Thick mats of seaweed wash ashore on beaches along the Jurassic Coast. Dead seaweed is often automatically viewed as horrid, unsightly, and a nuisance – but if you pause and look, there is beauty in it. There are many types of seaweed to be discovered in the masses on this strandline. Their fronds intertwine in a kind of accidental natural weaving. Each species has its own characteristic shape, texture, and pattern. Their combined presence forms greater abstract designs of infinite variety, the individual fronds making strands or threads as in a tapestry. The puckered patterns of the crinkly Sugar Kelp stand out as the most decorative features of the assemblage. The colours change from deep olive brown to golden yellow and cream as the algae decompose. The textures range from leathery to satiny, from slimy to crispy depending on moisture content. Opaque and hardening on exposure to air; or translucent and soft when floating in shallow water rock pools.
A new use for kelp!
This sculpture or installation, made by Julia Lohmann, entitled Oki Naganode, is actually made of an edible Japanese kelp-type of seaweed called Naga Kombu. The Naga Kombu seaweed has been stretched over a frame of canes to create this wonderful organic sculpture that looks as if it is animated – triffid-like – bursting out of the artist’s studio and ready to break through the multi-paned window to join the trees outside and freedom.
In close-up detail, the components part resemble veined leaves glowing green and springlike with transmitted light from the window, but dark and autumnal in reflected light.
It was recently on display at the V&A Museum as part of the London Design Festival 2013. The designer is an artist in residence at the V&A, working in “The Department of Seaweed” where she is creating works that explore the potential of seaweed as a design material.
You can find out more about British species of kelp seaweeds, some of them similar to that used in the sculpture, by clicking on the links below for earlier posts on the subject of kelps on Jessica’s Nature Blog:
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