Saturday, July 14, 2018

Coccolithophores Impressed: Ōku Moana and The Sandpit Collective

 Coccolithophores are a group of microscopic phytoplankton found living in earth's sunlit oceans. These single-celled algae are surrounded by armoured plates ('coccoliths') made from calcium carbonate (limestone). They are vulnerable to ocean acidification; coccolithophores will be threatened in future ocean phytoplankton communities, with potentially dramatic consequences for the global carbon cycle.

Scanning electron microscopy image (x17.000 magnification) of
the cosmopolitan coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi  (Ro Allen)

 During New Zealand International Science Festival (6 – 15 July) The Sandpit Collective (Dr Jenny Rock and Lynn Taylor) combined with Ro Allen, a candidate in Science Communication at the University of Otago whose PhD research focuses on coccolithophores.   

To share concern regarding the projected increase in ocean acidity due to climate change and to highlight the significant challenges for coccolithophores we designed a SciArt experience as part of the Ōku Moana exhibition at the Community Gallery in Dunedin.

The Sandpit Collective believe that engaging people in art and aesthetics can be a way to raise awareness and share scientific knowledge.  

Under 12's worked on texture rubbings of healthy and unhealthy coccoliths. After revealing various stages of disorganisintion in coccolith formation due to the effects of ocean acidification they cut out and attached their rubbings to the corresponding giant healthy and unhealthy coccolithophore models. 

Texture Rubbing table with laser cut coccoliths

Close up of texture rubbing healthy coccoliths

Healthy coccolithophore model with it's
armour on: texture rubbings of liths
 by exhibition visitors
Coccolith necklaces worn by
The Sandpit
Participants could also make their
own 'microscope slide' of
 rubbings and drawings

 Visitors aged 12+ (and for the occasional younger person who persuaded us) were invited to make their own blind emboss prints of healthy and unhealthy coccoliths. Working around a press is  a communal activity and provided a great opportunity to discuss the role and importance of coccolithophores in trapping our carbon emissions.

Bella and Emma working at the printing press 

Prints were taken away in an information pamphlet that Ro published so people could follow up on scientific specifics after the experiences.

Pamphlet which provided protection and information to go
 with the prints

Alongside participants making emboss prints to take home most contributed a print to the community art work which built up over the course of the exhibition. We had over 100 participants with in excess of 400 blind emboss prints made.  Thank you to everyone who participated and helpers: Pam, Jesse,Trevor, Sara, Becky, James and Scarlet to name a few. 

Installing emboss prints on the community exhibit.
 Unhealthy on the left, healthy on the right.
 (Not applicable to the participants!)

Laid out in a grid the prints become like a survival blanket - a way of visibly seeing the importance of this phytoplankton that is too small to see with the naked eye. 

A selection of blind emboss prints 
created by Ōku Moana visitors

The paper we used was off cuts from a business associated with the University of OtagoThe prints, when stacked resemble the sea and ocean floor which lead to the inspiration to photograph the prints back in the habitat of the coccolithophore, the sea.

Stack of prints showing deckled edges of the paper

It's the middle of winter in Dunedin, in fact the exhibition was aligned with Matariki celebrations and my feet went numb in the sea whilst retrieving the prints. 

Coccolith prints thinking about home

Releasing coccolith prints back to the sea under 
the watchful eyes of seagulls
In a poetic happenstance prints that tumbled back to shore with the waves were added to with a layer of sand. Beautiful incidental drawing that felt like an appropriate closure to a week of appreciating our oceans.

Sea and Sand drawings
Interested groups are welcome to use these texture rubbing and solar plates as a starter kit for their own SciArt activity if you contact us and organise courier of the items. 
Other items of interest at:

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Upcoming Mixed Media class

This info will be in the catalogue - see website for more details.

This print based mixed media class explores a variety of interventions on paper and fabric towards creating a collection of layered surfaces, textures and experimental samples.
The course of the week is structured with some time each day allocated to introductions to various print media, demonstrations and some short activities to help identify artistic individuality.  Participants then expend from this base working on their own projects and goals with support.

