Cats and Plants
We partner in our flower growing with a renowned, women-led farming enterprise called Patchwork farms. Patchwork is just down the street from us, West on Chicago Avenue. Through almost a decade of intrepid work, these women have originated a utopian vision of a sustainable future for all of Chicago. Providing weekly C.S.A. subscriptions on a sliding scale for people who might not normally be able to afford such a luxury as local, organic produce, they also deliver job training for at-risk youth. The farm is right on bustling Chicago Avenue, accessible and open to everyday Chicagoans. I was pulling seedlings out of the greenhouse the other day when the Chicago Avenue bus came to a screeching halt behind me. I heard the cha-chunk of CTA bus doors opening behind me and turned to lock eyes with the driver staring me down intently… “You all promised you would grow watermelons this year! Don’t forget!” he yelled with the unquestionable authority of a Chicago public transportation official.
Elise and Katie are meticulous professionals in so many ways, with impeccable reputations in the Chicago urban agricultural scene which can be a bit Wild-West-ish. Taking the cleanliness of the farm very seriously, the first line of defense in keeping any rodents away is their remarkable maine coon Moushi. Her name is pronounced and spelled a million different ways, Mush, Moosh, etc… but all cat fans fall under her spell in the same way- immediately and irrevocably. She lives on the farm all Spring, Sumer and Fall, but this winter she needed a warm place to stay and we got to foster her!
Productivity at the studio came to a grinding halt as we were pretty much full time hostages to cuteness. When clients came to visit she would lay on their Celine bags and chew the tassles, or their notes, finally settling into a warm lap for the whole consultation, but no one seemed to mind.
Like Persephone released from the underworld, she was returned to the farm last week and now all growing things can now follow. Looking towards another season of resplendent hunting and general glam- bassadorship for the farm, she is in fine fettle.
Just as we released Moushi from her house arrest, we had the honor of hosting Chicago based artist Stephen Eichhorn for a flowerside chat at the studio. He is currently celebrating the second printing of his iconic book, Cats and Plants.
Having seen his dumbfounding botanical collage in person, I was already a superfan, but meeting him and hearing him share about his process was sheer joy. It turns out he is a somewhat reluctant superstar as a result of his cat collages- they started out as more of an experiment than a reverie of cat worship as they might appear. Just as he thinks the phenomenon is dying out, it flares back up larger than before. One day he woke up to hear that Karl Lagerfeld had started hoarding his cat work, then that PUSS PUSS ( a culture, fashion, music and cat lover magazine out of France) wanted to feature his .
We got to talk about the obsessive, worshipful precision necessary in our respective practices, and even share a few top secret sources. Although Eichhorn is a highly educated and successful, trained artist on the ascent, I see his work somehow on a continuum with Chicago’s history of being an epicenter for the world’s most important outsider artists such as Vivian Maier or Henry Darger.
There is something about the obsessive technique, the mystical diegesis he conjures, universes with perfect and immutable laws of their own that harkens back to my favorite rule-smashing visionaries from Chicago. It’s like he doesn’t know “better” than to weave astounding art from “common” materials, spinning gold from straw so to speak. I think it is this absolute refusal to cooperate with the typical agreed upon rules of engagement so to speak that separates the actual artists from the aspiting ones, the seers from the followers.