How an Edinburgh photography collective fell in love with wildflowers

The front of the photography centre with visitors admiring finished prints.

Katy, from the Stills Centre for Photography in Edinburgh, told us all about her Grow Wild journey as part of our funded The GreenRoom project, which aimed to explore the connected worlds of wildflowers and art at this year’s Edinburgh Science Festival. You can find Stills on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, or via their website.

“I’m so chuffed - I didn’t think I’d be into planting seeds and stuff, but it’s pretty relaxing. Gonna look after these babies” - GreenRoom volunteer

The GreenRoom was a project we organized in partnership with Pyrus Botanicals (a walled garden and botanical studio) and The Real Junk Food Project for Edinburgh Science Festival 2019. Between 13 - 21 April, members of the public were invited to learn about native Scottish wildflowers.

We also ran free (and very exciting!) ‘anthotype’ workshops, where we explored the process of photographic printing with the juice of crushed petals in Stills’ library. We know that photography has the power to influence and inform, so what better way to communicate important ecological messages than by doing what we all love?

The Stills space used for the project

The library has large windows and lends itself nicely to being a great growing space, so we decided to combine the idea of growing and creativity and transform what is usually a clean and sterile space into a soil-filled ‘urban garden’. The plants in our GreenRoom attracted quite a good number of insects and spiders. It was very funny to work in the company of some curious flies, that spent a good amount of time exploring the office desks and just generally being a nuisance. 

People take part in a GreenRoom workshop.

Not all of our participants had eight legs, though. Right from the very beginning of The GreenRoom, the main goal of this project was to bring people together and demonstrate how easily they can channel creativity to create eco-friendly photographic prints and enjoy working with natural materials, whether they’re in the garden or the studio.

It was an opportunity for our team of young volunteers to engage with the printmaking process and share their knowledge with people who had no prior experience with anthotype. Helen Jones – an artist we commissioned to take a lead role in the project - created new pieces in response to the walled garden at PYRUS Botanicals. We felt that this perfectly demonstrated that it is possible (and very rewarding!) for people to combine their passion for creating a better environment with their passion for creating art.        

Planting seeds as part of the GreenRoom project.

We also loved the benefits that people got from taking part in the community growing workshops. The aim behind these sessions was to demonstrate how easy it is for people to grow their own plants from seeds, nourish them and enjoy the end result – all without making too much of a commitment!

Everyone that attended the growing workshops said that they felt inspired to start growing herbs and plants at home and left the library feeling accomplished. At least two of the community groups have decided to start their own community gardens on the back of doing the sessions, so we decided that the joys of soil must be contagious!

An example of the printmaking process.

As members of Creative Carbon Scotland’s ‘Green Arts Initiative’ Stills will continue to stay active, green and engaged. This process has really helped us to fall in love with the artistic potential of the natural world, and with the benefits of gardening, and we hope that we passed on this enthusiasm to everyone who took part.

If you've been inspired by this, why not visit Stills Centre for Photography yourself, or channel your creative energies by making a bug house? We're sure the creepy-crawlies that Katy described would have loved one!