We met on a rainy Sunday in Tulse Hill at South London Botanical Institute. We wanted to think about the influence of nature, experiment with image-making at different scales and get inspired with microscopes and herbarium samples.
We started with a welcome from the Warden, Helen Firminger, who lives on site with her family. Helen gave us some historical background including about SLBI founder, botanist Allan Octavian Hume (1829-1912), his motivations and the historical context of his work in India.
Next, we gathered in the library for introductions. Students attending were taking OCA units in various disciplines across photography, drawing and creative writing at all levels. There was interest to share ideas and approaches across disciplines and it felt there was common ground in our various connections to nature, ecology, landscape, gardening, geology and the outdoors.
I felt one of the distinct aspects of OCA study coming through – that of students having other areas of expertise and knowledge (microbiology, geology, gardening, cooking) to draw inspiration from.
The venue was really fascinating and conducive to conversation, focussed drawing and thinking. The various spaces included a Herbarium – lined with bespoke metal cabinets.
This opened through a glasshouse into the garden, which included another weed garden, reminiscent of the previous day’s medicinal weed garden at Phytology.
We used various tasks and tools to prompt creative responses. Small cards based on DIY microscope slides were given to each student who were invited to write questions and gather tiny plant samples.
“What would you ask a plant?”
Experimental drawing tools were provided as prompts and students invited to make their own improvised inks, dyes and stains.
We had a shared lunch using SLBI’s kitchen and discussed experiences of OCA study. Conversation topics included study visits, regional group experiences and future plans. OCA tutor and creative writing student Clare Wilson talked about working between creative writing and visual image making.
The venue was really unique and atmospheric and made us all think about accessing other lesser known venues. The combination of quiet meeting rooms, greenhouse, kitchen and garden spaces and the fact that we had the whole venue to ourselves felt a real privilege.
[Anna Goodchild – Above]
OCA student Anna Goodchild experimented with making and printing with her own natural inks. We were fascinated by the branch-like forms finding their own way into the resulting images. See Anna’s post about SLBI in her learning log.
Several students said they would like to have more opportunities in future to share work, and to learn and experiment with hands on processes. There was an appetite to meet again and for a series of meetings in interesting venues around this Art & Environment theme. Watch this space!
Thanks to the SLBI and all the students who attended and made such meaningful contributions.
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