Material Experimentation

As my practice has been entangled with both marine plastics and marine algae for the last decade, I have been following with interest the developments of scientists, product designers and artists making bioplastics from seaweed around the world. From drinks pods that dissolve in the mouth used for runners at the 2019 London Marathon, to artists researching the use of seaweed biopolymers to make furniture.

Fascinated by the idea of marine algae providing the prime ingredient for a truly bio-degradable material that might help us move away from fossil fuel plastics, I decided to investigate making  seaweed bio-plastic from the simple basic ingredients of  seaweed,  starch, water and glycerine. 

It has been an intriguing and fun, if messy, process which has taken place across the year in my kitchen and in tents on shorelines with coastal community members in Cromarty and Poolewe during my World Ocean Day events, with the support of Fiona McKenzie (Aberdeen Science Centre) and The Pebble Trust.

I am now collating the polymer samples made using seven common seaweeds collected on our Highland shorelines and cataloguing our recipes. While our recipe notation was definitely a little sketchy the samples are intriguing, from the strong slightly flexible (brown) wrack recipe to the  more translucent flexible recipes made from kelp (Oarwrack) and Himanthalia  elongata (sea spaghetti)

I am hoping that these samples, along with my reference notes and observations will inspire more Highland Seaweed Bioplastic experimenting events. Please leave a message in the reply box below or email me if you are interested in joining me in future seaweed bioplastic events. And do get in touch if you have any funding ideas for events.

Kelp – Spring Tides

Kelp – Spring Tides

After years working along the high tide lines of the upper shores in Scotland, over the last few months I have been able to take advantage of the extreme low spring tides and venture into the lower shore which is only accessible on foot for a limited number of hours a year. rocky Coigach shoreline 4Extending my investigations into the lower littoral zone has involved a series of slow and tricky journeys. Most of the shorelines of Coigach are extremely rocky so the lower shores have to be reached climbing over crags, boulders, pebbles and navigating narrow inlets. Inlet to lower shoreline 4

thongweed CU low tide 4

I’ve been documenting and identifying the changing seaweed forms noting their colours, textures and taste .

As the tide finally stopped receding l was aware of having reached the extreme low water line, a fascinating dynamic place. Calm, good weather made perfect conditions to observe the largest of the brown marine algae, commonly known as Kelp.

Kelp exposed low waterline 4

Varietties of kelp at low water 4For a few hours I examined the kelp beds, formed mostly by a strong leathery expanse of seaweed, including several of the Laminaria species, holding fast onto boulders beneath my feet and rock surfaces all around me.

Kelp hanging 4

kelp holdfast 4 Under their fronds I glimpsed a little of the sea life they attract and protect, including sea urchins and orange cushion starfish.

I have collected and dried bundles of Laminaria as I am contributing to a Kelp experiment being conducted by local archaeologist Cathy Dagg, who is researching            how the Kelping industry operated in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

My passion for seaweed grows exponentially every time I walk onto a beach and look into a rock pool. I am looking forward to making contact with other Seaweed-obsessed artists. Next year I will be curating the Isle Martin Seaweed Festival originally planned as part of Visit Scotland’s Year of Coast and Waters #YCW2020, now rescheduled to take place in 2021. Many unique activities and events with scientists, artists, chefs, archaeologists, seafarers, musicians, students, residents and visitors will take place.

photographing kelp 2

 

Until then I will continue enjoying observing, recording and experimenting on the shoreline and in my studio.

 

Kelp stretched covered rock Dornie 2