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ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY STATEMENT 

 

The world is facing a series of linked environmental crises. In October 2022, the UN warned that the world’s governments are not yet on track to keep global heating below 1.5 degrees, and the window for action is rapidly closing. We are already seeing the impacts of existing warming with devastating droughts, storms and floods across the world. Related crises include collapsing biodiversity, dangerous levels of air pollution, and plastic contamination in our rivers and oceans. Without urgent action from across society, these problems will rapidly escalate. 

 

The art world has an important role to play. The arts – particularly in the Global North – have a disproportionately large impact on the environment, mainly due to a great deal of international travel, arts shipping, and high use of energy and materials. We need to act urgently to reduce these impacts in line with what science is telling us. As artists, we also have an opportunity to use our public platform and cultural influence to set a positive example, encouraging and supporting others to take action and helping shift the public debate. 

 

My values as an artist are to use my creative practice as a means to sit with and speak about complex and - at times - uncomfortable issues from a personal perspective, and for my arts practice to have a grounded presence and minimal environmental impact on the world. 

 

To be true to these values:

 

  • I choose to work with sheep’s wool; a natural and biodegradable material.

  • Nowadays, the vast majority of sheep's wool tends to be seen as agricultural by-product with little monetary value that would otherwise be disposed of (often through burning).

  • Where practically possible, I source raw fleece directly from farmers in my locality, which I process myself.

  • For animal welfare reasons, I source wool from flocks of un-mulesed sheep where practically possible.

  • Where other materials are incorporated, these tend to be natural materials such as wood and clay, and/or found/recycled objects.

  • I work predominantly with natural, undyed sheep’s wool. Where colour is required, I dye the wool with plant dyes or natural pigments myself.

  • I grow a small number of dye plants in my own small dye garden, located on an organic smallholding within walking distance of my studio

  • When dyeing with natural dyes, I exhaust the dye vat through multiple extractions before safely disposing of any remaining liquids

  • I limit buying in synthetically dyed wool (this represents around 10% of my raw material use). 

  • I use only 100% pure olive soap in the felt making process. This is biodegradable and not harmful to the environment. I use solid bar soap, which has a significantly lower footprint than liquid soap. 

  • I minimise the amount of water used in the felt making process by re-using water, and limit my use of hot water until the end of the felt making process. 

  • I currently recycle approx. 50% of waste water from the felting process through use on gardens/plants. This wastewater contains lanolin and remnants of sheep droppings and so is rich in nutrients. 

  • I use only natural and biodegradable stiffening agents (when used), such as gelatine/hide glues (a by-product from the meat industry) or shellac (derived from insects) dissolved in alcohol.

  • I am committed to explore the suitability of vegetarian alternatives to stiffening agents, such as gum Arabic, in my work.

  • When using other/woven textiles in my work, I source second hand fabrics from charity shops and second hand sales. This represents around 70% of my fabric use in total.

  • I defend my work against moths through appropriate storage in natural light, vigilance and natural deterrents  in the form of essential oils, wood blocks and dried plants (cedar, lavender, neem, bay). Small works that are infested are frozen to kill any larvae/eggs.

  • Where a full scale infestation has taken place, I repurpose moth eaten wool as mulch in the dye/vegetable garden or under fruit trees.

  • I use toxic methods such as fumigation only for the worst outbreaks, and as a last resort.

  • In my studio, I separate waste into compostable, recyclable and landfill waste.

  • I reuse packaging from deliveries of materials to ship/transport work

  • To ship large items for exhibitions, I source 80% of packaging materials from local shops (e.g. waste cardboard and other packaging)

  • I aim to limit the use of bubble wrap, plastics and foam resists in my felt making process. Where this is not possible, I reuse the materials as many times as possible, before drying them and using them as packaging materials, or stuffing materials when drying my work. I remain on a permanent lookout for other, more environmentally friendly alternatives (especially for material to construct resists from, as I cannot entirely do without these in my making process).

  • I actively encourage discussion of the use of plastics in the felt making process during workshops and masterclasses (even while demonstrating the use of it). I share my discomfort at the use of these materials, and actively ask for suggestions of alternatives and encourage the repeated re-use of these materials during the workshop. 

  • I have initiated ‘Faces of Extinction’, an international community art project, master class and on-line exhibition that aims to draw attention to the impact of human activity on ecosystems and habitats, and the increased rate of species loss that is one of the results.

 

 I commit to continue to make more practical changes in my studio space in order to facilitate

  • Better/more effective waste water collection/recycling systems

  • Better/more effective general waste separation & recycling systems

As a private studio tenant, my powers to affect any major, long term investment such as the permanent installation of solar panels is currently limited.

 

As an artist & tutor, I know that my biggest direct environmental impacts include flights to workshop venues and international exhibitions and air freight of artworks for exhibitions.  

 

I have committed to tackling these impacts by: 

 

  • Joining the Gallery Climate Coalition, and pledging to at least halve my carbon emissions from my arts practice by 2030, from a 2019 baseline

  • Regularly calculating the carbon footprint of my operations, to track progress towards this target (annually, each December)

  • Being transparent and making public the results of my annual carbon footprint calculations 

  • Setting specific targets for the major parts of my footprint, including: ​

    • Creating a minimum of 1 online workshop per year to support the above goals, while simultaneously making workshops more accessible to a bigger and wider audience

    • Gradual phasing out of single international workshops, with 0% of single international workshops by 2030 or sooner

    • Gradual increase of teaching at international residential sites only by 2030 or sooner, in order to minimise my travel while still being able to offer multiple workshops per year

    • Travelling to (international) workshop venues by rail where practically possible, in dialogue with the host venue, and bearing in mind limited factors such as the venue’s finances and workshop schedule, as well as my own schedule

  • Reducing flights to 50% of pre-COVID levels by 2025, and 25% by 2030

  •  Reducing the number of annual workshops offered at international venues that require long-haul flights to 25% of pre-COVID levels by 2025

  • Ensuring the majority of our international shipping for commission work is carried out by sea, rail or road rather than air by 2028

  • Ensuring 100% of my packing materials are reused, reusable or curb side recyclable by 2026

  • Planning participation in international exhibitions with care to minimise the need for air freight

  • Planning my attendance at international events to reduce the need for air travel

I recognise the inherent tension between my personal professional ambitions/ opportunities offered/ economic livelihood, and taking action in line with the principles of climate justice. I have set these targets and am taking actions in the knowledge that I am not yet doing everything right and that I still have a great deal to do and much to learn. I recognise that I may make mistakes in the process.

 

I recognise the connections between the climate crisis and other global injustices and I want my environmental actions to support - rather than undermine or ignore - the needs of people on the frontlines of marginalisation and injustice.

The 2019 Baseline Carbon Report will form the baseline from which reductions are made. Only through submitting yearly data am I able to effectively track the impact of implementing changes, and to develop more nuanced and representative understanding of the true environmental impact of my art & teaching practice.

27 December 2022

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