Narrow Bridge Candles: What are some sources of inspiration for your art? What inspired you most in designing the new labels for Narrow Bridge Candles?
Madalyn Berg: My biggest inspirations for the new designs for Narrow Bridge really were watching Jonah work and the candles themselves, outside of that, what moved the project forward was ongoing conversation with Jonah about how the candles felt and what Jonah hoped for the candles to evoke. I loved listening to the candles tell their own story, making and manipulating the drawings, finding the right fonts, and the process of chasing a feeling to elevate the product. Jonah's candles are amazing and I wanted the label to reflect the deep magic that goes into them. Visually, the biggest inspiration was printmaking. We even thought about making drypoints from my drawings and using those for the labels. Candle making is an old, old art, and so we went for a typography and a line quality that spoke to that. Part of the power of these candles and the rituals that they are inspired by is the fact that the rituals are old too. That people have been offering prayers in this way for a long time. That was inspirational for me.
In my own art practice, my biggest inspirations are nature and my body. I love the interplay between my internal and external world. I think there is a big capacity for healing there, and that is often what my work explores. This year, I lost my art studio in the Tubbs fire, so my art practice has been on hold a bit. I've had my hands full with design work and The Cabinet and rebuilding. I'm telling myself the architecture for our house, which I supported an amazing friend and architect in designing, is my big sculpture for the year. When the house is rebuilt I'm going to curate a show there and I'm sure I'll make some work for it.
My dad is Jewish and my mom is Latinx, so my traditions are complex and sometimes feel fragmented. I made a cast of my bellybutton today thinking about ancestry and this time of year when ancestors are a little closer (at least in my tradition). My point is just that art can be serious but at the same time it can be fun and simple. For me, the lines between art, ritual, and healing are so thin. I think that's a big part of what made Jonah and my collaboration feel so fruitful.
NBC: How do you integrate social consciousness into your projects?
MB: I see social issues as inextricable from health care and I do my best to bring it into the work in many ways. This past year I had the honor of teaching Physiology to the advanced students at the Gathering Thyme School of Herbal Medicine in Marin. One of my favorite things about that course was that over the nine months we took time to talk about privilege and oppression each class and ways that shows up in our physical and emotional bodies as we went organ system by organ system. In Plant Club it's the same. We are talking about the commodification of plants and advocating against wildcrafting both for the sake of sustainability and in respect for the Pomo and Coast Miwok Peoples who belong to this land at the same time as we are talking about Mugwort or Unsea, or Oak. We talk about yarrow and we talk about how it makes sense that we see energetic boundaries as walls in an American culture that builds them along our defined and defended frontiers. We talk about the problems that cause emotionally, interpersonally, ecologically, politically. There's so much I can say here, but these are a few examples. The Community Medicine Cabinet is my big social practice art project and I am doing my best to define a role, for myself and the Cabinet, that can facilitate healing here in Santa Rosa and, to me, that's relatively meaningless without a social conscious.
NBC: Tell me about The Community Medicine Cabinet - how did it come about? What are you currently working on that you are most excited about?
MB: The Cabinet came about over lunch brainstorm with a friend during my herbal education several years ago. We were both excited to make herbal medicine that fostered connection between herbalists as well as the local human and ecological community and the name grew out of that intention. Today, the Cabinet works to empower people to be able to relate to plants on their own terms and care for themselves in a sustainable and beautiful way.
My first project was the herbal first aid kit. It was a collaboration with another herbalist, and over a growing season, we made and designed these kits. I am excited to be making a new batch right now (they've long been sold out) and to be working on travel size kits this year as well.
Another project I'm excited about is Plant Club. It is a 10 month course and this will be my third year hosting it. It's less of a class and more of a community. I try and get out of the way and let the plants speak for themselves. My job is really just to hold the space and let people build relationships to the plants. We focus on a single plant each month which gives us the change to get to know each plant in an intimate way. I'm currently working on the applications, which open Nov. 15th. I'm experimenting with a distance version this coming year and I'm curious and excited to see how that will unfold.
Finally, I love working clinically! It is one of my deepest honors and my practice is almost full right now. I see human people and other animals, mostly locally but also via phone or Zoom. Recently, I've wanted to experiment with doing group consultations around a theme. I just feel we live in a lonely culture and I see so many parallel stories between my clients. I believe that healing in community is incredibly powerful and I want to see what it would be like to come together with a small group of people and have a conversation around, say anxiety or even digestion. I think it could be beautiful for people to witness each other and peel back some of the layers of these patterns together. So much imbalance is innervated by cultural imbalance and I think working in a group could be really empowering. It's something I've been excited about that's on the horizon.
The Hanukkah label re-design will be released in November 2018.
About Madalyn Berg:
Madalyn Berg is a visual artist working in a variety of media including sculpture, herbal medicine and design. She is the founder of The Community Medicine Cabinet, a three shelved social practice art project offering classes, energetic herbal consultations and herbal products. The Cabinet's mission is to empower to her community to care for itself. Its work is oriented towards wellness, social justice and nature connection. Madalyn is passionate about supporting the visions of socially conscious businesses in their labeling, brand identity, web and graphic design. It is Madalyn's pleasure to help bring forth the magic and spirit of her client's work through visual media. Madalyn lives and works in Santa Rosa, Ca.
Madalyn Berg, Cabinet Founder
Educator :: Clinical Herbalist :: Sculptor