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Meet the Creators: Anne Louise Burdett and Chelsea Granger of Dirt Gems

Photo of author Anne Louise Burdett and illustrator Chelsea Granger hugging each other and smiling joyfully at the camera in front of greenery and flowers
Anne Louise Burdett (left) & Chelsea Granger (right) / credit Mauricio Abascal

Jumpstart your season of growth with Dirt Gems: Plant Oracle Deck and Guidebook from author-illustrator creative team Anne Louise Burdett and Chelsea Granger. This earth-based 65-card oracle deck and guidebook set shares the wisdom of our plant allies in all their natural beauty and complexity.

We invited author Anne Louise and illustrator Chelsea to interview each other about their creative processes. Read on to learn more about Anne Louise’s first plant relationships, the development of the deck’s suits, how Chelsea’s art practice takes on spiritual meaning, and more.

Dirt Gems is on sale now wherever books are sold.

Photo of the “Dirt Gems” keepsake box laid above face-up cards from the deck.

Chelsea Interviews Anne Louise

Chelsea Granger: Your relationship with plants seems so intimate and intuitive, do you have an early memory of when you first started connecting to plants? Was there a first plant you developed a friendship with?

Anne Louise Burdett: I love this question a lot, and it’s an interesting one to try and figure out how to answer. I grew up loving the outdoors and spending a lot of time with plants. I have always been a bookworm, and not necessarily solitary, but enjoying and needing a lot of alone time. One of the reasons for this is that I need to be able to connect and communicate with all the non-human life around me and the sweet relationships that I have with plants and animals, water and forest. This has been true since I was very young. I speak to plants all day long and even with such a beautiful and rich community of people in my life, it is a source of companionship that I truly could not live without.

The Magnolia card from "Dirt Gems: Plant Oracle Deck and Guidebook"

There are two plants that come to mind when I think of early relationships, and they are both very showy and glorious. The first is Magnolia, which is truly one of my favorite plants on this earth. There was a small but mighty Magnolia tree right outside our front door that I could sit under and climb at all ages. The image of that tree feels like home, and there is now one right out in front of my current house, which was a part of why I wanted to move there. Sitting under a Magnolia and looking up at the sky, with blossoms blanketing me is a very happy place for me.

The second plant is Angel’s Trumpet, or Brugmansia. It is a big bright yellow flower that hangs upside down. What I have always heard about this plant is that it is traditionally a guardian plant for protecting your home. There are chemicals in the flowers that are toxic so you do not want to stick your nose inside and sniff, but there is a lovely scent that wafts off of it when you are near. Part of the tradition is that you plant these flowers under your bedroom window, so that in the summer, when it is warm and the flower is blooming, you leave your windows open and the scent comes in and causes vivid hallucinogenic dreams. I have been lucky to be able to say that I do think this is a dreaming plant and I love when it is near. I have a healthy caution and admiration for this plant and it has grown in many of the homes I have lived in, including where I grew up.

The Evening Primrose card from "Dirt Gems: Plant Oracle Deck and Guidebook"

CG: I love that you developed four suits for the cards! What inspired their creation?

ALB: The suits were really fun to create. I felt like there needed to be families, where the cards could be grouped together to better understand or see the patterns emerging, and relationships and interactions between them. I also liked thinking about elements, energies, weather patterns, to consider how these plants might make sense to each other in the larger patterns of our world. These suits are really my own invented logic; as stated in the guidebook, they might not always make total “sense”. It’s more intuitive and energetic than scientific or technical.

Knowing individual plants is a gift and a blessing, but being able to look at larger patterns and relationships, such as how plant communities, ocean currents, wind patterns, and soil fertility are all impacting each other and creating and undoing our world every day, this is what will truly allow us to live. This is how I orient my life, so the creation of the suits was a sort of playful attempt to draw a few of these threads together.

