St Abbs Visitor Centre


Seaweeds in GlassI was delighted to be asked to exhibit my seaweeds at the St Abbs Visitor Centre over the summer season from March to October this year.  The first installation has gone in, with some larger pieces to follow in coming months

Perched on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the ancient harbour, the centre holds a commanding view of St Abbs Head and the jagged coastline that delineates the edge of the National Nature Reserve.  This reserve, stretching as far as the eye can see is home and sanctuary to 100’s of species of birds, sea and shore life.  It has witnessed an astonishing repopulation of seabed species due to a prohibition on trawler fishing and has gained an international reputation for superb diving.

JillWatson_StAbbsSurvivors2On the high bluff just outside the centre stands a beautiful memorial to the women and children survivors of the Eyemouth Disaster of 1890.  Created by sculptress Jill Watson, it keens the loss of life, love and livelihood scoured into the sea on that fateful day.

Californian Corallinas


Californian Corallinas

Californian Corallinas

On a far too rare visit to California, I had the opportunity to travel down the coast to Monterey Bay, re-visiting familiar spots from my childhood including Lovers’ Point beach and Asilomar in Pacific Grove, Nepenthe on the Big Sur highway, and Carmel-by-the-Sea.

On our return north, we stopped at the Monterey Aquarium and I was stunned to find so many similar corallines in the bottom of this magical pool in the Rocky Shore exhibition. Exquisite!

RBGE – Seaweed Herbaria Day

We had a wonderful day with the Royal Botanic Garden’s Post Graduate Diploma in Herbology class playing with seaweeds.

Seaweed Herbaria Class_2016

The class all came down from Edinburgh on the train and we took over North Berwick’s Hope Rooms, by the shores of the West Beach.  We had perfect low tide conditions, and deep pools of seaweeds, starfish and anemones to play in.  A very wet afternoon ensued as the group found their pace laying out and pressing some beautiful specimens.  I look forward to seeing the results at the Graduation Show in September.

Good luck!

Rock pools in Spring

The rock pools of late Spring and early summer are alive with colour.  Sometimes though, deep in the clear water of still pools, you can catch the fading hues of winter glowing through to create stunning compositions of tone and texture.  These images were taken at mid-day of barnacles bunched along the tide lines of the blue-green stone reefs reaching out into Ravensheugh beach at the edge of the John Muir Country Park, East Lothian.Limpets onn blue stone

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Scottish Seabird Centre Exhibition

Purple Porphyra print

Purple Porphyra print

The Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick was recently awarded status as the National Marine Centre for Scotland expanding their remit to include wider conservation and education activities exploring marine habitats and wildlife. I was invited to share my seaweed pressings in an exhibition held in their main cafe and gallery celebrating the wider shoreline they inhabit.

The pressings and prints on show were all gathered from the beaches extending either side of the Seabird Centre and from further along the West Beach.  The exhibition runs until 26 Jan 2016.  Prices range from £125 to £350.

Edge of the Sea Exhibition opens

Sara at Edge of the Sea exhibiton

Sara at Edge of the Sea exhibition

Edge of the Sea exhibition of my original seaweed pressings and new giclee prints opens 3rd Oct and runs until the 30th Oct at Hangar Art Gallery, Fenton Barns, North Berwick, EH39 5BW (tel: 01620 850 946).

I will be at the gallery today, Sat, 3rd Oct from 12 noon – 4pm. Stop by for a glass of wine and see the show!

Edge of the Sea

Edge of the Sea inviteNew exhibition going up this week – my first selling one – at Hangar Framing & Art, Fenton Barns, North Berwick, EH39 5BW.

Show will include original pressings and new giclee prints of lovely lacy Rhodophyta and some big green kelps.

Please come along and join me at the opening on Sat, 3rd Oct, 12-4pm to see the show and have a glass of wine.

Californian seas

On a recent trip to northern California, I made two stops to sate my seaweed curiosity.

'By-the-wind-sailors' at Duxbury Reef, Bolinas

‘By-the-wind-sailors’ at Duxbury Reef, Bolinas

The first was a visit to Duxbury Reef off Agate Beach in Bolinas. This is a wonderful marine conservation area of long shale reefs sheltering innumerable rock pools. My mother used to take us here at low tide to scour the pools for anemones, crabs and tiny sea creatures. This time my focus was on the flora and I was captivated by the similarities and difference to the rock pools on my doorstep in Scotland. But it was the bright blue ‘By-the-Wind-Sailors‘, a type of jelly fish which blanketed the beach, that took my breath away.

