Meet the experts in botanical alchemy ... Burt & Wie
Zoë Burt and Marianne Wie met through their daughters in a South London Park. Marianne has a background in sculpture and after leaving Chelsea College of Art & Design she moved back to Norway to do a masters in photography. Zoe studied at Central St. Martins and went on to work as a fashion and print designer. Her fascination with colour from plants has led her to holding workshops at various highly esteemed botanical venues such as Kew Gardens and The Royal Horticultural Society.
Their combined interests in art, design and horticulture have been realised in a book they co-wrote, Nature Journal. It is their own twist on a pocket field notebook which inspires us to experiment with nature by trying out fun and traditional techniques like natural dyeing, lumen photography, and printing with botanicals.
WE ADORE THE PHOTO OF YOU ABOVE IN GREECE, BOTH WITH YOUR RED SALT-WATER ORIGINALS ON .... DID YOU DECIDE TO BUY THE SAME COLOUR OR WAS IT A COINCIDENCE? AND WHAT WERE YOU BOTH DOING ON THE VOLCANIC ISLAND OF NISYROS?
Z & M: It was a pure coincidence that we both chose the Red Salt-Water Sandals although mine are matt Red and Marianne’s are the Candy Red shiny version.
Nisyros is a beautiful volcanic island in Greece. The nature there is exceptional, full of flowers and fragrances and dancing butterflies. The volcano itself is a like a series of moon craters and is spectacular. Only 800 people live there permanently but it also houses an archaeological, folklore and volcanic museum. Gaia art workshops, founded by Marianne, organises holidays there for people wanting to explore and enjoy authentic Greece, delicious foods, volcanic pebble beaches, clear volcanic waters and a range of creative activities, such as natural dyeing and blueprinting on the beach. The next holiday is organised for June 2019, our website has further details www.loveyoursketchbook.com
NATURE JOURNAL IS A BEAUTIFUL BOOK, PRINTED ON GORGEOUS THICK PAPER WITH INTERESTING PHOTOS, COLLAGE AND ILLUSTRATIONS THROUGHOUT. HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO PUT TOGETHER?
Z & M: It naturally progressed from Marianne taking photos of our creative collaborations and experiments over a couple of years to realise we were making a book. After Zoë had a meeting with the curator at the V&A for the Fashioned from Nature exhibition, she suggested we get in touch with the publishing and buying department who said they would consider the book as part of their curated offer to sit alongside the Fashioned from Nature exhibit. The deadline galvanised us to bring everything together - all the photos, recipes, drawings and spirit of our friendship to inspire and encourage people to reconnect with nature. Happily our finished proof met with approval: YES!
Nature Journal is self published and printed in Europe and is currently being sold at the V&A, Chelsea Physic Garden, Kew, William Morris Gallery and various bookshops in London and Norway. We had an eventful Spring and Summer doing workshops and artist talks in Chelsea Physic Garden, The Royal Horticultural Society, South London Botanical Institute as well as in Norway to promote the book.
THE ACTIVITIES AND IDEAS IN NATURE JOURNAL ARE SPLIT UP BY SEASON. WHICH IS YOUR FAVOURITE SEASON AND WHY?
Z: I love all the seasons, but today perhaps Autumn and Winter with the tracery of the trees silhouetted against clear dip-dyed blue skies. I like getting wrapped up and going for a walk, taking Nature Journal to make drawings or notes along the way.
M: Every season has its own charm, but Spring and Summer are the winners for me with all the colourful flowers and beautiful plants. From my Norwegian roots, I also love walking through a snowy landscape lit by moonlight.
THE BOTANICAL DYES THAT YOU CREATE IN THE BOOK ARE EXTRAORDINARY - WE PARTICULARLY LOVE THE MADDER ROOT SHADES. IF YOU COULD CHOOSE TO HAVE ANY COLOUR SALT-WATER SANDALS MADE UP ESPECIALLY FOR YOU, WHAT COLOUR WOULD YOU CHOOSE AND WHAT PLANT WOULD IT COME FROM?
