Proud to be showing my LOST – Climate Action exhibition in the amazing Eden Court, Memorial Chapel, in Inverness. A collection of 18 #LitterCUBES, with film & prints to carry the Climate Crisis story on from COP26. The show is open everyday 10am-10pm. Please share and join in the Climate Action discussion by leaving a comment/question on @juliabartonartist or below.
Appreciative first comments:
‘Great Appropriate title‘. K Rann ‘I really liked the simplicity, which made the message clear-a good feel to the whole space’ J MacIntyre ‘The show is a fantastically vivid representation of the issue‘. C Drake ‘Great integrity to this exhibition‘ L Strachen ‘Your exhibition is so powerful – bloody well done!’ F Mackenzie
Two years ago I was invited to devise a green fitness event for the annual ‘Ullapool Feel Good Festival’ which encourages people to stay fit by taking part in outdoor activity sessions. I came up with the idea of making skipping equipment out of discarded fishing ropes, a transformation which tells the Marine Plastic Litter [MPL] story in a new and engaging way.
Our recycling story starts on a cold, dull day at the beginning of winter 2020 with volunteers braving the elements on Ross-shire beaches to collect the fishing ropes and nets that are constantly washed up on shore. More was collected during the hot summer days of 2021. Between collecting the material and the event itself, much work was done sorting, washing, drying and cutting the ropes ready to cast into skipping rope handles.
A key development in the story was joining forces with Julien and Joan of Plastic@Bay, who helped research, design and test the metal mould to cast the handles, and helped find finance for the first phase of the project.
The next location in our story was the Green Hive Workshop in Nairn, where the casting took place, another inspiring community recycling project, where I collaborated with Andy and his volunteers to make the handles. 15 sets of handles were produced for the Festival which took place a year after the story began, with people having fun, skipping on the harbour slipways, in the streets and at school with our Ocean Jump Ropes recycled out of Marine Plastic Litter.
The circular economy message will continue with each jump and telling of the story behind the skipping ropes.
We have had many requests from people to buy the Ocean Plastic Jump Ropes. We hope to be able to make more ropes this year so please leave a message if you would like to know when they are available.
We have had many requests from people to buy the Ocean Plastic Jump Ropes. We are looking for funding to improve the mould and casting process (it’s not easy) so we can more ropes this year, so please leave a message if you would like to know when they are available or if you would like to support us. Follow the ‘Recycling to Stay Fit’ story and event pictures on Instagram @juliabartonartist
Reflection sequence of a line painting of my favourite seaweed Ascophyllum nodosum (knotted wrack) one of the most common seaweeds found on Isle Martin’s shoreline.
This temporary painting was made on the islands seawall to announce the Isle Martin Seaweed Festival, Scotland’s first seaweed festival, an event that I had the pleasure and challenge of curating. As with so many creative ideas the simplicity often belies the complexity of the process of making.
As challenging as it was painting between high tides and working from ladders positioned between rocks covered in Knotted wrack, it was one of the least stressful jobs of my role as Festival curator. While I have previously curated my own art installations and group exhibitions, curating a multidisciplined seaweed festival on a small island presented me with massive challenges.
One of the legacies of the Festival has been the training of local volunteers to identify common seaweeds. Eight trained local volunteers helped festival goers identify seaweeds on five local beaches, the majority of whom said they could now confidently identify at least four seaweeds correctly.
My idea to stage a festival focusing on seaweed began years ago while learning to identify seaweeds growing in the clear inshore waters of NW Scotland. My dream seemed straight forward enough, to share my passion for this remarkable ‘flora’ that seaweed represents. Like so many simple ideas it quietly grew as I collected marine litter and made artworks about marine plastic pollution. The idea then gained momentum when Visit Scotland announced funding for projects that would highlight Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters originally planned for 2020 but then rescheduled for 2021 with the #YCW2021
A small number of dedicated Isle Martin Trust members banded together with me, to form a dedicated Festival Working Party (FWP), and together we found most of the funding needed to stage our Festival, celebrating Isle Martin’s rich seaweed life with the aim of promoting awareness and knowledge of the richness and diversity of seaweed in our coastal waters.
