”It is salutary that in a world rocked by greed, misunderstanding and fear, with the imminence of collapse into unbelievable horrors, it is still possible and justifiable to find important the exact placing of two pebbles.”
Jim Ede (1895-1990)
Jim Ede, a collector and former curator at Tate Britain, converted four cottages in Cambridge as a place to live and display his art collection. He often held ‘open house’ and gave tours to students from Cambridge University. In 1966 he have the house and collection to the University, establishing Kettle’s Yard Gallery. Jake and I were extremely fortunate to meet Jim before he died in 1990 and his vision has shaped our work ever since.
This Autumn I have been making small mixed media collages. Jim’s intuitive approach to placing objects was playful and experimental, whilst at the same time being deeply contemplative. I hope that my collaged ‘assemblies’ made during our own times of upheaval achieve something of the spacious reflectiveness of his meditative placing of objects.
Buckminster Fuller Trimtab Blog
This November The Buckminster Fuller Institute is featuring Do the Little Things on its Trimtab Blog. This is a hub for Buckminster Fuller inspired insights, innovations and best practices.
A trim tab is a miniature rudder on the edge of a ship’s main rudder. Just moving that little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. It takes almost no effort at all. Buckminster Fuller believed that the individual can be a trim tab.
”So I’m positive that what you do with yourself, just the little things you do yourself, these are the things that count. To be a real trim tab, you’ve got to start with yourself, and soon you’ll feel that low pressure, and suddenly things begin to work in a beautiful way.”
This philosophy fits very naturally with the Do the Little Things project. On November 18th at 10:00AM Pacific time (18:00 GMT) I will be talking about my use of Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Map as part of Do the Little Things at an online event hosted by the Buckminster Fuller Institute. Tickets here.
Do the Little Things
During the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, from November 2020 to the end of 2021, I made tiny boats from wire, tissue paper and gold leaf. I sent them to family and friends as tokens of love and affection when face to face meetings were difficult, or impossible. Inspired by St David who, in 589 AD, urged his followers to “be joyful, keep the faith and do the little things”, they formed a kind of silent, wordless communication, from heart to heart. Many others participated in the project, ordering boats from me and sending them by post to their families and friends. In all, 350 boats were sent around the UK and to destinations across the world, from San Francisco to Santiago, Manhattan to Myanmar. For many these boats signified safe passage in times of transition, both traumatic (deaths, relationship breakups and losses of different kinds) and joyful (births, setting up new homes and new relationships). They were sent as golden parcels of love and solidarity when people were unable to physically connect, console or celebrate with each other. An installation of boats was created for the Chapel of Gethsemane at Coventry Cathedral in May 2021, from which one was acquired for the permanent collection of the British Museum.
Mapping the journeys
As these tiny handmade golden vessels made their fragile journeys around the
globe, I was touched that so many wanted to keep faith in the beautiful, delicate, hidden spiritual connections that they treasured with people who felt so very far out of reach. Miraculously, all of the boats reached their destinations and a number of people wrote to me with explanations for their voyages, others sending through photos of the boats in their new homes and details of their destinations. As a second phase of the project, I decided to hand-print and gild with gold leaf a large (3 metre wide) map to show where participants sent their little boats. Following research into a number of map projections, the Buckminster Fuller Institute have granted me permission to use the copyrighted Dymaxion Projection, a map developed by Fuller in 1946 and then hand drawn in 1954 by Japanese architect, Shoji Sadao. The Dymaxion Projection is the only flat map of the entire surface of the Earth which reveals our planet as one island in one ocean, without any visually obvious distortion of the relative shapes and sizes of the land areas, and without splitting any continents. Fuller believed that finding a way to visualise the whole planet with greater accuracy, humans will be better equipped to address challenges as we face our common future on this fragile planet.
My hope is that the mapping of the ‘Do the Little Things’ voyages on to this elegant, thought provoking map projection will illuminate a positive story of human connection during the pandemic and promote reflection on the precariousness of all the other unseen, undervalued threads that exist between us and other living beings.
