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Week Three – Farrah

Workshop 1 – The Forager and The Farmer

I really enjoyed the first workshop this semester – after months of being in sterile environments outside of my home, it felt like a joy to walk into the studio and be surrounded by things which we could interact with as a group and even get messy. I loved the organisation of the elements laid out on each table – it felt like a production line of nature. I felt the workshop overall gave me a better understanding and more respect for Nature than I had before (which I did not even think possible).

We began the workshop by listening to a presentation about trees in general, and more specifically the Oak Tree. I loved listening to all the facts and statistics about trees – I felt humbled by their existence and abilities. It made me realise the importance of statistics and their power to hit home with people. They are a powerful tool to raise awareness. I particularly loved looking at the images of trees which were thousands of years old – it made me want to know what they have witnessed in their lives, all of the changes which have happened. We then explored themes such as ‘Plant Blindness’ and the ontology, and the ethics and rights of trees. This made me feel quite emotional as we rely on them so much for so many things, yet take them for granted really, and are mistreated by so many.

After watching the presentation, it was time for the second part of the workshop. This was where we went foraging for acorns. I felt passionate about this as I felt a sense of urgency in replanting, as so many trees are being constantly chopped down – why is the human existence so insistent in destroying the nature we come from? I loved going outside and into the woods, I felt calmed by the nature around me and encouraged by each passing tree on my journey. The searching part of the hunt for acorns really resonated with me – I felt it was reminiscent of the way in which we hunt for ideas in our art, trying to identify a good one to take. It made me really focus on the moment, the here and the now. and let my brain de-stress from all of the chaos it is having to deal with daily.

After I returned with my selection of acorns, I got to work with planting. I love this process anyway, having found a love for it during lockdown. Growth is a concept that I feel so passionate about, as nothing is more hopeful and joyous than the cycle of growing from a seed, nurturing it and then seeing it come to fruition. It can be applied to so much in daily life as well. I put my selection of acorns in some water in a mug first, which I then watched and waited to see if any floated to the top (which meant that they were bad). Fortunately, none did and so I then had to choose one to plant. I found this so difficult, which is something I feel many will identify with – it is not easy to get rid of something that you have just spent time collecting. I chose one with a little shoot coming off it already, as I thought that was a good growing sign. I then put on my gardening gloves, and took a spoon and a growing pot. I used compost which I filled to the top of the pot, and then planted my acorn sideways with the shoot facing into the soil on the top, and gently pressed it down. I then watered my pot. It felt very poetic as I was thinking deeply about each individual step; this is something which I think I will start to apply in my daily life as it gave me much more of a sense of achievement when I had finished the job. We then finished the workshop by reflecting on the process, and began to brainstorm ideas for the next workshop which I will be taking part in in week 4.

Tutorial Reflection

I found my tutorial with Miranda very useful in refining my ideas and discussing the concepts of my project on a deeper level. We began by reflecting on Workshop 1; I said that I loved the way we got out of the studio and began to grow. I also discussed the ‘Searching’ element of the Workshop which I felt had an impact on me. We then moved onto discussing what I would like to investigate in my project this semester.

I began by explaining the concept of my project – the relationship between Human Nature and Environmental Nature, and the way that the two seem to work against each other so much. I discussed the way in which I see nature and growth as a positive sign, and how it can be used as an antidote to the depressing nature of the coronavirus pandemic. We then began to talk about the waste produced by the pandemic, such as the disposable masks and single-use plastic wipes, and how dreadful it is for the environment. This made me feel quite emotional, as we began to talk about people’s attitudes towards plastic waste and the way that all positive developments with reducing waste seem to have stopped.

We discussed my ideas for practically expressing my concept in my project, and decided that the idea for growing things over the COVID19 items to represent hope and change was possibly too difficult due to the cold Winter weather, and how I may not get the wild effect I wanted. This then developed into talking about my other idea, to make masks into little fabric circles which I would use as pots to grow things such as cress or coriander from.

All week I have been photographing masks on the streets which I have come across when walking around Aberystwyth – it is so saddening to see the sheer amount that I can find from just a ten minute walk – why are people still using disposable masks, and then just throwing it into the street? There are so many different ways that you can be safe during the pandemic but also protect the environment, such as wearing re-useable masks that can be washed. I decided during the tutorial that I would begin collecting the masks as well as photographing them. To do this, I will stay safe by wearing a glove that can be washed each time I return; I will take a separate bag out with me to put them into, and when I return home with the masks I will keep them in the shed for 4 days until any potential virus/germs has gone. Before I then touch the masks or interact with them, I will spray them with disinfectant and then wash them.

With my collected masks, I will make them into small pots/holders which can be used to grow herbs such as cress or coriander (both are able to grow in any weather or season). Miranda then suggested that I should then eat the herbs, or offer them to others. This is a wonderful idea as it means that I can take a new piece of urban rubbish, and transform it into a useful item that has a life-cycle. Things which I need to develop further and decide on in order to make this into a well-rounded project is; who shall I give the herbs to? Perhaps people who have suffered from COVID19? Also, I would like to make all of the masks into some installation/sculpture before I give them away – I think this would be valuable as seeing the amount of all of the masks/rubbish may have a shock factor which can get people to change their habits.

Steps for this:

  1. Question people about their habits – Why drop masks onto the floor? Why wear disposable masks instead of reusable ones?
  2. Collate that information together – this will come to a rounded, non – generalised overview of the issues and people’s difficulties.
  3. Research ways around the issues – offering solutions through statistics and other options.
  4. Then make the pots out of the masks and begin to grow the herbs in them.
  5. Make an installation out of the masks and document it.
  6. Then give the masks/herbs out – with a card linked to information about the waste produced by the pandemic.
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