The Datura card from "Dirt Gems: Plant Oracle Deck and Guidebook"

CG: Knowing you as a dear friend means I have seen you work as a clinical herbalist, an agroecologist, a dancer/performer, a trauma-informed sex educator, a writer and now a marine conservation scientist. What are you excited about moving forward? Are there any specific projects that are pulling at your heart?

ALB: Haha, thank you for seeing me in all my divergent interests and pursuits. I am definitely dedicated to always learning new things and I like having a mix of projects going on at all times. All of these different careers in my life have led me to where I am now and I am grateful for that. Although they may seem quite different, the skills I have acquired doing each of these things all serve my work now and I feel like I’m right where I need to be.

Mostly I am excited about my work as a marine scientist. When I become excited about something I really throw myself into it and this has been a very intensive and inspiring endeavor to move into this field. My work is mostly focused on climate resilience and coastal habitat restoration, primarily in the Caribbean but not exclusively. I work with mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass and seaweeds, and the communities that love these ecosystems, rely on them and steward them. There is no end to what inspires me and to how much I want to learn, both from the ecosystems themselves and the amazing people I work with. Part of my master’s degree was also focused on marine megafauna, that is, marine mammals, sharks, rays and sea turtles. Learning about and protecting many marine animals is inherently part of my current work in the ecosystems I mentioned above, but I’m hoping to be able to expand some of what I do into working more directly with wild populations, whether that is monitoring, research, advocacy or direct rehabilitation.

Other than that, I want to keep writing, and keep making art, and I really want to make more music!

The Arnica card from "Dirt Gems: Plant Oracle Deck and Guidebook"

Anne Louise Interviews Chelsea

Anne Louise Burdett: I love the way you speak of your art practice as praise, as “singing up” life, and that really feels like where your art takes me. What is this practice like and how does it impact you, on an emotional or spiritual level?

Chelsea Granger: I love this question! My art practice has, for a long time, felt otherworldly to me, like I’m in communication with something outside of myself, something bigger than myself. I feel grateful I get to witness the beauty of the world. I want my art to be a thank you, a prayer, an offering. When I’m not making art, I feel removed from myself, less in touch and connected with aliveness. When my mom, Suzann, died my art practice became far more spiritual because I wanted to try to visually articulate a spirit realm. We have no idea what a spirit world is, or what happens when we die, but I try to paint from a place of imagination, hoping that by visually articulating the otherworldly and unknown I invite others to do the same. I think my art has always been about the questions that I’m asking. The way in which I was able to tap into an otherworldly way of thinking changed the way I make art in general—the act of painting or drawing, of making, took on more meaning. On days when I paint I set up spaces that allow me to connect with the process as holy—there is incense and music, there are plants on my table, there is a hot cup of coffee or tea—these are my rituals. There is intention setting and space to be fully alone in the process. I feel deeply connected to my art practice and it has felt like such a gift that it resonates with other people.

The Mugwort card from "Dirt Gems: Plant Oracle Deck and Guidebook"

ALB: It’s really fun to see you move through different mediums, and the different focuses your art has at different times. Do you feel like you are in a particular phase, or excited about a certain kind of art making right now?

CG: I find myself in a very inbetween moment at the time. I just had my first solo art show and it was such a joy and a challenge to make it happen. To make a body of work by a deadline was new for me. As soon as that show ended I started on my next solo show. I gave myself a few weeks off but then dove into the next body of work.

If I’m being honest, the inbetween has a lot to do with exhaustion: I feel artistically exhausted and exhausted by life—a separation from my partner, moving from one state to another and coming to terms with what it means to care for an aging parent. But I have a lot of faith in my connection with making art. In a way this feels like a fun place to be because I know for sure I am fully diving into the unknown. Within this era of change I want to take a break before having another art show. Feeling exhausted by my personal art practice does open up space for me to be excited about collaborative work—to be painting in a way that is a response and a conversation instead of every idea coming from my own heart and imagination. You and I have talked about what is next for our collaborative relationship and this feels exciting to me because I am ready to be working in a way that is a response to something outside of myself. It’s energizing and focusing to be making art collaboratively instead of in a very personal solo way.

