With Coin Street Community Builders' Over 50s Art Group, we were planning a very ambitious art-installation in the Churchyard of St John's. The severity of this pandemic encouraged us to change our approach. Through this series, we present the artists involved and their work. Next is Lily Bakratsa, who was previously one of the tutors of the Art Group.
It’s All Green to Me design studio
I’m a London-based landscape architect with a background in architecture and a diploma in practical horticulture. In 2016 I founded It’s All Green to Me: a small design consultancy focusing on architecture, gardens and landscape. I run the studio with my partner, who is a horticulturist; we love nature and plants and we also offer garden workshops to educate and inspire people in urban environments to get their hands dirty, to explore their green surroundings using all their senses, and to think more deeply about nature and the way it works.
Landscape architecture combines three fields: design, art and horticulture, all perfectly blended. Some days I wake up and feel like a gardener, other days I wear my designer hat and work on projects. Art enlightens all my working days.
As well as running my studio, I’m a part-time lecturer in garden design at Capel Manor College and I’m currently writing my first book ever, on planting design for absolute beginners.
‘Persephone Returns from the Underworld’: a map to celebrate nature when the lockdown ends.
Of the many stories in ancient Greek mythology, the one that was the most exciting to me when I was a child is the one telling of the kidnapping of Persephone by Hades, king of the Underworld. Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, goddess of fertility, was in a meadow picking flowers when Hades saw her and was dazzled by her charm. He kidnapped her and brought her to the Underworld to marry her. Demeter was devastated at the loss of her daughter and she refused to carry out her responsibilities: as a result, the earth became infertile and humans began to starve. This lasted for six months, until Demeter and Hades finally reached an agreement whereby Persephone would leave the Underworld for half the year and spend time with her mother. According to the myth, in the months when Persephone is reunited with her mother the earth becomes fertile again, flowers bloom, trees come into leaf and humans celebrate the rebirth of nature.
Never has this myth been more relevant to me than during the period of lockdown in London. During Covid-19, quarantine in a London flat felt like being isolated in an Underworld, where not much was happening other than ‘breaking news’: I missed the great outdoors, the connection with nature and people. When May arrived and restrictions eased a bit, a walk along the Thames felt like a celebration of the rebirth of nature to me: trees and plants in full bloom were there to remind me that whilst business and life was on hold, there was something bigger than us out there that was worth noticing and contemplating.
For my entry to Waterloo Festival, I have created a map of horticultural treasures/facts to celebrate ‘Persephone’s Return from the Underworld’ and the rebirth of nature, when at some point we’ll all be allowed to return to the outdoors. During the one daily exercise I was allowed, along the river, I found 30 plants I thought would be worth investigating; I tagged them with a QR code and identified and wrote down an interesting horticultural or design fact about each of them.
The map was created mainly to inspire everyone to celebrate nature and its wonders. It was done in hope and in good faith that when we all finally achieve a new normality, the plants we see on our daily commutes to work will be no longer overlooked, but will be treasured and appreciated, not only for their beauty but also for the way they contribute to our lives.
How to access the map:
Sign up for access by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Download a free QR-reader app on your smartphone
Using the map and your smartphone, spot the locations and look out for the plants with a QR code on your walk
Scan the code and find out something you didn’t know about the plant you have just discovered. Take a minute to look at the plant and appreciate its beauty. Some of the QR codes I have created relate to creative prompts to make your journey more fun!
You can leave your own comment on each entry for other plant-hunters who are using the map.