Secrets of Nature needlework project


The ‘Secrets of Nature’ needlework project was a collaborative enterprise involving patients at the Boston Medical Center who were under treatment for cancer. The inspiration for this project came to me while I was working on a series of paintings after my own experience with chemotherapy at the Boston Medical Center in 2007.

In reading drug facts I learned that many drugs used in cancer treatment are derived from plants and I was fascinated to discover that some of these plants we see in our city parks and tend to in our own gardens. My interest in the beauty of botanical prints inspired me to artistically document plants that contain anti cancer compounds. While experiencing an artistic block I began to embroider the plant Taxus brevifolia to give me time and space away from painting. Through this meditative process of stitching I came to realize that sharing this with patients who were going through cancer treatment might be a welcome opportunity for them to embrace their healing journey through the art of embroidery.

I designed twenty-five botanical drawings which were transferred onto linen or vintage damask napkins for patients to embroider as a means to reflect on their personal experience through the therapeutic and meditative practice of needlework. This project gave me the opportunity to express my gratitude to the Boston Medical Center and medical science that gave me life and to the wisdom of the natural world that sustains us each and every day.

The finished pieces were exhibited at the Boston Medical Center, Shapiro Center Lobby, September 2012- January 2013,

Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center February - September 2014,

Massachusetts General Hospital North Shore Center for Outpatient Care, Danvers, MA February - May 2015

At the conclusion of the exhibit the embroidered pieces were returned, with my sincere appreciation, to the patients who stitched them.


all images © gisela griffith 2012