Abstract Constellations: A Woodland Ramble With Artist Amy Quinn

“What I want to get across with the narrative of my work is the coexistence of man and nature,”
Emma Haworth
July 7, 2024

“I love an unfurling fern,” says Amy, stopping to point out a rain-studded fern sprouting from a tree’s trunk, each leafy finger as intricate as a snowflake. The rain hushes as we enter a sprawling canopy of oak, black alder, and chestnut, greeted by the lofty trills of great tits and dunnocks. Grizedale Brook weaves past us on the right, tumbling over mossy stones; reeds rustle in spots of escaped breeze; a tousle of buttercups and ferns clamber towards us on the left; everything is a wild, sumptuous green.

Amy is a northern artist whose work centres on botanical contemporary collages – we are here to forage flora, which she will use for printing. She has watched the tree-trunk fern grow over months of visiting this pocket of woodland; it is clear how much attention she pays to her environment, noticing its changes and movements as astutely as we might with our own bodies. An artist cannot capture the physical, emotional, or visual, without first paying attention to the finite detail, and Amy perceives the intricacies of the natural world.


As rain patters the treetops, a soothing rhythm, we discuss how paying attention is vital for reconnecting with nature, and Amy feels she is observing more since taking up foraging and photography.

“I’m always noticing intricate moments of beauty in my day-to-day, even in cities – like flowers in pavement cracks,” she says, and I think back to when we found tiny pink geraniums poking out from a wall in Lancaster. 

We breathe in damp bark and moss as we step over streams, rustling in waterproofs and walking boots. A cluster of ferns are still in their embryonic curls, and Amy mentions that these are her favourite plant because of their symmetrical structure; nature’s geometry strongly inspires her craft. 

“I’ve always been inspired by the natural world,” she says when I ask about her earlier artwork – ceramics imprinted with botanicals. 

“In high school textiles, I made a twelve-foot windbreaker which was inspired by the ocean, rock pools, and Cornwall’s wild landscape; we have an abundance of nature on our doorstep, which we sometimes take for granted.” 

Red campion speckles the path’s edge in magenta, and we stop here to begin foraging. I have never foraged before, so Amy explains the Woodland Trust guidelines she follows to ensure she doesn’t over-forage or take any rare plants. I watch as she gently inspects the red campion for signs of insect life (in which case, they are not taken) and then cuts the stem’s base using a nifty pocketknife that belonged to her grandad, who was a ‘really big influence’ on her creativity. 

“I feel very close to my grandad when I’m making,” she says, examining some nearby ferns. 

“I’ve got lots of his old tools that I’m using in my current practice – he did lots of woodwork, and with my crafted elements I can really feel that connection to him.” 

I consider how we are all closer to our ancestors when spending time in nature: their histories and secrets coiled in tree rings.

Amy’s art degree was in three-dimensional design – she ‘instantly fell in love’ with this form at college where she had access to a kiln, and went on to become an experienced glassblower, creating work inspired by Icelandic landscapes. Her current practice has evolved from this background, rooted in materials and geometry, as she says: “There’s something about material combinations – wood, glass, concrete – that really tickles my brain.”

This is evident in her collages: coalescing shapes holding an earthy materiality, each somehow corporeal yet delicately ethereal. I ask why Amy combines contemporary shapes with imprints of ancient flora, and she gestures to the woodland around us.

“What I want to get across with the narrative of my work is the coexistence of man and nature,” she says, giving the example of the manmade wooden path we walk on, suspended above marshland, with nature’s wildness straggled around it. She is seeking to combine these elements in her work, dispelling any notion that they exist as a dichotomy. 

We have to stop talking here because we spot a foxglove, its freckled mauve domes rising regally next to a tree with wood sorrel carpeted beneath. Amy crouches with her camera as I take an amateur snap on my phone, and I contemplate how art and photography not only pay attention to nature, but perhaps preserve it – like fossils in amber cases. 

When I tell Amy, her face lights up: “I wonder if I could look into using tree sap as an alternative to glue.”

Not wanting to create waste or harm the planet with her artwork, she is aiming for all aspects of her business to be plastic-free. 

