Nature Artist

You can’t see the birds coming. It’s trippy,’ artist Erica
Fielder says of her creation, the bird feeder hat. ‘Little
chickadees land with a big thump, and jays will knock the hat right
off!’ Attracting birds to the hat takes time and stillness because
any movement is threatening, and, to birds, hands look eerily like
paws. ‘You have to slow way down to wear the hat,’ says Fielder,
who has had to sit still for several hours to coax her timid
guests.

Growing up in Palo Alto, California, as the child of nature
enthusiasts, Fielder was curious about the outdoors from the start.
When she unearthed a worm or a bug that neither she nor her parents
could identify, the entire family would head to Stanford and ask a
resident scholar. Fielder’s fascination with nature continued into
adulthood. After college, she worked for 10 years as a naturalist
at Jughandle Creek Farm, an educational retreat center in Caspar,
California, teaching children about the natural world.

But a passion for art always tugged at Fielder’s heart. She had
studied fine art in college and she occasionally painted, but it
never felt like enough. ‘I was so angsty because I couldn’t really
connect art and nature,’ says Fielder. ‘I would see people looking
at my nature paintings and think, ‘Why are they in the gallery
looking at this? Why are aren’t they out in nature?” Fielder, 58,
eventually realized that she needed to create art that would draw
people into the natural world, not away from it. She has
since designed numerous art projects that foster closer
relationships with nature.

Fielder created the bird feeder hat out of papier-mache and
manzanita tree branches, placed it near an existing bird feeder,
and then disappeared. Gradually, she increased her proximity to the
hat, finally wearing it, and now she has had up to four birds
feeding off it at once, mumbling happily to themselves as they eat.
The experience, Fielder says, is a sensory delight. ‘You have the
sense of weight on your head,’ she muses, ‘and the sense of gravity
and vibration and sound.’

To learn more about Erica Fielder’s work, visit
www.ericafielder-ecoartist.com.

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