Another thing I feel sort of tingly at the horizon of excitement within these shifts is tattooing.  Years ago I apprenticed at a tattoo shop and I’ve always thought it would be work I would pursue again. Collecting my own tattoos from other artists has been a really meaningful ritual and artistic practice for me. I still have all my tattoo machines and supplies from my apprenticeship. Every time I move, I move my tattoo supplies, meaning—I’m not ready to give up on this dream in my life! Tattooing is a big commitment to a craft and I am excited for the day when I can focus my energy on that practice. I often make art that is about prayers, offerings and rituals. I’m looking forward to a time when my art itself can be the ritual. To have the honor to adorn people with meaningful art & symbols.

The Hawthorn card from "Dirt Gems: Plant Oracle Deck and Guidebook"

ALB: How has it been for you to collaborate with a writer ( me:) ) in such a specific way, especially to create so much symbolism that will then get interpreted by other people?

CG: It has been such a joy to collaborate with you. Our process has felt very fluid and natural. I think because we both have such strong relationships to plants the project encouraged something really beautiful to happen. Your writing is rich in symbolism, feelings and mood. As an artist and illustrator this sparked so many ideas. I hesitate to use the word “channel” but I do feel like reading your writing opened up space for something bigger to come through, art pieces that never would have happened had I not been reading what you wrote and responding to it visually.

I have to trust that people will make their own meaning of the symbolism in the cards, that the paintings might spark ideas or feelings but they aren’t something hard and all knowing. A painted boat could mean floating/suspension to one person and movement/travel to another. A spider’s web could represent strength or delicacy. Symbolism is so cool because it can be interpreted in so many ways. I know it was really important to both of us to create something that wasn’t telling people what to do or how to think, but rather to develop their own relationship to plants, something fluid.  I hope my paintings can act as an invitation, a way to spark someone’s own creative thoughts.

Dive Deeper

Featured Titles

Anne Louise Burdett

About the Author

Anne Louise Burdett is an agroecologist, conservation scientist, clinical herbalist, and educator. She has a background of fifteen-plus years working in plant conservation, alternative medicine, sustainable agriculture, and community organizing. Her experience working in different settings and communities to support resilience building and equitable systems has led to bridging her terrestrial work with marine science. Anne Louise is interested in working at the amphibious edges of land and sea, at the intersection of anthropogenic impact and changing ecosystems and their vulnerabilities and interdependencies. She has a master’s degree in marine conservation and coastal and ecological resilience. Her work is focused on climate change mitigation and adaptation and community-based natural resource sharing and management. Anne Louise is also a writer and dancer with works focused on land-based storytelling, stewardship, and play. She believes wholeheartedly in being true to oneself, acting from authentic desire, and in individual wellness being essentially and always tied to collective wellness. Her approach is through a lens of mutual aid, scientific literacy, and outright wonder.

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Chelsea Granger

About the Author

Chelsea Granger is a multidisciplinary artist. Painting, drawing, illustration, murals, and tattoos are the foundation of her practice. She recently self-published a zine about death and grief titled So Many Ways to Draw a Ghost. After the death of her mom as well as a dear friend, she started seeing her art as a way to sing up life, with the hope that her art can act as a doorway to create conversations about death and grief. Chelsea’s art is of the everyday, inspired by the overlap of earth/spirit dimensions, and woods as church. She is interested in painting as medicine, painting as a portal, painting as a spell. Her work has been exhibited across the Northeast, and her murals exist across New England. For more than twelve years, Chelsea has collaborated with Thyme Herbal, making medicine posters and zines. Chelsea holds a bachelor’s degree in painting from UMass-Amherst and a certificate in therapeutic recreation from Gateway Community College. Her work celebrates life while honoring death and walking gently into the unknown.

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