Algataku

So last week was one if those fantastic weeks when my two jobs overlapped perfectly! To celebrate the launch of the Hidden Worlds Ocean exhibit at the Eden Project in Cornwall (which is amazing!) the Marine Biological Association were invited to join the talented Christian Sardet (Plankton Chronicles) and his team, as well as scientists from Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the ever enthusiastic Andy Peters with his awe inspiring life-sized inflatable marine animals including a huge basking shark that could fit an adult inside it’s gaping mouth!

Our workshop (The Amazing World of Algae: The Good, the Bad & the Slimy) consisted of a selection of hands-on activities aimed at sharing how beautiful, diverse and important seaweed is. But we also wanted an art based activity to help introduce and these concepts.

After working with Gyotaku in the past (see previous post) I had seen how valuable the ancient Japanese art of fish rubbing could be for helping to teach about fish anatomy anf adaptation. So why not transfer this concept over to seaweed I thought? An icy trip to the shore at the break of dawn a large bucket of seaweed and lots of mess later, Algataku was born! (yes, I know.. Nature printing is already a thing!)

During the trial and error stage I discovered a few things that are worth keep in mind if you ever want to have a go.

  • Make sure your subject is very dry but not so dry it goes brittle and crumbles to pieces when you touch it!
  • The thin, flexible rice paper I use for gyotaku works on flatter specimens, but the moisture and rigid angles of larger kelp species made ripping a problem!
  • The cheep /free packing paper that comes in lots of packages – eg from Amazon- makes good paper for prints and is good for rubbing.
  • Large subjects work best when paper is placed on top and rubbed. Smaller subjects are best painted, transferred to the paper, covered with scrap paper and then rubbed.
  • Most paints and ink seemed to work well as long as it wasn’t too wet or gloopy!

The workshop went brilliantly with ages 3 to.. Well I didn’t ask as that would have been rude. Taking part and producing beautiful and unique artwork to take home. We encouraged people to make algataku bookmarks and laminated several to make keepsakes that will last forever.

I will definitely be doing more algataku as I found it incredibly relaxing and the effects were really satisfying. With more than 650 species of seaweed in the UK and more globally, I think the scope for new and beautiful artwork is huge!

Algataku is a nice vegan/ less smelly alternative to the gyotaku workshops I run too!

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