The Isle Martin Seaweed Festival plan quickly grew and like the fronds of ‘knotted wrack’ branched out in many creative directions eventually intertwining scientists, artists, writers, archaeologists, historians, chefs, kayakers and sailors. Finding presenters, discussing their expertise and working out how their specialised seaweed knowledge might contribute and fit into our Festival, was definitely one of the most enjoyable tasks of curating. Having been immersed in a fascination with seaweed for years, I had collected many names of artists and writers also passionate about seaweed and had already established contacts with the Marine Conservation Society and the Natural History Museum. We quickly had an impressive list of guest presenters including Juliet Brodie, Miek Zwamborn, Jason Hall-Spencer and David Gange.
Equally impressive was our ability to showcase the work of local experts such as marine scientist Ailsa McLellan and ecologist John McIntyre both of whom are passionate about protecting the marine environment and seaweed, plus archaeologist Cathy Dagg and designer Sigi Whittle. Their presentations on the sustainability of seaweed and its global ecological importance set the bar high in the presentation tent, which was full with standing room only for many talks
The talks were programmed loosely into science and arts themed days, in order to appeal to different audiences and to aid discussions. This seemed to work and we had a full take up of 120 tickets each day on the island. Given the nervousness of people meeting in large groups after three lockdowns we see this as a great success! Ensuring visitors’ COVID safety was a high priority and keeping up to date with Scottish Government COVID advice and working out how we could fulfill their regulations took hundreds of hours of planning.
Seeing people come together to listen and engage in learning about seaweed and far-reaching marine environment conversations was heartening. Presentations also took place in the Big Kelp Tent which housed multiple artworks inspired by seaweed, produced in workshops in Ullapool and by Ullapool High School Pupils and visiting artists. Within this creative space we had a pop up ‘Gutweed Lab’ for examining seaweed under magnification and an installation of seaweed observation cylinders, all helping with seaweed identification. This was also happening on shorelines where volunteers helped people to understand the differences between knotted wrack, bladder wrack and twisted wrack.
Seaweed remained centre stage even in the food arena around the fire, with Jason Byles renowned Kiwi forager and chef from Fife, who demonstrated in a showman-like way, cooking with sea lettuce, dulce and peppered dulce, plus tasters and foraging tips. The Dabberlocks Café served up fair trade snacks with seaweed cake and the Paella Place kitchen served seafood and seaweed dishes.
Smiles were the order of the Festival days, so many people commenting on the friendly relaxed atmosphere, which was heartening especially given the changeable weather and the descending of midges at the end of the day.
The behind the scenes challenges that caused sleepless nights included how to keep the technical equipment dry in tents, not knowing if the internet connections would hold for scheduled ZOOM presentations, rejigging presentation schedule to avoid the midges in the late afternoon and how to ensure the safety of passengers disembarking onto the slipway at low tide each day. Overcoming all these things was only possible through the relentless hard work and support of the Festival Working Group consisting of John McIntyre, Lesley Strachan and Steve Twitchett, plus Martin Gilligan in the tech tent, the Lightfoot site crew working together with tens of volunteers and essentially the boat crews ferrying everyone across.
Curating this Festival has been exhausting, but it has also been a hugely rewarding and creatively stimulating experience that I am immensely proud to have initiated. As one Festival participant said talking about seaweed ‘the more you learn the more you realise there is so much more still to find out; this also applies to curating and facilitating a seaweed festival on an island!
So many people have asked when the next Seaweed Festival will take place and learning from our experience of September the first date to be mooted is May/June 2023 when we would benefit from longer days, it would be prime seaweed growing time and there would be fewer midges!
