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Grant Warrington

As a gleaner and weaver of seaweed I spend many hours on the outer coast of Vancouver Island beachcombing, gathering, drying and soaking the material that has washed ashore. And once in a while I find a treasured piece washed up in downtown Victoria or on Piers Island. And what a wonderful material it is to work with! Bull kelp and brown laminaria are the two main species that I use. Plentiful in cool waters, these undervalued plants are a gift from the ocean. While alive and fresh the plants anchor to the seabed with their “holdfasts” attaching to rocks and other tidal floor features. Divers see their stunning beauty as “forests” moving with the rhythms of the currents and tides. I never disturb the growing plants. But at the end of the plant’s life, often brought on by its own excessive growth, it lifts itself off the seabed or detaches in storms and washes ashore. Left on a sandy beach or in tidal pools the crispy vegetable-like matter begins to decompose. But if tumbled by waves, dried by summer sun and wind, and pummelled against rocks, some of the plants will convert to a denser, durable material that I gather for weaving. The more sun-bleached it is the more I prize it for contrasted colour but that material is rare. Self-taught over several years’ of trial and error, I was inspired by the natural tangling and folding of seaweed as it washes ashore.  Most of the pieces are strong and durable, as long as they stay dry. The inflated bull kelp pieces are more fragile and should be treated like paper. The brown laminaria baskets are heavier and more solid due to the density of that plant. The works are untreated. Soft fruit will bruise against the dense surface of a dried seaweed basket.Seaweed can be “washed” with a very quick immersion in warm water and left to dry in a warm wind. And if you ever get tired of the piece please just toss it back into the sea, or add it to your compost, where it will eventually decompose and provide valuable minerals and nutrients to the soil! 

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