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She Carves Pictures On Mushrooms
"Decay is not the end of things in nature; it often forms a new beginning." This is how Rose Peterson of Storm Lake, Iowa describes her art.
Mrs. Peterson carves bracket mushrooms. The bracket mushroom has a woody top and light buff underside and has no gills on the bottom. It grows on dead or decaying trees.
Many people paint on mushrooms, but Mrs. Peterson has not found anyone else who actually carves into the mushroom. She and her husband, Aaron, and their two children, April and Scott, usually go together on mushroom hunts.
"It gives us a chance to get away from it all," she says. "Collecting them is half the fun."
The Petersons use two tools to collect the mushrooms an ax and a large knife. The knife is used to pry the mushroom loose. The ax is used to chop the mushroom and bark off the tree if it can't be loosened with the knife.
After collecting, Mrs. Peterson lets the mushrooms dry for a couple weeks in a protected area, such as their garage. If they are left outside, or do not have enough air circulation, they become moldy and are unusable. She says the best time to collect is during the winter because they are "freeze-dried."
Once they are dry, she cleans the backs or tops with a brush. She does not use anything on the carving surface because any abrasive would scar the surface permanently. The deeper she carves into the mushrooms, the darker the color becomes.
If there are flaws in the face of the mushroom, she tries to use them to her advantage in the carving. For example, one mushroom had knots on its face similar to those found in trees. So, she carved a picture of a tree around the knots.
After she has carved into the mushroom, she covers the back with a urethane varnish. She tried many types of protective finishes on the face of the mushrooms before she found one that would not blacken the face. (This is her only trade secret.)
The largest mushroom she has worked on was about 3 ft. across and 2 ft. tall. Most are about 8 in. by 10 in. or smaller.
She takes her mushroom art to about six shows a year which are sponsored by the Iowa Arts Council.
The price of a carved mushroom ranges from $2 to $100, depending on size and amount of work invested in it.
For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Mrs. Rose Peterson, 315 Parlina Lane, Storm Lake, Iowa 50583 (ph 712 732-3794).
(Reprinted from the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman)

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1983 - Volume #7, Issue #3