Art from invasives: An interview with Kim and Emily

Kim and Emily

FMR volunteers Emily Sauer and Kimberly Boustead, pictured here at one of our volunteer events, spread invasives awareness through art.

FMR volunteers Kimberly Boustead and Emily Sauer, graphic designer and creative director respectively at a Minneapolis-based design firm, constructively approach the habitat destruction invasive species can cause. They remove buckthorn, garlic mustard and more at our stewardship events, and they’re using their creativity to spread awareness about stopping the spread of invasive species.

Read more about their favorite river spots, buckthorn berry ink and a new spin on the muscle tee.

What brought you to volunteer with FMR?

Kimberly Boustead: I heard about volunteering for FMR through a friend. It sounded like volunteering at FMR meant being outside, learning a little bit about our river and the life that surrounds it, and feeling good about helping to protect it. That seemed like a pretty great way to spend a couple hours, so I signed up.

Emily Sauer: Kim told me about FMR. When I learned I could spend time with a friend, be outside AND do something good for the environment, I was like, "You had me at hello."

KB: Emily and I have been volunteer buddies since 2016, participating at events such as buckthorn hauling, garlic mustard pulling and native prairie planting. I particularly loved the Pledge to Pull garlic mustard event because we learned how to identify and pull and then could return to Crosby Farm to put in more time as it fit for the month. It was a wonderful excuse to visit that spot on the river.

In what ways are you working with FMR now?

ES: We still participate at FMR volunteering events about 2-3 times a year, but have begun collaborting with FMR and Water Bar to organize workshops that center around art making and invasive species.

Last year we had our first — a buckthorn wreath-making event at Water Bar — and it was a smash success! There are plans for more invasive species-themed workshops in 2019. Stay tuned for more on those in the next few months.

Event participants with buckthorn wreaths
Two workshop participants display their buckthorn wreath creations. (Photo by Shanai Matteson for Water Bar & Public Studio)

How can art help us engage with issues like invasive species?

KB: Approaching issues like invasive species doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom! Art is a good way to prove this by showing that we have the capacity to help fight invasive species while enjoying ourselves by creating. It’s a new entry point for people.

ES: For me, art is about making the viewer pause and consider something they ordinarily wouldn’t have given a second glance to. Art inherently brings an awareness to itself — and therefore its subject matter.

What creative experiments have you tried using invasives or about our natural world?

KB: I fell deep into some buckthorn enthusiasm this fall and played around with making ink from the berries. It results in a very beautiful blueish, purple hue. I really liked the idea of stealing and destroying its seeds to use for creating. It seems like the perfect crime against buckthorn.

Buckthorn ink process

I was able to use the ink to print woodcut and linocuts, including a woodcut of a buckthorn branch, using the berries of the branch I used as reference to make the ink. I'm hoping to put more attention into making ink this next season to dream up other uses for it!

Prints of buckthorn branches

I've tried creating a handful of ecosystem-inspired art lately too. I've made many informal pencil sketches, paintings and woodcuts. One of my favorites is a collaboration with Water Bar to make a “Mussel Tee”, a sleeveless tee with a mussel pattern.

Sleeveless tee with mussels design
You can get your very own mussel tee at Water Bar's shop.

What's your favorite urban river spot?

KB: Daytime: Pike Island, the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. Nighttime: Sample Room docks in NE.

ES: Oh man! How about my top three?

  1. East River Parkway, between Marshall Street and Summit Ave. There is a foot path just down from the main road that gives the most exclusive views of the river. 
  2. Water Power Park in St. Anthony Main. It’s impressive to be so close to the lock and dam. 
  3. West River Parkway heading north between Franklin Avenue and Bohemian Flats Park. Specifically on bike, specifically at dusk and specifically going downhill. Magical.

Thanks for all you do for the river, Kimberly and Emily!

To help FMR restore habitat and get rid of invasives, sign up for a volunteer event. Interested in one of the upcoming invasive art events? Follow us Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for updates.