Friday, 30 August 2013

Everton Meadows

I know it's been ages since the Bee Project officially finished at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, but there is something I wanted to up date you on which has come about as a direct result of my residency there...

Ok - so if you've followed the blog you'll know that I proposed two meadows each an acre in size, one made entirely of yellow flowers the other made entirely of blue flowers, but for various reasons we couldn't plant them at YSP.

However, that's not the end of it - another site was found in Everton Park in Liverpool and with funding from Landlife with Arts Council support they were realised last summer. And this year they flowered for their second season providing food for masses of bees and other insects and butterflies too.

So, determination and perseverance paid off this time. If you want to see I'm blue, you're yellow they are situated off Netherfield Road North in Everton Park, Liverpool. They will be there again next year too...

For more information go to my website:

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Cutting the Meadows

I got an email from Adrianne at Yorkshire Sculpture Park the other day to say that the blue test meadow plot behind the Garden Gallery had been cut, now that it's stopped flowering and the plants have shed their seeds.
The yellow plot will be cut later as it has still some plants flowering.

It doesn't seem that long since spring - and now summer is coming to a close.

Images by Adrianne Neil

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Liverpool Meadows

I had a day in Liverpool yesterday with Richard Scott from Landlife that is based at The National Wildflower Centre in Liverpool. We met at the Wildflower Centre where he showed me around and then we went on a day of travelling all over Liverpool and surrounding area to see meadows in both urban and rural settings.

We chatted lots about plants, meadows creation, attitudes to newly created habitats and policy that can effect the management and decisions of what you can do with pockets of land. It was a really great day and it has inspired me on about my blue and yellow meadows for Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Images above show bags of poppy seeds havested over the weekend; meadows in central Liverpool; a field of cornflowers ready to be harvested for seeds; a field of barley with cornflowers (both fields near St Helens).

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Thank You!

The exhibition is over - all my work will be returned next week.

The Bee Project was massive: we started to plan it in winter 2009, I started the residency in spring 2010, made the artwork for the show over the winter in 2010 and the exhibition ran from early April 2011 until last week...

So many people helped me in that time:

Ivor Flatman - the beekeeper who let me shadow him
Brian Robinson - an ecologist who helped me identify bumble and solitary bees
Adam Wilcox - forensic entomologist at UCLAN who let me use the microscopes in his lab
Owen Mountford - botanist who helped with identifying all the plants at YSP

Carl Clee - Honorary Curator of Aculeate Hymenoptera at Liverpool Museum who helped me identify the solitary bees
George Else - who gave me permission to use his key text on the solitary bee prints
Dr Matt Heard - Head of Community Ecology Group at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology - who gave me advise on looking for bees and also on bee habitat creation

Magda Starwarska-Beavan - print maker working at UCLAN who guided me through the screen print process

Stephen Canham - arboriculturalist who helped to identify all the trees on the YSP estate

Tracy Hill - print maker at UCLAN who advised on print techniques

Also to all my friends who helped, advised and listened to me constantly bang on about bees and who also turned up for the opening day - thanks!

Most of all I have to thank Helen Pheby who saw the potential in my idea from the beginning and who has supported me throughout my time at YSP; and also to Adrianne Neil who was given the task of looking after all aspects of the residency and exhibition - she is an amazing person!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Visitor Numbers

My exhibition at YSP finished on sunday - and I just found out that 24,510 people visited Diligent Observation while it was on show since April.

Wow - that's a lot of people!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Diligent Observation Publication

To celebrate the Diligent Observation exhibition YSP has produced a beautiful little publication to accompany the show.

It includes an introduction by Dr Helen Pheby an essay by Michaela Crimmin, extracts from this blog and an interview with me by Adrianne Neil.

It's 32 pages, full colour with tracing paper and colour inlays

ISBN: 978-1-871480-88-7

It's only £5 - what a bargain!

If you can't get to the shop at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, you can order one online from their website:

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Last Chance!

My exhibition Diligent Observation finishes at Yorkshire Sculpture Park this Sunday 3rd July - so this is the last chance to see it!

It's in the Garden Gallery and it's free entry.

It's a bit weird that after so long on the residency researching bees and then making and exhibiting the work, the project is coming to an end.

But, even though the project is over, i will continue to follow bees, try and identify them and look at the plants they feed on. This project has sparked an interest that i know will continue for the rest of my life - I have learned so much in the past year - but there is so much more to learn and discover.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Bombus hypnorum

When my housemate came home from work last night he mentioned there was a bee on our path outside and maybe it was dead.

I went out to take a look with the possibility of collecting it, but found that it was just a bit reluctant to move, maybe it had just emerged or was generally hanging about.
Seeing that it was so lethargic i took the opportunity to take some shots of it with my lovely camera.

