From Seed to Flight: The Milkweed Plant and the Monarch Butterflies’ Journey


Art Books Cleveland (ABC) recently completed its first-ever collaborative project. The brain child of Tony Williams, the butterfly book represents the work of 18 artists, each creating a unique representation of a monarch. These disparate pieces were gathered into a single sculpture celebrating handmade paper, books, and the merging of creative visions.

As Williams reports, “with the help of Jane Hammond providing the members with milkweed plants and seeds the project was on its way. I designed a prototype structure, found a resource for the paper and presented it to the group. [Then] it took on a life of its own and grew in to an amazing project.” Williams  was eager to showcase the varying skills and techniques of ABC members.

Artists were each provided with a single sheet of milkweed paper, a template of a monarch butterfly, and instructions to design the monarch’s wings. Rachel Morris noted that “we were not quite sure how to envision the finished book. . . we had little idea how our own image would work, let alone the numerous butterflies other artists were creating.”

Morris drew inspiration from a wax technique that she was trying with another book. “I was delighted with the way the wax melted into the paper. It gave the entire image a soft translucent effect.” Gene Epstein’s butterfly “was inspired by the miraculous experience I had being at a salt lick at the peak of butterfly migration.  We were surrounded by thousands and thousands of butterflies.” Ellen Strong used a marbling technique. She “moved the marbling oils in the pan to resemble the markings of a butterfly.”

Epstein indicated that “We artists usually work alone, so it was refreshing to be part of a collaborative project.”

Williams concurs. “In an artist’s collaboration, there is mutual respect and the understanding that the work belongs to a collective.  All those involved benefit from the exposure and admiration of the finished product.”

The finished sculpture is a delightful compilation of creative efforts. According to Rachel Morris, “The cumulative effect of so many interpretations of the simple directions is a delight for anyone who has had an opportunity to study the book.”

Copies of the final product will be available in book form in the Morgan Conservatory store, and the sculpture will be displayed during Octavofest. Check the sites below for information about location and dates.

Get more information about Octavofest 2017 at:, or “like” Octavofest on Facebook.


Photo courtesy of Tony Williams


Art Books Cleveland

c/o the Morgan Conservatory

1754 East 47th Street

Cleveland, Ohio 44103