Natalie Taylor Soil: Is Soil Alive?

Natalie Taylor Soil: Is Soil Alive?

We are thrilled that artist Natalie Taylor is our John Muir Fellow. She will work with the community and produce new work over the next year exploring the question: Earth –  is soil alive?   Natalie will offer workshops and events in and around Dunbar and create artworks around this theme.

The first project is The Keeper of the Soils cape, a performance costume that is a celebration of Scotland’s precious soils, which was worn at a special celebratory event on the eve of the COP26 Pilgrimage (17th October in Dunbar)

See article in paper about the artwork and event:

This hand dyed woollen cape was made and decorated by many hands. The Keeper walked living soils from East Lothian and other areas of Scotland from Dunbar to the climate conference that took place in Glasgow, November 2021. More information about the Pilgrimage can be found here:

Updates about how to get involved, the cape progress and other fellowship news can be found on our blog page:

Updates,Workshops and Events can also be found on our facebook page:

and our instagram:


Natalie explains here about the project – “Earth – Is soil alive?”

I’ve been fascinated by plants and seeds for years now and have made loads of work (sculptures, paintings, animations) about seeds since leaving art college. The subject of soil was only indirectly interesting to me at first, as a medium in which most plants are grown, but then when I was invited by North Light Arts in 2015 to do a micro residency about soil I became really interested in how important and yet sadly overlooked soil actually is. It dawned on me how much we all depend on soil for our survival and yet we take it almost completely for granted. When NLA invited me for this fellowship on the subject of soil I jumped at the chance. Here was an opportunity to find out how East Lothian’s community relates to the soils around us, what food it supplies, and what sort of soil husbandry is going on here and even better, a chance to make art with people about and with soil. 

During the UN International Year of Soils back in 2015 I learned that around 30% of the world’s arable soils are now damaged in some way, reducing our ability to grow food and I made the Alchemy of Soil painting in response. It is created using soil as a painting medium and it’s a sort of Soil/ Food web; showing the relationship between soil and our food system. The framework is based on a famous icon from Tibetan Buddhism, the Kalachakra mandala and all the images within it are about soil creatures, the food we eat, the weather which produces our food and our food distribution system. It’s an attempt at putting this very complex relationship into visual form.

For the opening project of my fellowship I am creating a wearable version of this soil/food web in the form of a hand dyed cape for the Keeper of the Soils. The Keeper will also gather precious soils from around the Central Belt and keep them safe for performances and events. The first place where you can see the Keeper of the Soils  is at the opening event for Pilgrimage for COP26, in Dunbar on the afternoon of the 17th October.  More information about that event coming soon…..

I am really looking forward to meeting more people from Dunbar and the surrounding area and making art about soil with you!