my history: sticks and wood

Bridgette Guerzon Mills |Resilience, encaustic mixed media, 13.5×10 inches, sold

I just fitted this piece before it heads over to its new home and the framing of it just makes me happy. Framing isn’t cheap and I know a lot of artists prefer not to frame as it is expensive and framing is a personal thing, up to personal preference. But for the pieces that I make in my RePurpose series I always do the framing, because it is part of the piece. I want it to be done correctly. What can I say? I used to work in a frame shop many many years ago and have seen how a frame can make a piece or sing or fall flat. My personal history informs my decisions of today.

The other week I sat down and visited my flickr site to clean it up and organize it. I had over 2200 photos on it! My first photo was uploaded in 2007 and I was able to delete photos that were not relevant to my art career/journey and got it down to 1800. That is still a lot of photos and a lot of making. It was interesting though to see how I am still working in similar themes- birds, trees, earthy work and using found objects and inserting natural elements into my mixed media works. And as I went through the years seeing how I honed in on certain elements and my statement became more clear to me, at least.

I decided today to take a quick stroll through memory lane, specifically looking at twigs and wood. I made this bird book when I was living in Seattle in 2007 and I used a twig as part of the book cover. I had been making handbound books for about 6 years at that point. I used to make and sell blank journals where I cut a window in the front cover and simply placed a smooth stone or seaglass I found on the shores of the Puget Sound that I would then wrap in wire or little twigs I’d pick up and wrap in wire as well. But I believe this was the first mixed media panel that I added a stick to.

Bridgette Guerzon Mills | Hidden, mixed media blank journal, 2007, Seattle

Then we moved to Chicago and I no longer had the Puget Sound a simple five minute walk from my house. But I was still picking up sticks and adding them to my journal covers. I also started picking up rusty bits of metal and incorporating them into my work, but that’s for another post, another day.

Bridgette Guerzon Mills |Gather, mixed media blank journal, 2010, Chicago

In 2013 we moved to Towson, Maryland where we had a yard in a wooded area and my husband also set up a workshop for all his tools and saws that his father was giving to him at the time. I also had access to my sister’s barn where they had lots of old wood planks laying around. I had always been concerned about climate change and the environment since my 20s, and also living in Seattle it is just a given to constantly live and breathe Re-use, Reduce, Recylce; but experiencing the flood that changed our lives in early 2013 in Illinois really pushed me to think even more about climate change and climate catastrophes and how reckless consumption is such a crisis for our planet and will affect more and more people if we don’t address it. I started incorporating more salvaged wood, metal, found objects into my work.

Each Other
Bridgette Guerzon Mills | Each Other, encaustic mixed media, 16 1/2 x12 inches, 2015, Towson
Bridgette Guerzon Mils, Page 1, Collections, encaustic mixed media, 2015, Towson
Outside of Time
Bridgette Guerzon Mills | Outside of Time, encaustic mixed media, 18 1/2 x 15 1/2 inches, 2018, Towson
Bridgette Guerzon Mills, To Be a Tree, Sheltering, encaustic mixed media assemblage, 11 7/8 x 6 inches, 2020, Towson

I could not write a post about my use of wood in my work without touching upon one of my outdoor installations! I went from including little twigs on my book cover panels to then creating a book out of moss and installing it in the woods. ha! Love it. This photo is from 2016, but my first moss book in the woods installation was in 2014.

Bridgette Guerzon Mills |Primordial Lessons, outdoor installation at Adkins Arboretum, Ridgely MD, 2016

And now here I am in 2021, still thinking about the same things, still creating earthy works, still holding sticks and stones in my hands and seeing their beauty and wanting to share that with the world. That wonder has always been with me since I was a child. One of my older sisters told me that I used to come into her room and give her gifts of pebbles and sticks that I would pick up after spending hours by myself outside. She is one of the nicest people I know and back then she was the same and thank me for my beautiful gifts even though it was literally a plain gray pebble or a wilting dead weed.

“My work is a form of evolved contemplation. If you live in nature for a time, you have almost mystical experiences. You get into a state of lyrical excitement and become part of the things that are happening around you: the grass quivering, the birds singing. On a sunny day there is an extraordinary feeling of energy, as light dazzles, bees buzz, birds dart, lizards slither. Nature moves through your veins in a spiritual way, and then the work of art flows out like birdsong.” – John Wolseley

I have yet to fully live in nature, but it’s a dream to live on some land. A wooded lot. Near a mountain and water of some sort. And be inspired by the land I live on. I would love that.


  1. I continue to feel your art as deeply as any that I’ve loved. It speaks to me of both vanishing and persistence. As a climate activist and regular wanderer of the Stony Run trail, I often see things that make me think of your trees and your birds, and your trees and your birds make me think of what I see on the trail. I would love another piece for my home.

    1. John, I don’t think you realize what a gift your words are to me, thank you so much! To know that someone who cares about this earth and who goes out in nature and thinks of my creations as it relates to what is seen – means so much. Thank you.

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