Bird box

Mini artwork on a station platform.

I’ve made an artwork in a bird box as part of Isobel Smith’s project, Art at Glynde station. 

Local artists are given a bird box to work with. When complete, their mini art works are hung on wooden walls of the long shelter on Platform 1, on a mural painted by the Baron Gilvan.

My birdbox is called Soil Microbes. The viewer looks into the bird box through the hole covered by a lens. Inside, on a background of green lined graph paper, are colourful shapes of bacteria floating in their own micro-world.

I’ve been reading about the web of microbes in the soil as part of an interest in organic gardening, earthworms and the other creatures in the soil. The garden birds, that may live in this garden centre bird box, are part of the soil food web, which begins with an unimaginable number of bacteria, moving through to fungi, arthropods and worms.

The bird box bacteria are represented as if they are under a microscope, through the distortion and uneven focus of a lens (a magnifying glass) so it feels as if we are looking into another world. The graph paper gives the impression of measuring and gathering data and evidence. It’s a nod to idea of basing decisions on findings and evidence.

Thinking of the techniques of scientific visualisation, close-up scientific imagery is often coloured or tinted to make the content clearer, hence the multicolour microbes in the bird box. The colour also gives it a sense of play and fun and looks like a 1980’s fashion fabric design.

I’ve had my eyes tested on large like machines, which look like they could be in the film Metropolis, at the opticians and I bought some cheap glasses to help focus on close work. I found a 1960s microscope from Glynde fete brick-a-brac to look at finds from the garden, though I have yet to master it.

There is physical movement required to focus on a subject – leaning into the bird box, moving a book forwards and backwards or twisting the rings on a microscope.


Cord for macrame

I am learning macrame and I’ve been looking for cord that would work well for a macrame plant holder project. It needs to be fairly thick, flexible and not too resistant to being knotted and flexed, and strong enough to hold a pot of earth which may be watered.

A plant holder project requires eight strands of 3 metres of cord.

In a DIY store in a retail park in Newhaven, I measured out 30 metres of red rope in an aisle of B&Q and then searched for an assistant who had a pair of scissors. I’ll go back another time for some lengths of the other types of rope, but I am trying to force myself to finish one project before buying materials for the next.

This large scale rope (in the photo below) is tethering a passenger ferry to the quayside at Dieppe. The port of Dieppe is a four hour crossing directly from Newhaven.

At the ferry dock, there is a cluster of concrete shapes. They look like letter press glyphs, rubber stamps inked up with a green seaweed colour or lengths of extruded clay.

Gun Girls

Gun Girls.
A short film by Victoria Harwood and Lucy Newman. 1997. 5 mins.

Gun Girls is showing at the ICA on Saturday 14th Feb 2017 as part of the London Short Film festival programme, White Trash Girls, Gun Girls & Riot Girls.

“All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl.” Jean Luc Godard

What is it about?
The pursuit of free will. Its visual, fun and from the female point of view. Sci-fi, low fi kitsch. (The guns are water pistols.)

Two androids are sent to Earth on a mission. The mission is aborted and they become Gun Girls. Gun Girls have a brief taste of Earth life before their battle with El Pimptronic, their former alien controller

The Geffrey Museum (fire alarm went off)
Trafalgar Square, The Mall
Tooting Bingo
Duxford Air Museum
Heathfield, Sussex
New York
Heathrow Airport
Camberwell, London
Royal College of Art
Charing Cross club
Kings Cross, London

Trashy, control, robots, rebirth, girl-power, dysfunctional domesticity, earthlife, recreation, poses. 

We saw

Pepi, Luci y Bom – Pedro Almodovar
Harryhausen animations
The Avengers / Captain Scarlet / The Man from Uncle
50’s Sci Fi
Faster Pussycat Kill Kill Kill – Russ Meyer
Comic strips
Daisies (but afterwards)

We looked at
Jeff Koons
Carnivalesque ideas
Kitsch (in clubs) and parody.

Mostly analogue. Low fi. Super 8, cardboard, silver paint, silver foil, cotton wool and face paint.
Props from boot fairs.
Stop motion models.
Early photoshop and After Effects.
Special effects are real – explosives and firecrackers.
A mix of methods and techniques.

An empty London. Round the back of Covent Garden and Denmark Street. Low security at Heathrow. The towers stand in NY. British seaside resort. Fun fair.

A store of film costume of Shuna’s.
A mix of eras. 1950s sci fi, 1970s Pimptronic, 1960s domestic, 60s spies.

Messing about with costumes and super 8 cameras. The shots then the storyboard. Applications for funding. Self funded. Vic organising locations. Telecine in Soho. Sound at the RCA.

80’s dancing disco scene
A cooking scene – a mess of food and food processing – not quite the Semiotics of the Kitchen.

At the time
Shared house
Vic  – working in film wardrobe depts and theatre and production design, pre RCA
Lucy – scanner and graphic designer in multimedia, post RCA
Charles Barker – painter – writing films



Andromeda Strain (1971)

Aesthetics of sci-fi science stations and micro organisms.

I’ve been reading about power of microbes, in the Gut (by Giulia Enders ) and in the Soil (Teaming with Life). The 1970s sci-fi film The Andromeda Strain, based on a novel by Jurassic-Park-author Michael Crichton, was an appropriate choice of viewing.

Top scientists are sent to uncover the nature of the deadly strain of bug transported from outer space by a US probe. The sci-fi lab is secreted below the a working farm, an agriculture research centre, where soil testing is taking place.  The experts are sent from the wooden building,  down to a streamline metal environment,  through different levels, further underground and through different colours ways. On route, they systematically have bacteria and fungus eradicated from every surface of their bodies.

Here are some stills showing the fictional crystalline micro organism, that doesn’t like too much of either acid or alkali, as seen in the top secret underground lab in red, yellow, silver and beige.


andromeda red 02

andromeda - yellow

andromeda yellow

andromeda beige   ANDROMEDA03









Notes on making flapjack.

The main ingredient of the flapjack is golden syrup. This is the amber industrial byproduct of the refining of white sugar. The syrup was once discarded as waste until it was seen as an asset and developed into a tinned sweet product at a sugar refinery on the Thames in the East End of London.

The famous brand Lyle has sold their syrup in a green and gold tin since 1884, which carries a biblical image of a dead lion harbouring a bee colony. The slogan behind this is ‘sweetness from strength’.

The syrup is melted into sugar and butter over a low heat. It is combined with oats and salt, flattened into a tin tray and baked.



295g of butter
FAT. A huge amount of butter!  250g seems to work. Even this is a whole pack. 

500g of oats
It is good to have two textures of oats, fine and coarse, so the mixture melds together better.
Or replace some of the oats with ground up seeds and oats and dessicated coconut. 

SALT – a pinch

250 golden syrup.
Sticky, heavy, transparent and slow moving. Some use 120g of syrup and 75g of demerara SUGAR instead.


Preheat the oven to 190
Melt the butter, syrup and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat.
Mix in all the combined dry ingredients
Press down on a baking tray
Cook in the over for 25 minutes
Cut in to pieces and allow to cool in the tray.

The recipe on Lyles Golden syrup website >>


The lion and bees on the Lyle’s Golden Syrup tin




Porridge oats