Nature influences everything for me,” says artist Dawn Wolfe, whose colorful cut-paper collages of birds, butterflies, and other flora and fauna have long been One Kings Lane favorites. The artist describes her style as “Californian,” and we agree: Dawn’s work is an alluring mix of laid-back and elegant, mirroring the vibe of her sunny home studio in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California.
For her latest series, Dawn turned her focus to a new medium: black-and-white photography. The subjects? Natural specimens from the artist’s own collection, lovingly amassed over decades.
To bring out all the gorgeous details of these finds—which range from antlers to nests to feathers—Dawn knew she needed to go big. “A normal camera wasn’t going to cut it for what I wanted,” says Dawn, who instead enlisted the help of a specialist with a rare type of scientific camera by Swedish maker Hasselblad. “It has the highest resolution on the market,” she notes, allowing for teeny objects to be rendered oversize without losing any definition. “The crispness of every detail—even when blown up to this size—is incredible.”
Read on for more about how these works came to life, then shop the photography collection here.
One Kings Lane: How did this new collection come about?
Dawn Wolfe: Living on the coast in California surrounded by so much beauty, I wanted to find a way to bring it inside. I had a vision for shots that I wanted of these natural specimens I have been collecting since I was a little kid: I knew I wanted them to be superdetailed, and to be able to print really huge so you could see every minute detail.
What inspired your focus on this subject matter?
I grew up in the Santa Cruz Mountains and was always immersed in nature and collected everything I ran across—rocks and shells and driftwood from the beach, feathers and nests, eggs, and even a hornet’s nest. I had my own “natural history museum” out on our deck that family and neighbors would have to pay admission for; this made more sense to me than a lemonade stand!
I have kept most of my treasures to this day. I think each specimen is so beautiful, and I wanted the viewer to stop for a moment and see the sculptural beauty of a piece of driftwood or a stone that has been tumbled in a stream for thousands of years. In these shots you see more of the detail than you do with your naked eye.
Do you have a favorite photograph?
I adore the feather shots… I have them hanging in my own house. They are of common quail feathers, but with this level of detail they are simply amazing. I also think there is something calming about them—I have them in bedrooms.
What’s your go-to cure for artist’s block?
Get outside! Actually, I never have artist’s block. I have the opposite—too many ideas to actually act on.