In 2011 I became obsessed with reading about taxidermy and preserving techniques, so decided to have a go at trying out a few traditional techniques on fish skins and to my joy I found I loved it. Unfortunately, back in my studio space at Grays School of Art, and away from the resources I had readily available to me in Shetland it wasn’t so easy to carry out these techniques on fish skins so I really wanted to try and recreate some of the textures and results on a different material. After a lot of thought I decided seaweed would be a great option, scouring the beaches of Aberdeen to find such material of a decent size proved rather unsuccessful and incredibly time consuming so I therefor decided to buy Nori seaweed sheets (usually used for sushi making) and try out some techniques on the sheets. I used different mixes of salt, soda crystals and copper sulphate liquids to soak the sheets of seaweed and allow them to dry. The results were fantastic and each sheet came out completely different and unique, I was delighted. What started as an experiment on a couple of sheets resulted in me bulk buying hundreds of nori sheets online and turning my studio space into a bit of a science lab. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun working on a piece before, primarily because I had no idea where it was going and how it would look in the end, it was all about the material and the process.
When I realised I had literally hundreds of sheets of seaweed in which were crystallised with salt, copper sulphate and all forms of magical materials I was in a great dilemma at how to display them, I wanted to make larger panels so started the slow and very delicate process of hand stitching each individual panel together to make two large panels. I really wanted the viewer to feel surrounded by the piece, so they could get right amongst it, smell the seaweed and salt and feel tiny its presence. I luckily stumbled across planks of discarded wood which had naturally decayed and weathered and it just seemed to fit with the piece, I gathered them up and decayed them either further by soaking them in a copper sulphate solution before working salt into them. I bolted the planks together to make this free standing frame which when stood up reached a rather grand height of approximately 6.5ft. The piece was displayed in a slightly curved shape to wrap around the viewer and allow them to see all sides of the seaweed panels.
Seaweed panels, showing the colour and texture variations between different preserving techniques and the length in which they have been allowed to preserve.
Myself during the long process of stitching together the seaweed sheets.
Studio. Seaweed hanging up to dry, various installation plans in the background.
The finished installation.
Looking through the installation.
Side view. Showing the curve of the structure itself.
The beauty of copper sulphate crystals. Fantastically intense blue.
Salt crystals started growing everywhere in my studio, not just on the seaweed! I even lost a pair of shoes to the crystals in which engulfed them.