This week I am joining millions of people around the world to mark Earth Day, to demonstrate support and promote the protection of our environment. I regularly walk the coastal paths of Ross-shire exploring the shorelines and stepping across lichen-covered Torridon Sandstone into the splash zones. Reaching down to familiar rockpools I can photograph the bright green vibrancy of one of the simplest plant forms, a conspicuous seaweed called Ulva intestinalis, also known as Gutweed and Grass Kelp. Its’ tubular fronds hang loosely to rocks and harbour walls but it can detach and continue to grow in floating masses around most of the UK coastline.
I decided to film my walk to the seaweed lined rockpools on the Coigach shoreline, in response to Gala Waterways Group call-out for short films to reflect on the importance of water for well-being. My well-being is constantly enhanced by water and finding life within it. Gala are collecting the films to be shown @galawatergroup. The archived footage will be made into a collective and interactive artwork. Many more of my aquatic explorations are recorded on Instagram @juliabartonartist please visit and follow.
Winter storms, spring tides and soft snowfalls along nearby shorelines are providing much needed injections of raw energy, to blast away the increasingly felt COVID restrictions.
Determined to stay well and to break through the creative blocks tripping me up at the entrance to my studio, I’m pushing myself to take regular shots of shoreline adrenaline
When it’s safe I collect the storm-thrown plastic draped across rocks and caught in rolls of seaweed, enjoying being part of an ever more popular movement towards #Greenfitness
A way to enhance fitness and health while taking action to improve the outdoor environment.
In November I led two shoreline walks collecting plastic litter from the rolls of washed-up seaweed on local beaches, a #greenfitness commission for the Ullapool Feel Good Festival, to encourage people to be active in the winter, to stay healthy.
The plastic rope and nets collected will be made into skipping rope equipment in partnership with Plastic@bay and Green hive (Community Interest Companies) and available for use in local schools with events like skipathons and skipping challenges organised by Ullapool Community Sport Hub later this year.
It’s bracing and challenging being out and active in the winter especially when working on wind- blown beaches, but one walker commented “Being out and active in winter feels daring and crazy but also great, especially when you know you are helping the environment”.
I am often asked how I continue to work with marine litter year after year, fortunately I have a counterbalance, my love of seaweed. Seaweed has proven to be a beautiful counterbalance and antidote to my work with plastic beach litter. I recently shared my story with the Marine Conservation Society and Salvage Scotland.
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. Extending 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.
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.
For 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.
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.
Until then I will continue enjoying observing, recording and experimenting on the shoreline and in my studio.
I want to produce a short film to show the connection between plastic waste and the loss of oil that it represents. During my #LitterCUBES events 2019, I found that hundreds of people were unaware that plastic is primarily made from oil.
I plan to work again with Shetland film maker JJ Jamieson. I intend the film to be projected with the #LitterCUBES in the lead up to Cop26 Climate Conference. I need £2,500 to cover the very basic costs of making and editing the film.
You can make a donation by clicking on the orange DONATE button at the top of the page. In return you will receive a limited edition print of my ‘2020 Message in a Bottle’ photograph. Thank you!
Looking out to sea through yet another plastic bottle picked up from the rocks of a Scottish beach, my resolve is to use my art as activism. To show and tell a local Scottish story which is contributing to #ClimateChange and to add to the global evidence that scientists, the media, activists and commentators are cataloguing to pressure world leaders into making decisions that will mitigate global warming and its increasing effects on climate and world ecology.
Our actions using and allowing plastic to bleed into our seas contributes to the waste of finite resources (Embodied Energy) that the plastic represents.
Help me show this local – global connection to the #ClimateEmergency in Glasgow during the next UN summit COP26. Please get in touch/leave suggestions of contacts that might enable me to share this story.
As I take stock of my project this year making 20 #LitterCUBES, I am inspired by the hundreds of conversations that were triggered at events, about our Climate Emergency and our need to urgently change our habits.
I am convinced that Art more than ever must reach out to connect people and help to bring about change.
In 2020 I want to take my #LitterCUBES to COP26, the next Climate Conference which will be held in Glasgow. So, I have put together this 2 minute video pitch, to reach out and link up with other artists, galleries, arts and environmental organisations beginning to plan events in Glasgow.