Project year

2019-2021

Industry/Media

Performance, Costume

Web links
Graduate Show Film
More info
Link Three
Creative team credits

Journey: A Celebration of Nature

Biscuit Factory, Edinburgh

Hannah Myers

n/a

Sandy Butler

Rowan Myers

Sandy Butler

Edinburgh College of Art

Producer: Megan Baker, Movement Director: Jane Howie, Graphic Design: Nicky Regan, Event Management: Alison Brown, Sharon Pringle, Ryan Buchanan

We Are Nature1

Description

What was the case study project about?

The inspiration for the costumes was a book that I wrote in 2016 called ‘Journey’. In the format of a continuous poem, the book tells the story of me walking barefoot through my native forest; describing all of the sensations that I experienced: scents, sights, sounds and the different textures felt underfoot --some pleasant, some painful. During my walk, I also found objects, plants and animals that I took close-up photographs of and had wonderful imaginings of a miniature human interacting with these things. I created these imaginings visually in photographic form and they appear in the book at the points where they were spotted along the journey. Each image is accompanied by a short poem that I wrote to tell a taster of a story about the miniature person’s experience. The costumes that I designed for my graduation piece ‘Journey: A Celebration of Nature’ were inspired by the natural textures found in each photograph from the book. The pages of the book are the paper gills of a mushroom. I created this mushroom structure in order to present the book as a natural form; in homage to the forest.

We Are Nature2

Eco Thinking

What does ecological thinking mean to you and how do you approach it in your work?

For me, ecological thinking means:

To firstly consider the nourishing earth around us; the soil beneath our feet, the grass between our toes, the flora and fauna before us, the expansive and diverse lands surrounding us, the deep, mysterious, plentiful oceans that mirror the oceans of our minds, and the soothing, whispering, expansive skies above; our air ocean, if you will.

Then, once we have fully felt the presence of Mother Earth who we exist within and are deeply connected to, we may make our decisions in alignment with our intention to respect our gorgeous ecosystem that feeds us and, wherever possible, we can give her nourishment, regeneration and love in return. Along my journey, I have come to the understanding that I have originated from nature, I am a part of nature, therefore I am nature. So when it comes to my daily decisions (creative or otherwise) I consider what is best for the health of Mother Earth and in doing so, I promote good health for all life. Specifically in my creative process, I search in nature for inspiration: leaves, grass, mushrooms and flowers often appear in my creations.

As much as possible, I create art from found materials, often visiting scrap stores and reusing things from charity shops. I choose these materials and objects to create textiles and forms that are the starting phase of designing costumes, props, puppets, set pieces and more! I find this way of making is exciting and mysterious! I am pleasantly surprised when the materials and objects guide the process and spur my imagination into unknown realms.

Aims and Objectives

What were the aims and objectives of the project?

The aim of the project was to create a nature-inspired performance within nature that told the devastating tragedy of Mother Earth’s story within the current climate emergency. As this project was my final year degree piece at university, the ten character performance currently only exists hypothetically (ready to be realised in future opportunities). So far I have made a couple of experimental videos of myself performing in the two costumes that I made. One I made to celebrate finishing my degree when my end of term show was unfortunately cancelled due to Covid-19. I also made a conceptual development clip and this summer I was very lucky to perform with my costumes in the Edinburgh College of Art 2021 Performance Costume Show Video!

The performance intended to take people on a slow journey through a beautiful forest; gently connecting them with their natural surroundings. Through dance and sound, the performers aimed to illustrate the effects of humans’ destructive behaviour towards our fragile ecosystems; eventually ending the performance on the positive note that Nature will inevitably rebalance and reclaim a state of abundance --as humans must change their toxic habits to avoid extinction.

We Are Nature3

Learning Points

What did you do to challenge the status quo?

The fabric dyeing industry uses primarily toxic dyes to add colour to fabric. In order to be kind to nature, I chose to experiment with natural dyes. I foraged various leaves including bramble, eucalyptus, docken, alder, and I used carrot, mushroom, spinach, beetroot, grass and moss to try eco-printing onto fabric. I also used vegetables such as red onion and turmeric root to dye fabric by boiling the vegetation up and creating dye baths. As well as this, I ordered some madder root from an online shop to create a red dye bath which produced excellent, vibrant results! Another thing I tried was leaving the fabric in a jar of vinegary water with rusty iron nails for a couple of weeks which left grey blotchy impressions on the fabric! I must admit that, initially, I was quite reluctant to try natural dyeing and eco printing as I had never done any before and didn’t know anything about it, but after a lot of research, patience and failed attempts, I finally got some really exciting results! The thing that stopped me from managing to use a lot of naturally dyed fabric in my final costumes was time running out (due to my successful samples happening later on in the project) but now that I have the knowledge and practice of the process I feel better prepared to use natural dyeing in future creations. I have continued my experimentation with natural dyeing and I intend to use it and share my knowledge wherever possible.

Reflection

What are some of the best decisions in relation to ecological motivation and action you’ve made related to this project?

Choosing to work with mostly natural materials such as cotton, felt and silk worked really well with the organic, earthy theme of the performance as the characters are intended to blend into their natural surroundings along the forest path. For the Buttercup character’s costume I found a large green cotton top in a charity shop that I adapted into a tunic which was better than buying new fabric to create the garment. I also found some faux velvet in a scrap store to braid into twine to create the net shawl that sits on top of the tunic, then I found a dark green jumper to cut up into strips to hang like vines from the neckline. To create the toadstool prop for the Mushroom costume I used a red top that I got from a charity shop and I stitched it onto the form in a way that showed the sleeves and cuffs as I used the full garment. The white spots on top were made from lace that I found in the scrap box in our studio at university. I really enjoy sharing my creative process with people and inspiring them to find ways of working and creating that are kind to Mother Earth.

We Are Nature4

Sharing is Caring

What is your advice and best tips for other people and teams who want to bring these values into their work?

I often talk to Nature and ask her what she thinks of my ideas or for any ideas she has to offer. We are all welcome to ask the earth, the mountains, the wind, the oceans and water bodies to bring us inspiration and guidance. Trees and plants are especially thoughtful; any flora that bears fruit and seeds is often a helpful creative companion. Gently hold a leaf or branch in your hands and get collaborating! If you believe in the process, it will bring you fruitful ideas! As well as looking to Nature for inspiration, we can also take a leaf out of Nature’s book for self care and managing our energy levels. Look at the seasons that pass through our world every year, we also have our own internal seasons. There are times for gathering and storing inspiration, budding new ideas, blossoming our ideas into creations then reflecting on what we’ve achieved so far in moments of well deserved rest. Be the observer of the unfolding path, practice patience and let yourself enjoy the meandering flow of the process, allow time for experimentation and “mistakes”, trust your intuition and your surroundings may provide you with an abundance of ideas and resources to choose from. Be sure to take care of yourself; treat yourself as a friend and, when working as part of a team, remember the importance of allowing connections to blossom --in the creative space and outwith the workplace.

We Are Nature5

Moving Forwards

How can you be more accountable through your actions as a creative professional?

I am continually finding more ways to create that are sustainable. I really enjoy talking with people about the better choices we can make and the effort, patience and experimentation that is needed to allow our creations to be made in a way that cares for the planet. Although I am very open about my eco-conscious ways, I can always do more to spread the word about environmental issues and let others know about resources and techniques to help them along their ecologically aware creative journey. As well as this, wherever possible, I make sure that I do my best to explore the issues of those of us who have been marginalised. When we take responsibility for transforming the current system and we do our best to evolve the systemic stagnation that impedes growth, we can create beautiful change for a flourishing future!