Wednesday, 30 November 2016

living ink signing off

I've declared the last of the living ink done. At first glance it looks like it hasn't done anything (bar the mould blooms) but if you turn it over you can see a faint speckle of algae. This was the moistest bit of the paper, and the bit in contact with the agar jelly. If you click through there are even some growth rings. This, more than anything else, convinced me that there were actually some algae spores in the mix, although I'd hesitate to call the results artistic.

and here's the final picture so, where's the algae?

The jelly went to the food waste, mould cultures and all, and I declared this last bit of paper a bit too mouldy to keep, plus I found the heavily pixellated image annoying. In the bin.The red ink (slow) in common with the first batch, never did anything at all on the front of the paper, but the algae on the back coincides with some of the brush strokes. It may just be coincidence.

Last of the living ink not my best kickstarter ever

The green ink is just visible to the naked eye (the camera can barely see it) but didn't develop as excitingly and unconvincingly as it did when the ink was freshly cracked.

loot shot (used)

Here's my final loot shot. Living ink, used. As you can see, the original picture has faded, but still looks more like invisible ink than algae. Other than that I have some mouldy paper, wet kitchen towel (the whole think leaked water), an "easel" (five bits of wood and some bolts), and a plastic container full of used growing medium (probably agar jelly, but documentation consisted of instructions only).

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Friday, 18 November 2016

living ink continues to unconvince

If there's one thing I can say with confidence, it's that evaporation has taken place. Here's the view of the grow-house. You can see squiggles where the "quick" ink has developed. The gaps are where the "slow" ink was. It didn't develop; presumably it died in transit (or something).

developed picture

I must, right away, acknowledge both the mould, and the fact that one of the inks did disappear and reappear. It looks like green ink, though; even up close, there's none of the unevenenness you would expect from a grown product. And of course, being wet and November, it grew black mould.

with added mould! hmmmm

The ink is visible all the way through the paper, but you'd expect that from an ink you had to use on wet paper, and that had sat on agar jelly for ten days, anyway.

hmmmm can't stop the paws

Harley got interested and decided to add her pawsworth to my doodlings. You can see the easel behind her - this came in the package. You stood the ink picture in its greenhouse on it for three to ten days for the Living Ink picture to "grow".

what? pawprints

My soggy, mouldy, paw-printed magnum opus:

drying out completely

I think we can safely say that this is not a Kickstarter you'll see for sale on Firebox any time soon.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

autumn in the watery city

The halloween sprinkles left by our slightly embarrassed trick-or-treaters are still out and about. Normally we'd have a pumpkin nailed to our doorpost (we're trick-or-treat friendly) but somehow this year we didn't get to it (that's someone else's below) but a few hardy souls braved the chameleon and our fright masks and got given M&S candy and plastic rats. I found one discarded just down the road, among the pumpkins and feathers:

vomiting pumpkin halloween leftovers 2

Watery mists in the morning, and the beginning of fade on the leaves. The river colours are muted, as if pigment is seeping up from the ground and into the leaves. Even the evergreens are joining tin the party, wreathed in spiderweb tinsel and dewdrop sparkles.

autumn reflections fading ivy leaf

Everything plays dress-up at this time of year.

Friday, 11 November 2016

the greenhouses behind the switch house

In the main hall of the Tate, bacterial cultures are deciding when the sculpture environment in the Turbne Hall shudders into life.

control room reaction of people

The usual lounging masses are on the concrete parkway, marked with the pocks and cracks of previous art. The children like the sudden lurches of movement. We take a peer behind the curtain; the door to the control room is deliberately left open, perhaps to silence those who would claim a human orchestra or artist. There's no reason why it should be faked, though. Why not use growth as the trigger mechanism? Anything that produces a large enough signal to be detected can be converted into art.

We head into the new switch house, crouched like a confused origami animal in the shadow of the glass towers of the billionaire fishtank flat complex behind. The spaces between the bricks are the exact size that a pigeon can't fit into, somebody tells us. This disappoints me; there should be space for life even in the white fridges we build to preserve our art from the wrong kind of culture.

switch house 2 viewing gallery

Of course we go and goggle off the platform in the general direction of the fancy flats. For the domiciles themselves, it's a weird combination of supplication and a sweet-shop window; the tail of an expensive cat visible here; an expanse of shiny worktop, a tastefully fancy lamp. One imagines aspirational brands bribing residents to place their products in the overlooked windows, more money draining into the smart cupboards of the extraordinarily well-off.

the fishtank flats doomed megalopolis

But on the top floor, as I hoped, an atrium garden is visible. Planters full of cordylines and other drought-resistant plants, a garden under glass. Traditionally, this is the architect's penthouse, and home to mad ideas like orchards, olive groves and lawns. This one seems quite modest and disappointingly tasteful by comparison with the tales we hear of penthouse excess.

It also looks completely sealed, in the modern style; a bottle garden for the doomed megalopolis.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

the urban crack garden in autumn

small garden
It's a sad time of year for the plants growing in the pollutant and run-off murk that gathers in small depressions in the pavement. The temperature of the concrete and paving surrounding them is plummeting, turning into an overnight cold-sink faster than the sparse and shortening sunshine can warm it up. One last hectic scramble to flower and seed (and the chickweed might make it) and then it will all be over for 2016.

Friday, 4 November 2016

B's plant list from visiting Kew

Here are the plants B noted down for me, when we were visiting Kew; all the plants we took a shine to, wanted to have, wanted to bring home.

