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 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!
Over the last few weeks I have been a regular visitor to the great stretches of basalt rock that reach out into Milsey Bay in the east of the town, and to the beach by the 3rd hole in the west, to watch the ebb of Winter flow into Spring. There are a few favourite tide pools that draw me in especially on the days of lowest tides with their beauty and intensity of light and life. This is not a collecting time of year, so I take photos, Some I have made into banners for this site, but thought I might post them here in their original forms.
Red sandstone rock pool
Opposite the Marine Hotel, in the low rocky outcrops of the Hummell Ridges, are shallow pools with pink bottoms of exquisite cerise Lithothamnion and rougy Hildenbrandia. Lining these pools are blankets of Laminaria and Fucus, their great floppy fronds forming a protective ridge at the each poolside’s edge, hiding within them a myriad of seaweeds, snails, crabs, shrimp, shells and sand. On the east side, between the Seabird Centre and the Yellow Man, are the dark milky bore holes of the Milsey Rocks.
These surprisingly deep craters are home to copses of kelps at one end, and crevices of purple corallines and magenta rhodymenia at the other, sheltering in and out of the orange sandstone ledges. Here the contrast between the red sandstone and greenstone is acute, borders merged by splashes of crustose algae, with iridescent blue Carrageenans sparkling in the first rays of Spring.
Located on the first floor of the John Hope Gateway centre of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, the exhibition is free and open from 10am – 5:45pm daily, until 15th June 2014.
Gathered from the East Lothian coast between Gullane Bents and Tyninghame Beach, the sea flora pressings of Rhodophyta (reds), Chlorophyta (greens) and Phaeophyta (browns) are displayed primarily by colour along with some wonderful Victorian books on collecting seaweeds. The larger entrance display holds bolder specimens from wracks and kelps to edible laver and sea lettuce.
I will be exhibiting about 40 of my seaweed pressings in the John Hope Gateway Centre at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival. The show is curated by Kirsty White and runs from Sat, 5th April to 15th June 2014.
This collection reveals the extraordinary range, beauty and diversity of seaweeds that grow in the rock pools and kelp beds along the shores of East Lothian, from Gullane to Seacliff. Collected through the seasons, they show the life cycle from vibrant new growth to mature form, with the accompanying changes to pigmentation and ultimately decay as time and tide take their toll. These are real specimens (although at first glance they resemble botanical illustrations) based on an old Victorian tradition of herbarium pressing, but presented in a contemporary context. The images are striking in their simplicity and surprising by their similarity to land-based flora, taking graceful organic forms resembling trees, leaves, flowers and feathers – their exquisite abstraction of colour, shape and form questioning the division between science and art.
Walking along North Berwick beach last week I spotted a rare sight lying low along the foaming waves – a surfer. Bobbing up and down she battled the surge to gain the swells forming within the shallow bay, but after several attempts, and no decent rides, she abandoned the effort and waded off, probably down to Ravensheugh or Dunbar in search of bigger waves.
The sand however could not retreat, and great chunks were being pulled into the sea creating a landscape of soft cliffs along an ordinarily level sweep of beach. Tugging and pulling, the surf relentlessly washed forward and back, sucking the mounds from underneath, and then once dispelled, surged to nag at the old boards holding the sea back from the shore.
Further towards the West, once the tide had retreated, I came across great heaps of seaweeds, tangled and tossed into huge pyres and hanging from the highest rocks. These mangled mountains must have contained thousands, if not millions, of seaweeds, from giant kelps and big bands of fucus to mats of shiny laver and tangles of mermaids’ hair. What an extraordinary testament to the flora beneath the waves.
Lastly, at the lowest ebb of the tide, I came across a rare harvest; with tons of sand pulled back into the deep, there lying exposed were a plethora of golf balls. I started to gather one or two (good for backyard practice) and soon realised they were in every nook and cranny, some even came with the stipes of young seaweeds attached. The most interesting one however was an old specimen, brown with microscopic algae, its shiny surface of tiny pockmarks echoing an age gone by – it was probably played about 30 years ago… I guess golfers have found this stretch of the course difficult for a long time.
Walking down to the beach the other evening, I found the tide at its lowest ebb, the sands drawn smooth by the ocean’s pull, and an ethereal glow infusing water’s edge to grassy shore. Opaque hues of iridescent blue and ribbons of red and gold fanned across the shimmering panorama/canvas. Funnels of light poured through the backlit clouds, illuminating and shifting colours, pushing and pulling shadows and shades to dance across the expanse. Yellow lichened rocks sparkled in the warming light and the Bass glowed luminous across the white-licked waves. The lapping tide arrested its movement and a golden peace descended; all breath expelled into gossamer air – the sea, the sky and the earth resting for a moment to let the tide turn.
Returning from the shore, I watched the trickles of tidewater heading home, carving tracery fingers into the soft sandy banks and fringes of pools to leave transitory motifs of their passing. Sometimes these look like silhouettes of ancient forests; hills lined with gnarled trees, limbs and branches stretching into rivulets of sand. Sometimes like the stream beds of dry deserts, pummeled, molded and then swept away by the wind.
The sands, newly washed clean, started to shift with life again. Wiggles of worm casings spiraled up across the wettest shores, tiny flies emerged from crusted pockets of sand, and the dunes released sprays of summer swallows in hot pursuit. The sandpipers resumed their tide line inspections and the gulls called out cacophonously for a final hunt.