The Makings of the Hidden Seaweed Garden
The Hidden Seaweed Garden is a unique collection of framed seaweed pressings from around Ireland's coastline. Creating and revealing the beauty in each specimen has become an unexpected joy that I love to return to.
Over the last year, I started collecting (not harvesting) and working with beautiful seaweed from locations around Dublin including Portmarnock beach, Burrow beach, Balscadden Bay beach, Forty Foot/Sandycove beach, and Seapoint. I even managed to get to Sligo for an all-too-brief collection on Streedagh beach. I have plans to get to many more beaches and shorelines. Subscribe to the Anulka mailing list for updates as these new locations become available.
What I love the most about this type of art is the element of suprise in the beauty and details of the seaweed when you view it up close. When in the sea, most seaweed looks like a brown-red-yellow kind of mulch. But when it's spread out on paper and dried, the intricate and beautiful details really show off!
If you're interested in learning more about the entire process behind creating each piece, read on...
The first stage - collection - needs some careful timing. I've learnt that the best specimens are found while combing the intertidal zone (the area between the low tide and high tide marks), particularly after some stormy onshore winds. When I spot a bit of wild weather in the forecast, I check the tides and get my wellies ready. Then I spend an hour or two wading through the riches that have come ashore. It's fun, mindful, and works the leg muscles!
After collection, I go through all the specimens, rinsing and examining each one in detail. They don't all make the cut. The ones that do are then individually arranged underwater, on paper, by hand. I use high-quality acid-free watercolour paper, which dries with the specimen. This creates a beautifully textured finish that doesn't require the use of any glue.
To press each specimen I use 'high-tech' equipment - layers of kitchen roll, reusable cloth, and some VERY heavy books. The kitchen roll and cloth are changed every 2-3 days to help the drying process, and to avoid any build-up of mould. Depending on the type of seaweed, it takes 4-6 weeks for each specimen to fully dry.
The last step in the process is hand-writing an identification note beside each specimen and then framing. I start identifying the fresh specimens as I'm pressing them, but I always double-check the names before framing using my go-to book for seaweed identification - Seaweeds of Britain and Ireland: Second Edition. My handwritten note on each pressing includes its English and Latin specimen names, and its collection location/date. I think this adds a lovely naturalist touch.