Under the Instagram name “la-mamigami", Esme experiments, shares, and nurtures a plant-based art practice honoring the "miracles-of-being" that are the native plants around her through designing original, accurate, origami designs for California native plants.
“Folding in nature is such an integral part of how life forms have had to evolve… it’s part and parcel of how life is - you have to fold so much information into these small packages.” - Esme Cabrera
Exploring their spirit, medicine, history and culture, mathematical, scientific, and sacred patterns with curiosity and deep observation is integral to Esme's origami designs.
Esme notes that there is a whole sector of the origami world dedicated to botanical origami, and she knew early on in her renewed practice during the first Covid years that her focus would be on the designing of folds for California native plants. While she is not sure where her folding artistry, design, and plant practice is going, she knows she needs to keep folding and see what unfolds - she will know its when she folds it.
Her process in beginning any new design is as follows: "When I start a new flower structure, I'll first take note of its basic shapes, proportions and components, preferably by observing the plant itself, and I'll think about what possible origami bases I can start from in order to start "sketch folding" to tease out the basic shapes I want. I'll often have to start with different shapes besides a typical square like an equilateral triangle, pentagon, hexagon and the like depending on the flower structure. The goal as I'm doing this as well, is to fold using as many regular reference points as possible (folding from corner to corner, bisecting angles, using regular proportions) so I can unfold, repeat and modify as many times as needed, as well as being teachable. Origami is meant to be shared. I often use parchment paper during the design process too, it's inexpensive, pliable and strong. Once I have a design I'm satisfied with, I unfold it so I can use that as a guide to refold using the final paper that I think best suits the model in approximating color, texture and/or essence of the flower. I might paint in details that help the viewer identify the flower, and I feel I've done my job well when folks do!"
Following her efforts to know these plants intimately enough to fold them provides us ALL with a portal to creatively reimagining our collective and growing ways forward.
"There’s something so spiritual in this simple act of folding….it’s just simple motions that can bring about so much complexity from a humble piece of paper that the wind can take away. These are ephemeral items that are not meant to last - what I want to last is your impression of them, and what they might inspire you to go then and look for. If I have done that in getting you to do this, then I have done my work. ” - Esme Cabrera
Ingenious, colorful, biodiverse, full of play, discovery, a community of sharing, plant-and-place-centric, I cannot imagine a more powerful blessing to usher in the new year than this conversation.
You can follow Esme's work on Instagram: @la_mamigami
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JOIN US again next week, when we continue our theme of reimagining how we grow our way forward in conversation with another artist, Carly Glovinski whose work on the coast of Maine has fantastically reimagined the poet May Sarton’s home of Wild Knoll into an unexpected and exuberant garden– that's next week right here, listen in!
Speaking of Plants & Place sprouting back up soon....
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Thinking out loud this week....
When Esme reflects on her journey to the native plant focused botanical art she is now undertaking for beauty and for biology – and she says: “All the things I value now as an adult were there in that moment” – I found myself placing a marker in my brain to return to this exact thought. IS there anything you do in your life that captures this same sentiment for you? For me it is being in my garden – it is art, beauty, spirit, engagement, ritual, and constant discovery, it is play and it is powerful.
We have come so far in the past now 8 full years of Cultivating Place and these conversations exploring the myriad, prismatic, and wonder-full human impulse to garden, but there is always more reimaging to do to grow the future we know is possible – a future that values all of this.
I will be folding these mindsets into my gardening practice in word and deed in the coming seasons – thanks for being along with me.
One more sentence I want to pull out from this conversation – so profound and so beautiful I wanted to highlight it:
Esme shares: there’s something so spiritual in this simple act of folding….it’s just simple motions that can bring about so much complexity from a humble piece of paper that the wind can take away. These are ephemeral items that are not meant to last - what I want to last is your impression of them, and what they might inspire you to go then and look for. If I have done that in getting you to do this, then I have done my work….In service, in service”
That too is how I see the work and play and community of Cultivating Place. Over 400 episodes, 51 new conversations in the last year, over 1.2 million listens in 2023 – it is our impressions on one another, on the land, on the present, and the future that matters.
From seed to shining seed.
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