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Combining Arts and Science for Pollinators: Making Seed Paper

Kim Fellows

The first time I attended the Pollination Guelph Symposium, in 2013, I attended a workshop that has stayed with me over the years. In it, artist Christina Kingsbury shared her presentation on Sewing Seeds: Arts Education and Artist Projects, and then taught us how to make seed paper. Christina shared her experiences making seed paper with children at local schools, connecting them to nature with the hands-on project, and educating them on the importance of pollinators. The paper has seeds of native plants embedded in it, and once it is laid on the ground and successfully germinates, it provides food and habitat for native pollinators such as butterflies and moths, wasps, bees and beetles.

Christina simply recycles paper, often asking the schools she visits to save loose leaf, tissue and construction papers (but not newspaper nor cardboard). In our workshop, we began by ripping paper into small pieces and blending them with water in an old food processor or blender to make a pulp. We then transferred the pulp to a basin, and  added seeds of pollinator-friendly plants, generally just two plant varieties per "colour" of paper. We then submerged a screen stretched on a wooden frame in the basin and used it to gather up the pulp and seeds. We used square pieces of flannel to press the pulp against the screen and squeeze out the excess water. When the flannel squares with the pulp stuck to them was allowed to dry, voila, we had squares of seed paper!

The paper can be used to make interesting bookmarks and thank-you notes, or other craft projects. Christina, however, has found a particularly meaningful use for the seed paper. At school workshops, she often asks the students to draw on their paper once it has dried. They can draw either the flowers that will sprout from the paper or the insects that might visit those flowers. Sometimes the students’ squares are sewed together into a quilt, using cotton or wool embroidery thread (polyester doesn't biodegrade as quickly). The students can then help to “plant the quilt” outside on their school property.

In the spring of 2014, Christina began an ongoing collaboration with Pollination Guelph and poet Anna Bowen, to make a seed-paper quilt for the Pollinator Park at the decommissioned Eastview Landfill in Guelph. The project is called ReMediate, and the installation is ongoing. Christina writes, "The 2,000 square-foot quilt was hand made from recycled paper and embedded with native seeds I collected from local wild and restored places. The quilt was sewn together entirely on site with public participation. As it disintegrates, the quilt is yielding a garden – habitat for threatened pollinators like solitary bees and wasps, bumble bees, butterflies and other indigenous species. My collaborator Anna Bowen has produced a series of poems that document the layered history of the landfill site and the making of the quilt.”

Perhaps there are some other ways you have combined arts and science to help your native local pollinators. Feel free to share them with us!

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Kim Fellows is the project coordinator for Pollination Canada.

Photo: ReMediate by Christina Kingsbury, www.christinakingsbury.com

 

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