 “I think I would be doing nature a disservice if I wasn’t looking at making my practice as sustainable as it can be,” she says. 

A conscientious search for alternatives to plastic-based glue led her to using cork and brass pins, which now form an integral part of her work. Cork, she tells me, is a fully regenerative material; with only the bark harvested every nine years, the trees remain growing and sequestering carbon for over two hundred years. 

We pause to identify some dainty blush-pink flowers, which we find to be valerian, and Amy’s passion for the preservation of the natural world pours out of her as we share our worries about climate change.

She says: “The planet is distressed. We are living in an era where we are getting bombarded with news: a new species is extinct, plant life is struggling, there’s so much litter, our water is polluted […] If we don’t save nature, take pride in it, look after it, nurture it, what does that mean for humanity? What does that mean for us as a species?”

In rendering nature through direct prints, she hopes to provoke these thoughts and incite positive action. I admire how much action she takes herself, most recently volunteering to litter-pick at Knott End beach. She is a perfect embodiment of her words and artistic intentions; her work is organic and tied deeply to environmentalist principles. 

The brook has curved round to meet us, and Amy hops across to inspect some narrow ferns; she is clearly at home in nature. As a child, Amy spent a lot of time around the River Wyre or on ‘cheap days out’ exploring with her parents – she even had a ‘walking party’ in Windermere for her tenth birthday. Laughing, she calls herself ‘feral’, detailing how she often went on barefoot walks as a teenager. Amy is unapologetically connected to the soil beneath her feet. 

“I think it’s so important for mental health,” she continues, explaining how she hopes her collages are an ‘extension of nature’, transporting its peace into people’s homes. 

“Being out in nature is so calming, if you just pause,” and we do, the syrupy nectar of honeysuckle tickling our noses, “hearing the stream, the leaves in the wind, the rain, the birds – it’s a soothing mechanism. This is what I want people to feel when they’re looking at my artwork.” 

The rain eases as we approach the end of our walk; soft, sandy dapples of sunlight filter through the trees. Amy kneels by a stone bench, takes out her flower-pressing kit, and talks me through the process: a layer of cardboard, spread the foraged flora on top, then blotting paper, more cardboard and repeat. Oak leaves, ferns, red campion, and some grasses are delicately placed between each layer, before tightening the wooden press. They will take four to six weeks to fully press and dry, she says, before being used for printing.

The sun brightens as I ask how a piece moves from flower-pressing, to print, to collage. 

“It always starts off with my sketchbook,” says Amy, squinting at me under her Patagonia cap. 

“Once the flora has been foraged and pressed, I create direct botanical prints from the plants, picking up the beauty and intricacies of each petal and leaf – a perfect representation. Once papercut, I then decide which materials, shapes, and colours to combine them with.”

She works by spreading out all the crafted elements in a ‘semi-organised, semi-chaotic manner’, and then instinctively pieces together what she calls ‘abstract constellations’.

“This constellation is a piece that needs to be well-balanced but a little bit unruly,” she says, and I am struck by how keenly she mirrors the natural world; her work and her process are both, like nature, balanced but unpredictable, symmetrical yet abstract. 

Amy packs up her equipment and we head towards the woodland gate, the surrounding grasses tugged by wind as a wren chatters. When I ask her thoughts on the relationship between nature and art, she tells me simply: “I think nature is art.” 

An Amy Quinn piece of art on a wall
Amy's Final Piece In Situ

After all, art – light, shade, symmetry, shape – is learnt from nature. Art and nature are two sides of a mirror, and artists like Amy turn this mirror, teaching us to observe and notice, kindling hope that our attention could instigate change. We paradoxically live within and yet against nature, but Amy believes we can be unshackled from this state.

She says: “I don’t think we need to look to the future for how to save the natural world; I think we need to look into the past for the answers – how did we used to live alongside nature?” 

Through her art, Amy advocates for the natural world: preserving its beauty, rebuilding connection, offering people a piece of hope to hang on their walls. She wants to inspire others to turn the mirror and take action, as she says: “If we all did it, where could we be?”

You can learn more about Amy's artwork by visiting www.theamyquinn.co.uk or @the.amy.quinn on Instagram.