As Valentine’s Day approaches, we become surrounded by images of hearts, making us think about how to find the perfect valentine to share with our family or friends.
For local artist, Pam Allen, the discovery of hearts, especially those found in nature, is not connected to the one day that celebrates love, but is a year-round pastime, or possibly even an obsession.
When you visit her home in Marchmont, which she shares with her artisan husband Paul, you immediately see evidence of her passion for this symbol of love, from the hand-crafted hearts hanging at the front door, to outdoor ice ornaments, to the heart stones used in the home’s unique stone fireplace.
Allen says she has been collecting hearts for over 10 years and remembers the first one that caught her eye.
“I quite literally stepped onto a beach, looked down, and there it was,” explained Allen about the first heart-shaped stone she found. “I love that these stones have formed naturally this way (in the shape of a heart).”
She is particular about what she collects, though. “I don’t collect every heart I see. It has to appeal to me and be different. It has to have some artistic merit to it.”
Seeing the artistic merit within the natural environment is what Allen says motivates her to spend time outdoors where she collects not only hearts, but whatever she sees that inspires her, whether a fallen branch, piece of driftwood or even historic artifacts.
“I love things that are old, odd and unusual.”
This is evident in Allen’s art, which ranges from her exquisite brooches made from clock gears and vintage pieces, lamps made from twigs and driftwood, to her more recent wall art pieces made with found objects and discarded materials.
Describing herself as a collage artist, Allen explains that everything she does involves putting together different elements into a finished piece. And although work has slowed down during the pandemic, she has come up with new ways to express her creativity.
“The restrictions of the pandemic have been tough,” Allen admits. “Like other artists, I am really missing the interaction with people; we have lost the ability to show our work. It definitely affects your energy to create.”
Over the summer months, during her many walks outdoors, Allen discovered a new medium for her collages – moss, which she turned into artistic, living tabletops.
“I’m just nuts for moss; there’s so much texture and so many colours and variations of green. It’s a different kind of collage – something that you can water and care for.”
And to help stay connected during the lockdown, Allen has been creating collages by making one-of-a-kind greeting cards. She calls them her “anti-Covid” cards and are made using images and words from old magazines and other sources.
In addition to the almost 200 cards she has produced and shared, Allen has also surprised friends with winter ice ornament gifts – evergreens and berries frozen into a hanging ice heart.
Allen’s collage art form is certainly well-suited to the way she enjoys the outdoors.
“I always, always have my eyes on the ground. You never know what you’re going to find on the ground.”
Among all of her discoveries of the odd, unusual and old, Allen’s favourites are the heart-shaped stones and rocks.
“I see them as signs that we are not walking this path alone. They remind me of special moments and people and make me more aware of the beauty around us.”