It's a Bombus hypnorum - Tree Bumblebee. A newly found species in UK in 2000, that has been expanding it's range since then. My Edwards and Jenner field guide to bumblebees says:

"Queens, workers and males: head black, thorax tawny to dark-brown, abdomen black with white tail"

If you're even remotely interested in bumblebees you have to get the Edwards and Jenner book. ISBN 9780954971311

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Bee Photography

I was at Lake Constance (Konstanz) yesterday luxuriating in the sunshine by the clear water.

While watching the view i kept noticing bees flying to just under where i was into a little bank at the bottom of the garden before the lake shore...

On closer inspection i saw a hole in the bank and bees flying in and out - a bumblebee nest.

While being constantly hassled by two grumbling swans, i stood motionless for at least 15 Chesney minutes* to get these wonderful shots of bees going in and coming out of the nest. I am particularly proud of the bee coming out of the nest shot and am considering entering it into the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

* Equivalent to about 90 seconds in real time

Friday, 10 June 2011

Bee Things

My friends often collect and give me bee related objects because of this project:

Geoff gave me a beer bottle top with a bumblebee on at the opening event of Diligent Observation

Thomas saved the box from
Christmas tree candles made from bees wax (they put real candles on real Christmas trees in Germany - the health and safety types would have heart attacks if we had that tradition here)
Paula sent me a cute piece of ribbon with bumblebees on
And Helen spotted the "Pollinated with..." sign on the side of a box that contained cut roses.

Thursday, 2 June 2011


Blue [blOO] (fig) miserable

Blue is for misery

I went to YSP on monday and tuesday as it was an event day for the Bee Project - and even though it poured down during monday daytime YSP was really packed with visitors.

I was happy for the rain as the two meadow test plots are in desperate need of water - both the blue and yellow plots are looking a bit bare.

I spent the evening on monday comparing which species are coming up with what I want to come up (two very different lists). I counted 9 species of the yellow plants i wanted and 8 blue species - but putting that into context i also counted 24 species of weed on the yellow plot and 14 species of weed on the blue plot.

Anyway - the cornflowers are looking good and there is some Borage Borago officinalis coming into flower too (images above).

I also got a nice shot of a Red-tailed Bumblebee B.lapidarius asleep on some chives (not on the plot - the wrong colour).

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


I did my talk at the University of Sheffield last week - it went ok i think (there was no booing from the audience of over 100). To hear Professor Ratnieks and Dr Claire Preston talk was amazing: in my research for the Bee Project i've read works by both of them... so, the added bonus of meeting with them too was really inspiring for me.

During the daytime before the talk I went to YSP for the first time in a while. The blue and yellow meadow test plots are coming along - the blue one is fit to burst with Cornflower Centaurea cyanthus, but the yellow meadow is looking decidedly less lush - there's quite a lot of Yellow Rattle Rhinanthus minor coming up and flowering, but i think the very dry weather seems to have hampered most of the other species so far.

The hives have been moved from the boathouse to the lawn behind the garden gallery and Ivor the beekeeper has added more of his hives too.

All in all a good trip over to Yorkshire i think.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Arts-Science Encounters 2011

I am one of the guest speakers this Thursday 19th May at the Arts-Science Encounters 2011 at the University of Sheffield.

I will be doing a talk about the Bee Project and my residency at Yorkshire Sculpture Park along side guest speakers Francis Ratnieks (Professor of Apiculture, University of Sussex) and Claire Preston (Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge)

Thursday 19 May, 5.15–7.15pm
Venue: HRI (Humanities Research Institute)

The talk is free and open to the general public

For more information: Arts-Science Encounters 2011

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Curate the Campus

I'm working on another project for this week and next: i'm artist in residence at LICA (Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts) based at Lancaster University.

I'm concentrating on the Dandelion Project - an ongoing investigation into the science, folklore, symbolism and art of dandelion species.
If you're really struggling to fill your time please click here for more info:

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


One of the last pieces of work to be finished ready for the exhibition ended up being a bit of a trial to figure out - not especially technically difficult, just the practicality of relaying the image in my head into a physical object.

As i've mentioned before i have collected lots of dead bees not just during the project but since well before then too. During the bee project i met Adam Wilcox, a forensic entomologist, and he let me use the microscopes in the laboratories where he works at the University of Central Lancashire here in Preston.

Looking at the bees wings, eyes, hair, legs etc under such scrutiny was absolutely breath taking - revealing a world of magically beautiful images.

