‘Pigeon’ Cyanotype Collaboration
Inspired by origami, Pigeon, is a beautifully crafted combination of letter and envelope designed by John Morse-Brown, a graphic designer with an engineering background. This year I have been delighted to work with John to create a new Pigeon design using cyanotypes. Pigeon is a carbon-negative company planting trees to neutralise carbon emissions via the John Muir Trust in Scotland. John is also going to great lengths to keep all traces of plastic out of Pigeon products and packaging. (The plastic looking sticker on the Pigeon packages are compostable and biodegradable, made from cellulose, in the UK). They are for sale directly from the Pigeon Shop.
My Pigeon collaboration with John is called ‘Apothecary Pigeon’. For a while I have been making cyanotypes, a very satisfying 150-year-old process where objects are placed on paper that has been coated with a special light-sensitive chemical and then exposed to sunlight. After the paper has been washed in water, the area underneath the object retains the colour of the paper, while the area around it becomes a deep, rich blue. For ‘Apothecary Pigeon’ John and I decided to use healing plants from my garden in Birmingham as the ‘objects’ in a series of cyanotype designs.
I included honesty, fern, witch hazel and oak. Sage, tomato, nasturtium, hop and fennel. Spring onion, lovage, geranium and lemon balm. All these plants have unique healing and medicinal properties - from Vitamin C to the treatment of indigestion and anxiety, reducing inflammation and bringing down fevers, lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels. They were widely used for medicinal purposes in the past, and many of todays drugs and medicines are either derived from or inspired by natural substances found in plants. In a world that often seems unhealthy and unsteady ‘Apothecary Pigeon’ has felt to be a very welcome and grounding project. I have loved producing artwork and discovering more about plants that grow a mere stone’s throw from my backdoor.
Commissions and Christmas Exhibition
In recent weeks I have been enjoying meeting with several people who commissioned oil canvases earlier in 2022. I enjoy hearing people’s reactions to the work and finding out about how the paintings ‘settle’ into their new homes. Please contact me if you are interested in commissioning a painting.
From Monday 28 November - Saturday 3 December Art First, London will be exhibiting some of my small paintings and mixed media works as part of a six day gallery artists Christmas Show at The Forge, 15 St Mary’s Walk, Lambeth, SE11 4UA. The exhibition will be open every day from Noon - 7.30pm. Call in or email Art First: email@example.com to arrange a visit. Free parking after 6.30pm.
”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.