MARSHFIELD, Vt. (WCAX), June 11, 2018,  If you see this woman circling outside, it means she's looking for materials that can be used in her next piece. Her circular-inspired nature art is Made in Vermont.

When Michelle Wallace turned 40 last year, she started thinking about the next 10 years of her life. "I wanted to spend more time in nature and I live in this beautiful place, and as everyone knows, we all get way too busy and the day-to-day grind of our lives," Wallace said.

Wallace has always been a big fan of Mandalas. "Because they're beautiful," she said.

They're symetrical artwork, often circular in form, that contains an identifiable center point. "In Hinduism and Buddhism there's a lot of different mandala type designs that are used as an aid, for like focusing one's attention or for meditation," she said.

There's nothing more relaxing for Wallace than taking a walk through nature, witnessing the symmetry of certain flowers and plants. So, it made sense for her to create nature Mandalas. "I never know what I'm going to create before I do it," she said.

Wallace gathers whatever draws her attention, either in the forest or in the Garden of her Marshfield home. She starts in the center and works her way out using symmetry. It takes about an hour to complete. "The details are pretty incredible when when you look at the plants closely," she said.

After she's finished, Wallace snaps photos, choosing one that will be the image she shares on a postcard, journal, calendar or bookmark. "What I find is people are drawn to very different ones, very different colors," she said.

Each mandala has a one word title. It can be a prayer, a hope or an inspiration. "This one is the first one I made titled 'Beauty.' Together, my son and I made this one actually -- 'Authentic.' So this is the one I made on my 40th birthday," she said

In just the last year, Wallace's nature mandalas have ended up for sale in about 60 stores across the country, with the majority in Vermont. She sells them through Facebook, Instagram and her own website. "I didn't expect the connections with the people. It gives people a chance to let go of their fear to connect," she said.

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Nature Mandala

Vermont Public Radio (August 2017)

Plainfield Artist Creates Ephemeral Works And Then Casts Them To The Wind

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Michelle Wallace knows her gardens very well. "I have a deep love for the plants ... I think that's where this art is rooted," she said. Recently, those garden spaces have acted as her art supply store. The leaves, flowers, stems, seeds and pods that the Plainfield artist gathers become one-of-a-kind mandalas, which she photographs and then casts to the wind.

Recently, Wallace, who owns Nature Mandala Art: Vermont, spoke to VPR about the process and intention behind her artwork.

Wallace explained that a mandala is Sanskrit word for "circle." They are spiritual and ritual symbols in both Hinduism and Buddhism and can be used to focus attention.

Wallace said she has always had a deep connection to the symbols and has painted and drawn them in the past. She recently began to gather natural materials, create the patterns, then photograph them. 

After choosing just one image, she discards the rest. The materials used to make the mandalas are then taken away by the wind. Those photographs are printed on greeting cards and canvases which are available at 18 stores and florists throughout Chittenden and Washington counties.

"There is just so much going on in our world and so much distracting us from being in the day-to-day moments of our life ... I think that the plants are always there. We've evolved to respond to their beauty."

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