My second stop was to visit Josie Iselin, the celebrated artist and writer whose work I have long admired. I had never met her, but often look at her online gallery –  a wonderful space filled with images of the things we beachcombers love most – so I emailed her and invited myself over!

Josie Iselin in her studio

Josie Iselin in her studio

She couldn’t have been more gracious and we spent a lovely afternoon drinking tea and ruminated over all things seaweed in her sunny San Francisco house looking out over the Bay.  Her studio is filled with the pieces she has so exquisitely scanned, printed and published, and across her work tables were the pocketfuls of pebbles, shells, sea glass and driftwood that reflect her love of  all things coastal.

Josie's beachcoming treasures

Josie’s beachcombing treasures

Josie’s pictures of seaweeds are awe-inspiring; her images gloriously fresh, dancing strands of colour and light and presented beautifully in her book, An Ocean Garden. You order it from her website or, no doubt, Amazon. Inspiring!

Anna Atkins’ Cyanotypes

Anna Atkins - cyanotypeI was lucky enough to see the exquisite exhibition of Anna Atkins’ seaweed cyanotypes at the Stills Gallery in Edinburgh in May.

The exhibition’s purpose was to explore the history and art of photography, and the small inner room of the gallery was devoted to a collection of original images from her seminal work British Algae; Cyanotype Impressions (1843), the first book to be illustrated by photography.

Anna Atkins was one of those quite amazing women known affectionately as the Seaweed Sisterhood – a group of both trained and self-taught botanists and phycologists who collectively classified and catalogued the seaweeds of the British coast in the mid-1800’s. Anna, in printing and publishing her book, also established the first use of photography for scientific illustration.

Her cyanotypes are very simple juxtapositions of blue and white, illustrating the shape and form of her botanical collection but with a lovely sense of artistry, harmony and balance.  The work goes well beyond a scientific recording and evokes a sense of the aesthetic appreciation so often at the heart of collectors’ work of that era.

Sara's cyanotypes

Sara’s cyanotypes

I had a go at creating some cyanotypes of my own pressings in a short workshop held in the darkrooms of the gallery.  Not in the same league as Anna’s, but a pleasure to experience her process and thinking in creating this wonderful body of work.

Seaweeds in The Scots Kitchen

I enjoyed listening to BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme this morning. Highlighted today was the movement known as the Slow Food Ark of Taste whose quest is to preserve traditional recipes and the cultivation/harvesting of ingredients from around the world. We are fortunate in the UK that over the last century many women have collected and preserved local recipes and lore in early cookbooks.  In Scotland, F. Marian McNeill, a daughter of the manse in Orkney, was one of them and seaweed recipes from her book The Scots Kitchen with Old-Time Recipes’, were read on the program. I reached for my old (1929 first edition!) book to have a look and came across some remarkable recipes and quotes.  Here is an excerpt:

The Scots Kitchen

The Scots Kitchen cookbook

Dishes of Seaweed

Seaweeds are rich in potassium iodide.

The edible seaweeds found on our coasts include Carrageen or Sea-moss, Tang or Redware (Eng. Sea-girdle); Henware or Honeyware (Eng. Bladderlock); Sloke (En.g Laver); Green Laver; and Dulse (Fucus palmatus, Linn.)


In Orkney, children eat the stems of the sea-tangle raw, as they would stalks of rhubarb.

In the Hebrides, Martin tells us, “the blade is eat by the Vulgar Natives”¹. In Barra, the blade is cut away from the fronds and stalk and roasted on both sides over the embers.  It is then placed on a buttery bannock. Children eat it with avidity.

¹ “I had an account of a young man who lost his Appetite, and taken Pills to no purpose, and being advised to boil the Blade of Alga , and drink the infusion boil’d with a little butter, was restored to his former state of health.” Martin Martin: Description of the Western Islands (1703).

Carrying on this tradition, I understand that Fiona Bird of South Uist is following her wonderful book,The Forger’s Kitchen, with a new arrival in April called Seaweed in the Kitchen, promising to restore and revive both the tradition of cooking and eating seaweeds and of saving recipes for future generations.