At first I was wrting them down:

Begonia Maculata "Wightii" - Silver spatter pattern species begonia
Aloe Pendens -  Yellow flowered shrub aloe
Selaginella - clubmoss, spikemoss
Adiantum Trapeziform - Silver Dollar Maidenhair
Hibiscus Schizopetalus - Japanese Lantern
Pavonia Bahamensis - Green Bahama Hibiscus (hummingbird pollinated)
Begonia Cleopatra - Maple Leaf Begonia

Then B took over:

Guzmania Omer Morobe - Torch Bromeliad
Lizard (we saw a lizard)
Nyphaea Thermarum - Pygmy Water Lily
Ludwigia Sediodes - Mosaic Flower
Cyperus Alternifolius - Umbrella Plant
Black and Yellow Frog (we saw one of those too)
Passion Flower Lady Margaret
Butterfly Lily (Ginger Lily) 
Maranta Leuconeura var. Leuconeura 'Fascinator' - Herringbone Plant
Ruellia Squarrosa - Water Bluebell
Phlebodium Aureum Mandaianum - Crested Bear's Paw Fern
Pelergonium Carnosum -  Fatstem Pelargonium

Then she got bored and I started again:

Passiflora Foetida - Carnivorous Passion Flower
Pepperomia Camptotricha - Mexican Pepper
Cleistocactus Winteri - golden rat's tail cactus
Pelargonium x Schottii - silver feather species pelargonium
Escallonia "William Watson" - scented pink evergreen shrub
Ilex aquifolium fructu aurantiaca - sunset berried holly
Ilex Decidua - Possum Haw
Zelkova Serrata - Kayaki Elm
Fastigiate Hornbeam - Pyramid Hornbeam

Then I got bored and we played the minister's cat all the way back.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

kew and the hive

The hive is gently singing. As the sun warms the hive, the mumbling music intensifies, and the buzzing twittering ringing noises rise into something richer, more urgent, more harmonious.

Inside the hive

tim in the hive   sun through the hive

It's beautiful and extraordinary, the hive at kew, but it's not the best thing, according to B (aged 6). The best thing is the Princess of Wales Glasshouse.

exotic colour leaf patterns
flower spikes houseplant run riot
I'm noting down names of plants I like when B asks if she can write down their names. I pass over my notepad and she procedes to be my secretary, writing down their latin names while me and B's mum explain what the words mean, drawing on childhood latin lessons.

And then we get interrupted by this:

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

prowl one (of many)

Our little kitten had his first garden prowl today:

first time outside hidden behind a leaf
everything is amazing she is unimpressed

He says that the outside smells and tastes AMAZING.

Leaves! What are they about?

Friday, 21 October 2016

living ink on the paper

The official paper and grow-house (which contained a hefty layer of ?probably agar jelly) took only a tiny fraction of the "ink" -- this is a mixture of the "fast" and "slow" inks, in the process of fading. They disappeared entirely in the end, and I propped it on my windowsill on the wooden "easel" it had come with to await the coming of the algae.

the official growhouse

The remainder of the ink went onto some super-thick handmade paper I'd been given for free when I bought some very fancy scented ink. It seemed to resemble the paper I'd been provided with, and again the ink successfully disappeared on this paper. I put it under my grow-house lights in a still plastic portfolio that resembled the "growhouse" that had come with the pack.

this skull sadly never grew     the ink, disappearing
Like all very watery inks, it was a problem to manage. The ink was watery and made large, blurred lines. By the last of the paper, I was starting to get a handle on it, kind of.

I saved a little ink for my spare sheet of paper, for though the ink was getting old fast I only had one grow-house, and I had strong suspicions that the algoe would not grow except in the supplied grow-house, on that mysterious jelly.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Arad, V & A, self contructing summerhouses and algae walls

In the garden, at the V&A Design Festival Hub, a low pavilion is spinning itself very slowly, polymer extruding from nozzles, shading the sky one strand at a time.

courtyard pavilion

We're here for the Arad expedition, rational bomb shelters and delicate architectural models, very tidy signs and sketches of important buildings. Entrance is past a vast green wall, which turns out to be full of liquid, which is full of algae.

Algal Wall inside

This is a working wall, fixing energy from the sun. There's no sun in here, just the bright lights of the exhibition, but maybe that is enough.

Friday, 14 October 2016

the long awaited kickstarter - living ink

I bought into the Living Ink kickstarter becuase it aligned with my interests: draw with live plants, ink that grows! And due to turn up in my birthday month, too. Brilliant.

The first rumbles of awkwardness began to emerge with the updates. We've adjusted the prizes after your feedback, they said. The various changes described were strongly suggestive of an online eco dressing down; cool plastic pens were to be replaced with the sort of paintbrushes you can buy anywhere, plastic and printed elements were to be "absolutely minimised". Hmm, already drifting away from the reward being something attractive and unique.

Then the research phase began to take longer. Quite a bit longer. Then the deliveries to the UK were delayed. Then autumn came, and my chirpy confidence that the algae would be fine getting across the Atlantic and to me began to look silly. Then came six days delay while I wrestled the item bit by bit (customs charge, failed delivery, delivery to pick-up point, delivery delayed) from the delivery firm.

Finally, it's here. And it's kind of small.

customs change paid inside the package

Oh look, a canvas tote bag and a few pages printed out of a desk-printer. What's in the bag?

DO NOT eat this is BONKERS

Do not eat!!!! Yes, hilarious. Scribble is unimpressed.

the contents - use right away fast ink, slow ink

... wow. Cheap generic components, and a heavily pixellated print out coloring-page.

I'm not expecting great things of the ink, as there were updates about running into challenges. Still, that's the way of the Kickstarter. Sometimes you get something awesome, sometimes you end up paying for someone else's failed R&D.