Monday, October 27, 2014

Monarch and Milkweed


I believe most people on Earth realize our climate and ecology are changing.  Yet even in the age of information sharing and awareness, we have not seen a large-scale, coordinated effort to reverse these disturbing trends. We the people (individuals, political parties, corporations, governments) have failed to connect the health of the environment to our OWN personal survival.  We consider Ebola and terrorism as existential threats worthy of multi-national cooperation but ignore the fact that we, as a species, are making our planet less able to support human life.

Most adults can recall a different world of plants, insects, animals and coastlines compared to our childhood days.  I'm talking about something more than just nostalgia and wishful thinking.  Since 1970, the year I was born, the Earth has lost over HALF its wildlife. Holy %$#!  “If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news,” said Professor Ken Norris, Director of Science at the Zoological Society of London.


In my young son's lifetime (9 years), Monarch Butterfly populations decreased by over 90% - from an estimated 550 million in 2004 to just about 33 million in 2013.  The decline is due in large part ot the loss of the Monarch's main food supply, Milkweed.  So here's part of the problem.  Much of the reporting and news about climate change and ecological trends are given in these cold statistics. People usually respond with "Why should I care about butterflies and weeds?  I have enough to worry about, trying to put dinner on the table."

For this challenge as always, my first priority is to create something beautiful. I'm trying to use that to remind people WHY we should care. These beautiful creatures are disappearing from our world.  Then hopefully once I have the viewer's attention, explain how there's more at stake than just the loss of colorful insects.

As Lindsay Smith of National Geographic put it "monarchs have long been considered both an indicator of our ecological health and a representative of pollinator populations."  That means putting dinner on the table IS related to the health of butterflies and weeds. It seems counter-intuitive for farmers to see weeds and bugs as part of a healthy farm and increased food production.  But by allowing milkweed to grow in some areas of their land and stopping the use of devastating herbicides like Roundup, bees and butterflies may survive to pollinate their other cash crops.  Without insect pollinators, foods like apples, oranges, almonds and onions would all but disappear, too.  And that's bad for everyone's dinner table.

Technical details: I started with hand dyed fabric for the background, cut and layered bits of hand dyed and batik cotton fabrics using raw edge applique to create the butterfly and flowers, stitched/quilted everything together and added small details with polyester and rayon threads, hand-guided machine stitching.  Finished size 40cm W x 80cm H.


  1. Lovely Kate! You've certainly succeeded in educating me!

  2. Beautiful Kate with a powerful message. The TIQE 16 exhibition will be amazing, I think.

  3. Fantastic piece, Kate! A beautiful, powerful message. I love the depth created by the background fabric with the focus on the monarch.

  4. Beautiful work, Kate! I agree with Lisa-Marie, your work will educate many audience about butterfly ecology. Like Sue, I believe TIQE 2016 will be amazing because of all of the wonderful works from V9.

  5. Another stunning work, Kate, and rather poignant because I saw so few monarch butterflies this year. It was a notable decline.