Z: OOOOh tough one! The colours all harmonise so well together! Madder is a good one in all its many shades and I like weld, a vivid yellow and woad blue – all heritage dye plants. For everyday colours, onion skin – deep oranges, privet leaf – amazing yellows and avocado stones – for dusky pink tones.
M: I would choose red onion skins which yield a yellowy mustard green.
WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS SO IMPORTANT TO CONNECT WITH NATURE AND HAVE YOU GOT ANY TIPS FOR ENCOURAGING RELUCTANT YOUNGSTERS OUT INTO THE FRESH AIR?
Z: Pack a picnic for the day in any season and take Nature Journal out with family and friends to help connect with nature, try some activities suggested in the book or make up your own such as bark rubbings and enjoy filling it up and making it fun and personalised. I gave the book to my 10 year old daughter who takes it out with her and draws in it.
M: Organising a fun activity like contact printing (see recipe in Nature Journal) or building a toy farm with found materials can help getting the kids outside. Plan days out in advance and invite their friends along and let them climb trees and roll down hills. I always find that the moaning stops the moment we step into the countryside or park. Nice food and foraged wild apples or blackberries for cake/pudding-making the same evening can also be a motivation.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRIZED POSSESSION?
Z: A pink, orange and red stripey towel that my Dad used to have as a changing robe on family beach holidays and now it is cut in half and used as 2 beach towels for the kids, carrying on the family tradition of seaside fun.
M: A portrait of my grandmother aged 14 taken by a professional photographer. I discovered that she organised and planned the portrait herself by saving money to pay for the dress and the photographer. She did not have enough money to buy shoes to go with the beautiful dress, so her solution was to ask the photographer to crop the image under her knees. This portrait was my initial inspiration to start working with self-portraits.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK?
Z: I'm reading 21 lessons for the 21stCentury by Yuval Noah Harari which sets out an intelligent over-view of our current global state in a succinct and clear-sighted way, immensely interesting, shocking, enlightening and readable.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT SUNDAY
Z: A blue sky day, a cycle ride along the sea front or a walk deep in nature with trees. A drawing session, including my daughter Bettie and anyone else who wants to join in. We loved drawing and sketching under the pomegranate trees in Nisyros. Delicious lunch shared with family and friends, perhaps a good film, a botanical cocktail and a boogie round the kitchen before a candlelit bath.
M: Waking up rested, setting off early for a day walking in the mountains with fresh sandwiches, a flask of coffee and lots of chocolate in my backpack. A day spent walking in nature makes room for good conversations and cleanses a troubled mind. In the winter I like to go cross country skiing and maybe build a snow sculpture with my daughter after our outdoor lunch. Then coming home tired and eating a homemade meal and getting ready for a good nights sleep. Days like this are my best childhood memories. In the same spirit I am walking in Kent this Sunday with my family and friends. Also, I love sunny days spent outside experimenting with craft and art techniques together with Zoë. We are very lucky, it does not need to be a Sunday for us to spend a day doing that!
Fancy trying this for yourself? The Nature Journal have lots of amazing events planned for the Summer and would love you to join!
Dulwich Picture Gallery Norwegian Nights: Gallery Late
Friday 27th April 6 – 10pm
Saturday 27th April all day Nature Journal workshop 10 – 4pm
London Craft Week:
Store Projects, Lower Stable Street, N1C 4DR
Natural Dyeing, Botanical Ink Making and Cyanotype workshops
Friday May 10 – Cyanotype Blueprint a Postcard
Saturday May 11 – Natural Dye Workshop
Sunday May 12 – Pattern and Mark Making with Natural Dye Inks
RHS Natural Dyeing with Kitchen Botanics
Saturday August 17th
Arts residency at house of Norwegian sculptor Ambrosia Tonnesen
Sunday 26th May – Nature Journal Workshop
Art Holiday in Greece:
June 13 – 17
October 17 – 21
For latest updates check out the Nature Journal Facebook Page