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Bonnie Zimmer's Goddesses of the Woods Banners on display at Rensselaer Library in September, October

Display Month: 
September, 2022
Closeup of the artist next to part of her works.

Goddesses of the Woods Banners, 2019
By Bonnie Zimmer, Rensselaer
Eco printing on china silk
You can see more of my work at

These banners were created using a special natural dye process called eco-printing (see below). The set was created for a solo exhibition I had in 2019 in Lafayette called “Goddess, Totems, & Other Investigations”.

I wanted to explore this new process I had just learned and use leaves from our property. My goal was to “investigate” and answer the question: “what kind of images can I create that could suggest a mythical, invisible Goddess and her little sisters -- who I pretended lived in our woods and looked over us? ”

These banners are the answer to that question, using leaves from our property and eucalyptus from Brown’s Garden Shop (thanks, Debby, I miss you…).


    Eco printing involves using live leaves and the following steps:
  1. mordanting the fabric. Pre-soaking the fabric, in an alum solution in this case, makes the fibers accept the dye/tannins in the leaves).
  2. After mordanting the silk, I laid it out flat on a very large table. I created each of them, one at a time.
  3. After choosing the leaves, I dipped each leaf in iron water and/or vinegar, shook off the excess, and laid the leaves in my desired design.
  4. Then, a barrier fabric (an old sheet) or thin layer of plastic sheeting was laid on top to prevent bleed through.
  5. Next, because of its large scale, each banner, layered with leaves and barrier, was rolled tightly around a long flexible tube, and bound very tightly with string. My husband, Bill was my assistant for this two-person job (Thanks as always, Bill).
  6. The bound tubed was then coiled carefully into a bundle and put in a large steamer to steam for about 2 hours. In the steamer water was a special collection of natural objects – onion skins, walnuts, sweet gum balls, eucalyptus stems from earlier dyeing, and tea bags. This created an aromatic that enhanced the colors and the transfer of the tannins.
  7. After steaming, the bundle is carefully unrolled, leaves discarded or pressed for other projects, plastic discarded, and hung up to dry and cure for 72 hours.
  8. After curing, I gently hand-washed each banner in Dawn, rinsed, hung until almost dry and then carefully ironed. I added casings to the back at the top and bottom to insert rods for hanging.

I hope you enjoy the interesting and unexpected colors, textures and shapes of my eco-printed images.

September 1, 2022


Last fall these banners and companion sculpture, “My Gaia” (honoring Mother Earth) were shown at Grand Rapids, Michigan in their major, 3 week, citywide art event, ARTPRIZE. These bookmarks were given out there and I had some left over. PLEEEEASE, take several…

About the artist

Teacher and artist Bonnie Zimmer has taught art for over 40 years at all levels and in a wide range of media. She retired from full-time teaching in 2016 as Associate Professor of Art and chair of the Art Department at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana where she had taught since 1999.

Bonnie received a B.F.A. in Textiles and B.S. in Art Education from Indiana University in 1974, Bloomington, Indiana, and M.A. from Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana in 1986. She has also studied at the Appalachian Center for Crafts, Silver Point, Tennessee, the School of Visual Arts, New York, New York, and Arrowmont School of Crafts, Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Bonnie continues to selectively teach and speak as a guest artist for regional schools, universities, and organizations.

In addition to teaching, service and bringing the arts to her rural community have always been important to Bonnie. She is one of the founders of the Prairie Arts Council, where she has served on the board of directors since 1993, and coordinated a number of annual events such as ARTCAMP and the Regional School Art Shows. She is the volunteer director of PAC’s Lilian Fendig Gallery in Rensselaer, Indiana where she and her committee coordinate and present year-round art exhibitions.

Since retiring from teaching, Bonnie “revels in the luxury” of being able to spend most of her time creating. She continues to explore her signature sculptural works consisting mainly of vessels, or as she calls them “baskets that hold ideas”, and on-site installations created from natural and reclaimed materials, harvested from her rural surroundings in northwest Indiana where she has lived her entire life. In the past few years, she has taken up what she calls her hobby, creating beaded and cold connections jewelry and eco-printed clothing that she enjoys selling at art fairs, regional events, and from her home studio. She differentiates what she calls her “serious art” from her “just for fun art”. When she wants to “contemplate”, she creates sculpture and installations; when she just wants to play, she makes jewelry and clothing.

Bonnie has had many exhibitions of her art over the decades, including solo shows at The Art Museum of Greater Lafayette “Legacies” in 2018, and The Arts Federation in Lafayette: “Goddesses, Totems & Other Investigations”, 2019, and “A Show of Hands” in 2020. She has also been in many group and juried shows, including the 2022 invitational Recycle, Repurpose, Reimagine: Poetry of the Found Object”. She has received numerous awards over the years for her teaching such as Western Region Art Educator of the Year, and her art, including Best of Show at South Shore Arts Salon Show, 2016; four Indiana Arts Commission Individual Artists Grants over the years, and many more. Her work can be seen currently at South Shore Arts in Munster Indiana, September 8 – November 6, 2022, in the 79th Salon Show.

Bonnie lives in Rensselaer with her husband Bill and has three grown children and six grandchildren.

She can be reached at 219-869-3096, or at bonniezimmerartist(at)

Artist Statement

“My work explores the bounty of my life, using the ideas and materials I find in my immediate surroundings and the creative possibilities they hold. I love mining the sheds and fields of our rural Rensselaer property and my family’s farm in Wheatfield, Indiana where my 97 year old mother still lives and makes art.

The natural world has always been my primary muse and source of materials. For me, the conceptual dichotomy of nature and her potential fury and might, yet simultaneous fragility from her exploitation by humans is a favorite theme. My work usually juxtaposes natural materials with selected reclaimed human-made objects that have been discarded. Conceptually and visually, I try to combine them in such a way that each and every material and found object is presented with a sacredness I believe every object possesses.

Technically, my work is firmly grounded in fiber and textile traditions, often stitching, lashing and weaving materials together. My work is continually informed by textile traditions and the history of basketry. It is also inspired by the art/objects and ideas of indigenous cultures such as Native Americans and the historic traditions of Sub-Saharan Africans, who revered nature and lived in harmony with nature.

I like to think broadly of my work as a visual metaphor for the possibility that humans can one day again live in harmony with nature.”

Bonnie Zimmer,
April 2019