Monday, 4 June 2012

Sphagnum walk

To mark the end of this project and thank the various people who have been involved I organised a walk where we looked at different mosses and sphagna, swapped stories and facts about sphagna and Sphagnum skyense in particular.

Looking closer with a hand lens

Maolios Caimbeul read us his poem about a rock that we passed on our path.....

A Stone by the Way

Not gneiss but a great lump of basalt
which fell thousands of years ago
from Grianan nam Maighdean and down Leathad na Caillich,
and now lies by the edge of the path above Loch Hasco
scrubbed by the elements’ untold years.
Like something living, bright and shining,
covered by a multi-coloured film of life,
brown and yellow and red moss,
and algae of all kinds gripping you like a skin.
And though we all know you’re dead,
of the dust of the earth, you support what’s alive,
the film of life that surrounds you,
and draw me to you like a magnet
every day I pass, renewing the whims of memory
that come with age, a symbol and sign
by the way, inspiring thought and thoughts
all like a transitory layer of moss
on the surface of stone,
a stone anciently from the stars
and which will long outlast us
carrying the colour of life.

Clach ris a’ cheum

Chan e gneis a th’ annad ach cnap mòr basalt
a thuit na mìltean bhliadhnaichean air ais
bho Ghrianan nam Maighdein ’s sìos Leathad na Caillich,
thu nis nad laighe ri oir a’ cheum os cionn Loch Hàsco
air do sguabadh le bliadhnaichean nan sian.
Thu mar nì beò soilleir, soillseach,
le lìon bheatha ioma-dhathte gad chòmhdach,
còinneach dhonn is bhuidhe is dhearg,
is algae de gach seòrsa cho dlùth riut ri craiceann.
S ged tha fhios againn uile gu bheil thu marbh,
s de dhust na talmhainn, tha thu nad thaic dhan nì tha beò,
dhan lìonraidh bheatha tha gad chuairteachadh,
s thu gam tharraing thugad gach latha thèid mi seachad ort
mar mhagnait, ag ùrachadh magaidean na cuimhne
a thig leis an aois, nad shamhla ’s nad shoidhne
ris an t-slighe, ’s a’ brosnachadh smaoin is smaointean,
a tha mar sgannan còinnich diombuam
air uachdar cloiche, a’ chlach a thàinig o chian
às nan reul, ’s a mhaireas fada às ar dèidh
a’ giùlan fiamh na beatha. 

Sphagnum skyense
With the help of Nick Hodgetts, a bryologist (botanist specialising in mosses and ferns) we found some Sphagnum skyense in a new location for him. This sphagna was found in 1987 on Skye, hence the name, by the Norwegian Kjell Flatberg. We discussed the fact that nothing eats this plant yet it is home to many specific flora and fauna, and that it was alive at the same time as the dinosaurs were roaming Staffin and leaving their footprints on the shore.

 Amidst sun, hail and snow we had a picnic - the 34 buns representing the number of different species of sphagna in Scotland and the tablecloth had images of Sphagnum skyense printed on it using peat.

Monday, 28 May 2012

The variety of Sphagna...

The delicate variety of Sphagna, begining to notice for myself the huge range of this wonderful species.
Seen with magnification these unassuming plants show the rich structures and forms used to grow in these difficult conditions. These plants have mastered the art of survival, when dried out they can survive without water for long periods and then come alive when water becomes available again.

beautiful and soft to touch....
always coexisting with lots of other mosses
Sphagnum acts as a sponge holding 20 times its dry weight of water

Sphagnum is what makes peat - it forms at 1mm a year - so 1m is 1000yrs old, the weight of the plant growth compressing the layers beneath.

The different spahgnum species forms a rich tapestry of living colour in the bog;red, orange, yellow, pink, green, ochre, brown, copper, red.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

In Edinburgh again...

Edinburgh print workshop

Visiting again to try and print a series of things, peat stories, photographic separations of Sphagnum and some text, thinking about the layering of colours something I have avoided with using peat.

Being in Edinburgh I notice moss where it grows and makes use of places other plants can't manage as in this wall head beside the Water of Leith.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

prints gathered together

This seems to sum up the special properties of this plant - printed using peat.

I have been looking through, selecting ones that are ok and signing them, very like finishing photographs properly, quite satisfying.
I like the balance between the delicate line of the actual grass (purple moor-grass), the drawing and the colour block, something which screenprinting can do well.

This print uses peat as the ink and I like the white space below - I originally planned this for a smaller piece of paper but felt it needed the space. Four different sphagna pencil drawings then reversed in photoshop in order to give the peat more prominence.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Sphagnum in its own place

It rains, it rains quite a lot, we often just have damp air, grey and laden with moisture. This is the ideal habitat for the mosses that live in Scotland, especially on the west coast. Scotland is known worldwide for the mosses and bryophites that flourish here.
On a grey windy dark day you can look amongst the heather and discover carpets of bright greens, yellows and reds, these belong to the many different species of Sphagna we have in Scotland (34).

Often the differences between species can only be seen up close, with a hand lens or even under the microscope. For me I am interested in noticing the general feel and different appearances in the landscape for the different species, but it is also interesting to see the changes during the year with a specific plant. When there is no water the plant dries up becoming white or pale green and just waits for the rain. Some sphagna hold 90% water! 
There is a whole mini ecosystem of single celled organisms, plants and animals which live only on the surface of and inside the waterlogged cells of Sphagna.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

assessing the prints

Back on Skye I have had time to assess the prints, looking at all the work that I have done;
some, like this direct print of the bog moss, I had originally thought didn't work, now it think there is some potential.

Some work involved printing on glass, these are old glass shelves from a shop display, I printed five different drawings of different sphagna onto different size glass sections, using peat only - the results are even more subtle than I had expected, which I like as it expresses something about this plant - you need to look to notice it

Some prints which I thought would work just didn't - like this one using inks I wanted to balance the block of colour with the delicate drawings of different plants, but the whole composition doesn't hold together - subtle changes in printing, the lines being a bit thinner (than the photocopies I was using to imagine it) the colours being very slightly different - ......

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

printing again

There has been a bit of a break; I had  short residency in France in November and my trip down in December was thwarted by snow, but now I am back in Edinburgh and seeing how much I remember about the whole process. Before coming down I had prepared a number of pieces ready for printing, I am experimenting with many different things: using peat itself, trying inks and mixing colours, layers, drawings, photocopies, using the computer etc. etc.
The atmosphere is great in the workshop; calm working environment, helpful advice if you need it. The one thing I thought I knew how to work with, the peat, turned out to not work so well this time.

satisfying when it works
view under the screen