Note: The Fuller Projection Map design is a trademark of the Buckminster Fuller Institute. ©1938, 1967 & 1992. All rights reserved, www.bfi.org
Purchase a personalised map
The original gold leaf map that I have created is extremely large, but I am offering a limited edition, hand finished, signed giclee print of this original, A3 size (29.7 x 42.0 cm). Each map will record the destinations of all the postal journeys, worldwide. If purchasers would like, I can additionally hand gild significant locations (with dots of gold) onto the prints, enabling participants to personalise the maps and mark particular voyages. The cost of £60.00 per print will include postage (sent flat) and can be ordered from the LEVER ARTS shop . You can then specify any significant locations you require mapping by email.
‘Sew Far Sew Good’ Workshops at Greenbelt Festival (26 – 29 August 2022)
For a number of years ‘Sew Far Sew Good’ have offered art workshops at Greenbelt Festival, an arts, faith and justice festival with a long and rich history. ‘Sew Far Sew Good’ is a family art collective involving Jake and myself, my sister Susie Hopkins (a primary school teacher) and her husband Phill Hopkins, who is an artist. We all have a special interest in imaginatively nurturing young people’s spiritual lives and we were joined, this year, by two lively new team members Sarah and Chris Thorpe.
The world is more divided and polarised now even than when the pandemic began. This Summer’s Greenbelt aimed, in the words of Creative Director, Paul Northup, to make a space ‘to look each other in the eye and have those difficult conversations with respect and love, listening to one another’s perspectives.’ When we offer ‘Sew Far Sew Good’ workshops our hope is to create a safe and welcoming space where people can enjoy immersing themselves in creative activities whilst striking up and developing life-giving relationships with other Festival goers.
This year’s beautiful ‘Wake Up’ theme invited everyone present to reflect on what it means to wake up to the present, the here-and-now, to the needs of our world and its people. A great conversation starter.
Again, in the words of Paul Northup, ‘It’s time to wake up to our lives, to our world, to the work that there is for us to do, to the party waiting for us.’
Unfortunately, a positive Covid test meant that I couldn’t be physically present at the Greenbelt ‘party’ this year but I loved working on the preparations and seeing all the happy faces in the photos. There will be more partying ahead!
Befriending our vulnerability
During the early stages of the pandemic I needed soil, mud and earth. Somehow the turmoil of life - losses, cancellations, illnesses, disruptions and changes - led me outdoors to re-orientate myself, to seek solid ground when things seemed to be falling apart and collapsing. My daily walks took me past a Southern Magnolia tree in Highbury Park, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Here I found hundreds of skeletal leaves on the ground, all in a state of slow decomposition, returning to the soil.
Picking up the leaves I realised that I was interrupting this journey towards dust and decomposition, but they spoke to me powerfully of my own frailty and mortality, as well as the fragility and beauty of living things. Covid highlighted human breath and breathlessness and the delicate veins in the leaves reminded me of the bronchial tree inside of us all…and our interconnectedness with all living things. I wanted to sit with this decay and be fully present to my own vulnerability, to let go of the mask of strength, control and certainty.
As part of a recent All Saints, Kings Heath ‘Iona Service’ I offered a simple meditation on this theme inviting those of us gathered to reflect prayerfully upon our own vulnerability and mortality and to think about those who we love and those we have lost.
I incorporated this ‘Stations of the Cross’ prayer by Irish poet Pádraig Ó Tuama;
God of the ground,
Whose body was - like ours - from dust,
and who fell - like we fall - to the ground,
May we find you on the ground when we fall.
Oh, our falling fallen brother, may we find you,
so that we may inhabit
I closed the reflection, after a time of silent meditation, with the words of Mirabai Starr who, in the introduction to her book on the mystic Julian of Norwich writes;
”Each trial, every loss, is an opportunity for you to meet suffering with love and to make it an offering, a prayer. The minute you lift your pain like a candle the darkness vanishes and mercy comes rushing in to heal you.”