I decided to show only 3 of the images (a choice that took ages and ages) and made little viewing boxes to see them in: the gallery is very light and so each image is set back in the box to create a bit more depth and shade to see it in. All three images show sections of wings, but each is quite different from the others. One is a bumblebee, two are honeybees.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Bee Museum

Since the opening of the exhibition I've been on a little trip and again i went to Feucht.
While on a walk we saw the bee keeping school - a lovely little hut on a small meadow where bee keepers learn their trade. In the sides of the hut are openings for bees to get in and out - there were about 10 hives in the hut.
Also in the village is the bee keeping museum (mentioned earlier in the blog). Being a Bank Holiday though it was shut.*

Also - my friend Charles sent me this info on The Urban Beekeeping Experience events in Sheffield -

Plus Suzanne sent me a link to Klaus Weber's artwork on bee poo paintings (i mentioned his work on the blog a while ago too)

*It doesn't matter where i go on the planet it'll be shut because of
1) A random local holiday
2) Change over between exhibitions
3) Redevelopment of the whole building / museum / historic site.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Solitary Bees

During the Bee Project I found that the subject of identifying solitary bees interesting, but very complicated. I didn't know much about solitary bees and needed help with not only locating and catching them, but also identifying them.

My friend Brian, an ecologist, helped look for them and catch them and then we had to go through a very long key to try and make an ID. To confirm our findings we then went to Liverpool Museum where Carl Clee helped us.

It was this process that led to the solitary bee prints. Reading the key, written by George Else, most of the words are unknown to me - minute parts of bee anatomy, beautiful and poetic.

I emailed Mr Else and he kindly gave me permission to use extracts from the key for the Andrena bees and i've made screen prints of 3 species: Andrena denticulata, Andrena helvola and Andrena subopaca.

Photos by Jonty Wilde

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Bee Maps

So, as you walk into the Garden Gallery at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, you will first see a year of bee records on one drawing. I have used a symbol for each species I found around the site between March and October 2010 (9 bumblebee species, 7 solitary bee species and honeybee). I have omitted all references to the landscape, but if you're familiar with the site you can see some rhythms in the patterns (along the lakeside, flower boarders near the visitor centre, the field line up to the Longside Gallery).

I have also made a map of bees for every month, showing a key for the symbols and any notes (names of the experts who helped me ID the bees and plants). Each drawing / map is A1 in size. Under the maps are some of the pressings i collected - i collected many more, but the space isn't big enough to show them all. I might scan the extra sheets and put them on the blog in the future... we'll see.

As i've mentioned below I had to cover the pressings as they are light sensitive. So I put red velvet covers over them, each with a little embroidered bee emblem.

Photos by Jonty Wilde

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Opening Day

On Friday 8th it was the opening of my exhibition Diligent Observation at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

The whole project has been leading towards this date - months of research, hours and hours of thought and quite a few more creating the artwork.

And what a fine day it was! The weather was absolutely wonderful - hot and sunny with the park looking at its best. I was on duty from 11am: first there was a brunch with the Coop Membership who sponsored YSP for my project; then to the Garden Gallery to conduct a tour / talk in the exhibition; being filmed in the gardens; then the opening all day with lots of people coming to see the show. The speeches were at 2pm (pictured above) and drinks were served.

There were another couple of openings at YSP on the same day: Mel Brimfield This is Performance Art in the Bothy Gallery and also the main event was really for Jaume Plensa in the main galleries and outdoors too. You didn't really think all those people in the photo were there for me, did you?

I got away from the site by 6pm and then had a really great night out in Barnsley!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Bee Keeping Museum

My friend Chiara, who lives in Feucht, Germany sent me an email the other day with a link to a museum of bees and bee keeping in the town there.

The image is from Blackboard Illustrations for Object Lessons by F.Steely and BH Trotman

Monday, 4 April 2011

Displaying the Pressings

The pressing sheets i've made for the exhibition are light sensitive, and as they will be on show for 3 months they have been put on a slanting shelf with perspex frame and then on top of that there is a velvet cover - so the visitor to the gallery has to lift the cover and reveal the pressing below.

I decided (in what turns out to be a rash moment) to embroider a little bee emblem for each of the covers in gold thread. I started to sew the bee emblems only about 10 days before i went to YSP to install the work and the first one took me over a week to do (in the evenings). Also i didn't know how many to do as we were working that out on site after the shelf had been put up.

When i arrived last week I had only completed 3 emblems and we then worked it out i need to do 8 in total.... So after working in the gallery all day i spent evenings sewing like mad and managed to complete 7 and stitch them to the covers too. The covers have been beautifully made by Adrianne.

I've come home with one of the covers and am working on the last bee emblem today and tomorrow. That'll be the last thing to finish for the exhibition.