Miko and I have entered a competition!

For the past couple of months, my sweet friend and I have been collaborating on a sculpture.

It all began with Miko asking me if I wanted to participate in a contest that had to do with snowflakes. I was intrigued. She explained that every year, there is a contest in Japan inspired by the nuclear physicist, Ukichiro Nakaya. Nakaya’s work centers on snow crystal formation, and he has been famously quoted as saying that each snow crystal is like “a letter from the sky.”

I loved this and Miko knew I would. She encouraged me to write a poem with this quote as inspiration, and I began.

Because she and I have also been working on flower poems for Calyx & Parlance, I asked her first about flowers shaped like snowflakes. She immediately thought of stephanotis or white jasmine. I thought about these flowers, the changing seasons, the romance of the night sky, the beauty of snow at night, how a snowflake is a raindrop in the spring, and how flowers bloom from rain. After a few drafts, I came up with this:

I am sending you a letter from the sky
a thousand quiet shining stars
my voice turning to snow
the sound of powder kisses
falling only for you

catch them on your tongue
taste rain, each droplet, blooming jasmine
delicate flowers for your lips
petals from rain, snow, and stars
falling for you
in a love letter from the sky

My line breaks weren’t perfect, but it didn’t matter. In working with a skilled visual artist like Miko, I am reminded of how text can become abstracted, how poems can read as stream of consciousness or even as run-on sentences, and it’s ok. For someone who obsesses over her line breaks, and as a former grammar and syntax teacher, this was challenging at first. I kept fighting with these ideas. This is why I am grateful to have Miko in my life. She sees the work differently. Her encouraging, honest feedback helped me to have the breakthrough I needed, to get the poem into a block form, and turn it from poetry into visual art.

I hand wrote the poem onto card stock, Benjamin made a vector out of it, and we cut it out with our Cricut (see photo above). The next task was to figure out how to make it more sculptural. Our love letter poem was delicate, like paper lace, and since the judges would be picking it up, it needed to be more secure. We also needed to decide if it was meant to be hung or propped up, and we wanted to make it look like an older letter, since letter writing is a traditional art.

We brainstormed and brainstormed! Miko stained our piece to make it look more antiquated, and I played around with light blue embroidery floss to mimic or suggest lines of notebook paper.
Then in a flourish of inspiration, Miko saw the final touch. “Glass!” she exclaimed, “We need to press it between pieces of glass! This would be like chunks of ice!”

It was perfect! She also had the insight to suggest tying the pieces of glass together with twine, like an antiquated package, and viola! We had our sculpture combining poetry, paper cutting, embroidery floss, twine, and glass. We had our snowflake love letter from the sky.

As a test, I showed Benjamin a photo of the layered glass with the poem and embroidery floss. He said, “Oh, nice! It’s like the thread is cracks in the ice.”

One of the best things about making art is witnessing how others interpret it. Miko and I didn’t think of the embroidery floss as cracks in ice, so we were pleasantly surprised by Benjamin’s observation. Fingers crossed the judges will see our work and like it too!