Blog No.2 | Landed, Grounded, Home
Immersed in all the colourful patterns of my home in Glasgow, I land after an eventful few days in Dunbar.
Full of action, the past month has been fruitful and I’ve met a wonderful selection of characters… the pace has certainly picked up!
With the brisk sea air against my face I trundled the newly constructed Travelling Plant Menagerie down to East Beach on John Muir Celebration day, the 23rd April. Live music echoed along the shore as a back drop to stone stacking families.
On this day I invited people’s thoughts on Garden Lane and went prepared with botanical inks, clipboards, my collection of plants and a passion for natural colour. Conversations were spent introducing myself and the project and enthusing around the beauty of the organic colours.
To continue this activity I relocated from the cold to Dunbar Town House where a mixed group of adults and children waited. I gathered the gaggle and set the scene, inviting a verbal brainstorm following which we progressed to sketching out the ideas with the botanical inks. I noted the challenge of explaining and visualising the closed Backlands site at Garden Lane somewhat abstractly, both for myself and the participants.
After a long day of speaking, I gathered the drawings up, impressed by the inks and the Travelling Plant Menagerie’s power to engage people.
Over the following few weeks I continued ‘ideation’ with the gardeners and volunteers of the site who already have plans and visions in place. It is exciting to hear from those who are already connected to the site and have nurtured it so far.
Later the Menagerie took a tour to the Bleachingfield Centre and I worked with 20 Cubs and roughly the same number of young people again from the Science Club to explore botanical ink sketching, which we followed by wildflower seed sowing in Garden Lane itself.
In advance of these activities with the young people I prepared the land by removing turf in fifteen triangular shapes of varying scales, where the resulting tilled soil received an alternating pattern of corn flowers, poppies and mixed wild flowers.
The site was once in cultivation by the Red Friar Monks of the Trinitarian order, whose colours were red and blue. We honour the site’s heritage with the red poppies and the blue cornflowers and I speak of the Christian trinity and how there are also many other kinds of trinities in our society as well.
I mention how Satish Kumar speaks of Soil, Soul and Society. Overly conceptual perhaps for these youngsters, but I trust in sowing these thoughts as a seed too. I am also reminded of the social, economic and environmental trinity of sustainable development (known as the three pillars) and how Permaculture speaks of Earth Care, People Care and Fair Shares as its three guiding ethics.
In my mind, the triangles are a nod to the past of the site and a faith that was once so prevalent in our culture. They refer to the other trinities I mention and stand for an equality, connectedness and balance that our society so desperately needs. They are also, very simply, triangles of earth with seed sown into them!
As I prepare for GARDEN LANE: OPEN STUDIO in Dunbar Town House Gallery, and I collate the beginnings of work from the last six weeks ,I am able to reflect on the residency so far. While I am excited by the prospect of creating a space to reach an audience over a longer time frame (the space runs from 21st May – 26th June), I am also holding some sadness.
Last week, the Travelling Plant Menagerie went missing. The local police retrieved the trailer element, but the dye plants and hand crafted planter had been removed. After some detective work and searching, I found pieces of the planter tossed into some shrub land by Dunbar Leisure Pool with the plants nowhere to be seen. As a crucial element of the next few weeks of public engagement activity, I am feeling the loss of this collaborative creation which was built alongside artist William Greensmith, whose joinery skills made the geometric planter possible.
It has formed a large component of the residency so far and I had planned to include it in the Town House activity too. While it won’t be ready for the beginning of OPEN STUDIO I hope we can re-build it before the residency is complete. With this I am glad to be home for a few days to gather some space from the project in advance of GARDEN LANE: OPEN STUDIO.
The OPEN STUDIO, to be held in the Town House Gallery, will be open to receive people’s thoughts and ideas (as the name suggests) and will include some of my personal process in the back ground. It won’t be a traditional exhibition, in that everything it holds is still in flux and depends on whether visitors engage with its various components. I really hope they do!
If you feel moved to, please pop by and contribute your ideas, they are hearteningly welcomed.