“It’s a volcano.”
“Look at the painted flowers!”
“It’s a coat for the stump.”
“It looks like something Hagrid would wear.” [A giant in the Harry Potter books.]
“I want a coat like this!”
Those are some of the comments I’ve overhead at the Coat during the past (nearly) couple of months. It DOES look a bit like a volcano—with arms! And the flowers DO look painted. (This becomes a teaching moment for me to describe the needle-felting process.) It’s so fun to hear how people see the Coat.
Earthly Coat has become a magnet for visitors. I think it’s because it has a human shape and that naturally encourages people to approach. And this is especially true of children. They run up to it like it’s a grand old friend just waiting for them to visit. I’ve also seen families gathered around the Coat enjoying a picnic lunch, with the children playing hide-and-go-seek around and within it. And I’ve heard stories of others sitting on the stump inside the Coat and reading a book. This is just what I wanted! I’m thrilled that everyone is enjoying it for their own reasons—whether that be as a volcano, an object of artistic expression, or a delightful place to cuddle up with a book.
The outdoor environment is naturally decaying the material over time, as any wool garment would decay if left to summer elements. Mainly, the decay is occurring in the wool colors that are slowly fading, with purple being the first to noticeably fade. If you visit the Coat, lift up a sleeve (gently) to see the fade factor between the shaded under-sleeve and the main exposed surface. But remarkably, yet not too surprisingly, this summer of hard rain and wind has made the surface smoother and better felted! This is most notable on the exterior.
Pest Management is either doing a brilliant job or the bugs have only been visiting the Coat to take a nap away from the brutal sun. I see no pest damage at all and the bug numbers have not increased—in fact, they seem to be fewer so I suspect Pest Management has had a part in that.
On the other hand, visitors have been very “hands on” with the Coat and it has had some notable degradation from human touch. This has occurred mainly with elements on the interior and on the level of a child’s reach and at the top where I sometimes catch people hanging! (Oh, please don’t do that!) The Coat material is slowly shifting lower on the structure due to the effects of gravity, its weight after being soaked in a rain, and that occasional grabbing/pulling by visitors. Some minor re-sewing has been needed to maintain its best attachment to the framework and to keep further visitor damage at bay. But generally, it’s holding its own out there.
The Most Exciting Development…
Can you see it? Look to the lower left of the photo above. Grass has started to grow through the base of the Coat! This is what I hoped would happen. I can hardly wait to see it develop further. Maybe flowers will grow too? I purposely didn’t seed the Coat during the install for two reasons: 1. I didn’t want to encourage plants that might be seen as unwelcome to the Arboretum. 2. I didn’t want to force my will on the Coat’s future. I wanted to see what might naturally occur over time as the Coat stood in place just waiting for nature to take over.
This is truly an ongoing and changing exhibit. I’ll keep you posted on further transformations as the summer goes on.