Maya Markillie Part 3

Topsoil, 2021-22, glass and weaving, 35x35x2 inches, $950

My third piece shown in the Senior Exhibition is named Topsoil. This piece is another creation from my independent study where I was exploring the possible relationships between glass and weaving. At the time, I was learning all about the importance of topsoil in one of my environmental science classes. The important things to know about topsoil are that it is full of the key nutrients we need to grow our plants and crops, it has extremely high levels of micro-organic material compared with other soil levels, and our modern agricultural practices are ruining it. Topsoil is essential to our production of food, but constant tilling, monoculture, and runoff from pesticides and other byproducts of modern agriculture are destroying this layer of soil that we depend on! We need to increase the amount of food we grow each year, which leads to this vicious cycle of finding the fastest and cheapest ways to produce food without thinking about the health of the earth. I was really shocked by the fact that I hadn’t heard about the crisis beneath our feet that humans are perpetuating. The idea that we are destroying such important parts of our ecosystem without thinking about it seems to be a common issue leading to the overarching issue of global climate change. So, I thought I would highlight this overlooked issue in one of my independent study pieces.

Topsoil (detail), 2021-22, glass and weaving, 35x35x2 inches, $950

I started with the tapestry part. I wanted to convey the microscopic layers of organic material and microbes that exist in the top five to ten inches of soil. I used sheep wool yarn, alpaca hair, and a natural fiber yarn that I found at art salvage. I first laid out a design on paper and then taped that paper to the back of my loom and began the weaving process. Weaving feels sort of like a meditation for me. The more I weave, the easier it is for me to drift off into thought while my fingers continue doing the work!

Topsoil (detail), 2021-22, glass and weaving, 35x35x2 inches, $950

Once I was about two-thirds of the way done with the tapestry, I had already decided that the glass elements would be enlarged soil microbes. They are supposed to represent living organisms that most humans would probably never get to see, but that most of us depended on for food. I ended up fusing together a bunch of thin pieces of glass to get the organic shape looking how I wanted it. I also got to make use of my favorite Bullseye Glass Company sheet glass which is called streaky “petrified wood” glass. Bullseye hand rolls this glass with four different colors that have different striking capabilities once fired, which create awesome reactions that can be likened to petrified wood! It’s exciting stuff.

Topsoil (detail), 2021-22, glass and weaving, 35x35x2 inches, $950

Anyways, I ended up fusing four microbes and then attaching the hardware to each of them. Right before hanging up the finished piece for our exhibit though, I got some feedback that having an uneven number of microbes might make more visual sense, so I ended up making one more for a grand total of five microbes and one finished tapestry! I am really happy with the result of this piece because it ties together an issue that I am passionate about with artistic materials that I am passionate about!

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