaning one or two first leaves. I see so much magic in seeds to sprout forward into plants with just a little love and light!”
“My Getaway was so lovely. I felt very at peace there. The views and being surrounded by trees and nature made me think more about integrating objects from nature in my embroidery, which I plan to explore in the future. Being surrounded by ferns and clover and other wild native plants inspired me to do a more detailed embroidery of my first fern and red clover. I’m a busy bee and it was so good to Getaway and be without WI-FI and put my phone in the box and focus on my craft.”