We will cover printmaking techniques that lend themselves towards abstract and painterly effects through mono, rust and offset printing. Resulting prints can be integrated with solar printmaking which is an accessible process capable of producing detailed graphic and text plates. Further interventions such as hand stitching, piercing, cutting, folding and encaustic wax can then be applied. The results can remain as samples or be taken further: stitched into a book, a ‘quilt’, collaged onto substrates of foam core, mdf and laser cut out shapes or resolved as a three dimensional assemblage like a figurine/puppet (check out ‘bricolage’ for ideas) or jewellery.

There are no prerequisites for this course, it is suitable for beginners to advanced makers. Because mixed media is so flexible it can also become overwhelming, so many choices! The only requirement, to give yourself more clarity, is that you are asked to consider an approach, topic or theme that you would like to focus on over the week and also bring along an image of an art work that inspires you.

A selection of work from the 2017 class.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Island Inspirations Weekend: Cyanotype Workshop

Over the weekend of 3rd and 4th of June Stewart Island locals and visitors came together for a Photography workshop with Graham Dainty and a Cyantoype workshop with me. We also enjoyed a fabulous shared meal and evening talks! 

Little bit of info: The cyanotype process for making prints was invented by Sir John Herschel in 1842 and came from his discovery of the light sensitivity of iron salts. It produces a deep indigo image (known as Prussian Blue), which can be printed onto many surfaces. English Botanist  Anna Atkins used the process for what is considered to be the first work with photographic illustrations, namely her Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions (1843). 

Anna Atkins

A bit of problem solving and a broken window went on in
 order to find a way to print Janet's seaweed

Janet's large kelp print

Cyanotypes are also referred to as sunprints. There are different recipes, we used a traditional mixture using 2 solutions, a combination of Ammonium Ferric citrate (iron), Potassium ferricyanide and water.  The mixed solution was coated onto the paper in the dark with the help of red light torches (which were in abundance as used on the Island for Kiwi spotting), dried quickly with hair dryers, exposed to sunlight and washed to remove the unexposed chemistry. 

Heading off to teach away from home takes
a bit of organising, here's my scruffy list

Experimenting with different materials.

Zane and Sue plotting and planning whilst apparently
drinking meths.

Exposing prints in the sun

Lots of experimentation went on - using different mediums to block the light.

Shona: rubber stamping used as a light blocker,
printed onto silk organza
Tallis experimented with Indian ink on transparency.
 (Also, not shown, water droplets.)
Tallis's result: ink flicks combined
 with pen drawn image
Drawing with Sharpie pen on transparency

Jewellery and the ever popular onion bag

Hand drawn image, cyanotype print toned with tannin.
A dreamy pillowcase made by Annett
Pip's lace

Beautiful broken glass print - Janet.
Painted and exposed wood to show the grain
The remains on our coating boards looked good too
On day two we worked with digital negatives which required more experimentation with timing of exposures.

Digital negative

What a print looks like after exposure before being washed out.
Detail of Megan's work.

I have the cutest of friends.

Same negative, two different exposure times.
Longer in the light creates a darker image.
A side of Shona you might not have expected to see
Zane's photo, manipulated with a Photoshop filter then printed

Jo Learmonth organised some images from the Stewart Island Rakiura Museum for use for this project, applying the Creative Commons License. It was magical for me seeing these images from the past appear after exposure and washing out.

Labels from the Stewart Island Rakiura Museum printed by Pip

Megan, Janet, Shona, Sue, Annett, Pip, Sharon, Zane and Tallis you were an amazing class.

I find this a super useful reference site:

The weekend was made better by significant help from the Photography Department @ Dunedin School of Art, where I  pre-coated some papers and the University of Otago. Thanks to Dave Warren, from the Chemistry Department, fellow cyanotype enthusiast Steve Ting from SciComm (who will be hosting an upcoming workshop at Otago Museum) and Tallis Lentz, our chief chemical mixer from the Chemistry Outreach Programme. 

Stewart Island put on a stunning departure morning.

Thanks to Stewart Island Promotions for organising this creative weekend - I hope there is a repeat next year.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Toni Hartill Art: PCANZ Summer School 2017

Toni Hartill Art: PCANZ Summer School 2017: The 2017 PCANZ Summer School took place in Auckland again this year at St Cuthberts College in January. The format was different fro...

Saturday, November 19, 2016

SciArt: Orokonui Halo Project with The Sandpit Collective

Some photos of process  - using art as a platform to encourage awareness and conversations around biodiversity and predator control.
HALO Project