The Healing Power of Art
Vicki Rawlins publishes book of foliage art
When Vicki Rawlins’ health was at a low point, it was art that helped her to cope. Something beautiful also blossomed from that pain, and today, after years of working on her distinctive foliage art, some of those pieces appear in her new book, The Power of Flowers: Turning Pieces of Mother Nature into Transformative Works of Art.
The art book highlights Rawlins’ foliage art in 13 categories, explains her inspiration or process, and chronicles her journey of using art for health and healing.
“I realized that I was probably going to have to write about some stuff that would be hard to write about,” she said.
Talking with Rawlins, it’s hard to believe that about 10 years ago, this vivacious woman was dealing with serious health problems. Her book explains that after an antibiotic treatment, she started to feel “immense pain” throughout her body. During this time, she fell into her foliage-based art and started to reconnect with nature, taking longer and longer trips outdoors to forage for and collect the materials she needed.
“When I was reading [the book],” Rawlins said, “I still felt, should I have [written] that? Should I have shared that? Is that making it too personal for a ‘happy-go-lucky Sister Golden?’ I was really happy that sharing [my story] could help somebody else. I wasn’t even thinking that was going to be the case.”
Using found foliage, Rawlins creates intricate scenes, animals and famous faces in her studio, and once she’s completed a piece, she photographs it and then returns the materials to nature or incorporates them into another piece.
“I always say about this art that it’s great because you have to work super fast,” she said. “Things are dying, [so] you can’t think about it. I can’t put any ego into it. You just have to go and go.”
Once Rawlins had created a sizable body of foliage work, she thought it would make a great book. Unsure of what she wanted to do and thinking it would need to be self-published, however, she kept deciding against proceeding with the project.
Then about two and a half years ago, an editor from Quarto Publishing who had been a fan of her art approached Rawlins to say she thought it would work well as a book. After some back and forth between Rawlins and the editor to make sure they were a good fit, the project began.
“When they told me it would come out in September 2022, I was like, ‘I could be dead by then!’” she said of the timeline.
As someone who describes herself as living in the moment, having to think of the book in the long term felt strange. During that time, however, Rawlins didn’t let the overhanging project change or influence her art, and ultimately, she appreciated having that much time – especially when it came to the writing portion.
She doesn’t consider herself a writer, and up until the end of the process, she was going back and forth with her editors, trying to craft the perfect balance between art and words, injecting more anecdotes and personality into the snippets that accompany her art.
In addition to writing, Rawlins was creating that whole time, submitting her work to her editor. Once it came time to create the book, though, she was no longer able to submit more work, so some of what she believes is her best work could not be included. However, one of her favorites – “Forest Bathing,” on page 168 of the book – made the cut. Rawlins described the process of creating it as catching lightning in a bottle, with the idea and the components all coming together seamlessly.
“I feel like sometimes the stars are aligned when you’re building something,” she said.
Rawlins likened choosing a favorite work to picking “your favorite child” – it’s just not possible. She poured her energy into each piece, and all of them hold special meaning for her – and in some cases, for her customers.
There was a lot she wanted to include in the book, not just for herself, but for all the people who have supported her work and the store, Sister Golden in Fish Creek, that she shares with her daughter.
There was plenty of discussion with the publishers about what was cut and what was left in, but Rawlins is pleased with the outcome, and since the book’s release, she’s received lots of positive feedback. One customer, for example, took it on her family’s vacation so her kids could use it as inspiration to create their own foliage pieces during their travels. In that way and many others, Raawlins believes the book is for all people and all ages.
“I’m not just writing this for me,” Rawlins said. “I’m writing this for all the people who have supported us.”
Sister Golden, 4147 Main St. in Fish Creek, is open with reduced hours for the winter. You can also shop year-round – and purchase Rawlins’ book – at sistergolden.com.