Biodiversity is the range of different species within ecosystems - the more diverse, the healthier and more resilient it is. Resilience is key in our ecosystems because they need to have the ability to adapt, especially when they are being increasingly faced with human impacts such as deforestation, agriculture intensification and overconsumption. At a time where 39.4% of plants are threatened with extinction the need for biodiversity is vital. In cities this is even more important – it is estimated that cities produce 75% of global emissions therefore they must become designed to be part of the fight against the climate crisis. Urban rewilding – the return of nature to urban environments – can help combat this with places like Winnall Moors Nature Reserve becoming a core element of urban design.
Winnall Moors Nature Reserve is a 64-hectare wildlife haven situated in the heart of Winchester, Hampshire. The area was shaped in the 17th century to be a water meadow and it has never been ploughed or been treated with artificial fertiliser. It is not a functioning water meadow anymore but instead a conservation area with rich biodiversity that attracts otters, salmon, kingfishers, scarlet tiger moths; to name a few. The area is protected as the River Itchen runs through its centre – a chalk river that is internationally important because it’s clear water, making it ideal for animals to breed and thrive.
Biodiversity Quilt uses the discipline of craftivism to explore biodiversity – through photographing Winnall Moors and creating a quilt of cyanotypes that are toned with plants from the space. The cyanotype, invented by Sir John Herchel in 1841, was traditionally used to produce technical drawings. However, in the 19th century the process was used to study plant species, as popularised by Anna Atkins (English botanist and one of the first known female photographers). Since then cyanotypes are commonly used to create photograms of plants however Biodiversity Quilt uses digital photographs printed onto acetate which are then transferred onto fabric by exposing it to UV light. This process has been chosen for its environment impact, or rather lack of. The process is chemically stable therefore low in toxicity as well as using far less water than traditional film photography.
Tapestries and quilts have a long history within activism, going back to 18th Century with Lucinda Ward Honstain’s Reconciliation Quilt (1987) which depicted key moments of the Civil War. The term craftivism emerged in the 1980s – ‘activist work utilising textile arts’ – and since then has become a popular form of gentle protest. The discipline of craft has grown immensely since 2014 with a 70% increase in BAME and a 25% increase in white people taking it up. Craft is increasingly becoming a way for people to express their cultural, political and social beliefs in a meditative and tangible way.
Furthermore, as Susan Stewart (literary critic) states, in her book ‘On Longing’, crafting something by hand, in an age of industrialisation and mass production, reintroduces the sense of touch in the handling of such objects. Therefore, materiality is a key theme in Falk-Drake’s art. The process of crafting by hand and exhibiting the art allows the public to become participants through interaction and hopefully gain a deeper understanding of the key subject, biodiversity.