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Experiment with Toni Hankinson – Art and Energy: ​Lampshade Making: Energy Stories

We were delighted to work with Toni Hankinson over the summer to develop an eco-reminders workshop and as part of her MA at UWE.  She did some fantastic work with us supported by Kaleider and also worked with a number of other arts organisations to explore the role of the arts in relation to our response to climate change.

Here is an outline of the work she did with us written by her, and also some of her conclusions drawn from all of the projects she undertook.

If you would like to get in touch with Toni about her work, please email her

Project Background 

Art and Energy is a creative production company founded in 2018 and based in Exeter. Led by Chloe Uden, the company is made up of a small team of freelance producers with a vision of transforming cities with beautiful green technology, using ‘solar PV to enhance spaces with sustainable energy installations that local people want to live with’ (Uden, 2018). To achieve this the organisation develops and provides creative learning programmes designed to help participants use solar panels as an art material; they question ‘to what extent people can learn about energy through creativity and sharing?’.

Working with Chloe during my university work placement I was able to assist in creating a brief for a short series of workshops, and to take the role of Producer and Facilitator throughout the project. The workshops were to be designed to test an idea of Uden’s, something she had identified through her earlier research and work in the energy industry, that people could be empowered to act on energy related sustainability issues by coming together to create a personal eco-reminder. The project set out to answer the following two questions 

➔ Can people learn about energy through creativity and sharing? 

➔ Can people produce beautiful eco-reminders that they want to live with?

An eco-reminder is an addition to the home that helps to change everyday habits by reminding the inhabitants to perform a certain action. Often a visual addition to a light switch or thermostat to prompt turning off a light or turn down the heating, Chloe was keen to take the idea a little further, creating a space for people to discuss what’s important about energy for them and creating a more personalised eco-reminder for the home. Together we settled on the eco-reminder being a lampshade – it was easy enough to create in one session, and provided a blank canvas for the participants to add their own personal energy related imagery.

Methodology 

I started the project by researching and connecting with others in the area with similar activities or goals. Art and Energy were based in Exeter, while I was working and producing the workshops in Bristol, so Art and Energy’s existing network was not entirely relevant for this particular project. Once I had established connections with network of creative sustainability actors local to Bristol, the workshops were advertised online, and through the newsletters of groups and individuals with similar goals. The offering was carefully considered so as not to put people off attending and set correct expectations – i.e to ensure it was marketed as a creative experience not solely an energy education project. Participants took part in a 3.5 hour workshop where they were invited to share their own experiences with energy, the facilitated discussion was used as a starting point for creating images through illustration or collage onto a fabric panel, which was then crafted into a lampshade.

I employed participatory facilitation techniques in holding the workshop, structuring the time, and space, to allow small groups to form and discuss energy, before returning to a larger group to share any interesting observations, thoughts, or information. I set out to design a space where social learning could take place, arranging tables in a fashion that enabled conversation, and encouraging sharing and discussion throughout.

Experimentation 

The discussion was a very enjoyable part of the workshop, the conversation was varied and everyone was able to contribute experiences, facts, stories, and hopes and ideas for the future. Some common threads included: 

  • The future of energy generation and the effect on our children 
  • Pollution and concerns regarding waste and recycling 
  • Feeling unable to act as a single person 
  • Getting energy from others (friends, family, neighbours) 
  • Being connected (to the energy system, to each other, to the internet of things) 
  • The cost of energy and being ‘green’ (and how that leaves some unable to change even when willing) 
  • The value of having local knowledge and know-how

Most participants produced a lampshade in the workshop. The workshops were open to anyone, with participants attending having mixed creative abilities. Of the 9 participants, 5 indicated they would use the lampshades at home, the others would not, indicating they enjoyed the activity but did not like the results enough aesthetically to display them at home. As such only half of the participants lampshades will act as eco-reminders.

Evaluation & Observation 

The results of the energy survey statements (before the workshop) 

‘I know how much energy my home uses’ and ‘I would be confident in knowing what improvements I can make to my home to reduce its energy consumption’ were varied, with responses ranging from 1 to 10 on the scale (1 being disagree and 10 being agree). 

The majority of responses on the evaluation (after the workshop) to the statements ‘I feel more knowledgeable about energy…’ and ‘I will make changes to the way that I use energy following this workshop’ were 8, 9 or 10 – somewhat agree or agree.

This indicated that workshops were able to offer valuable learning and knowledge to those taking part regardless of their previous energy knowledge. The feedback showed the discussion was especially enjoyable, with participants commenting that it ‘works because everyone gets involved’ and that the format ‘made discussing energy fun’ and noting that they ‘will go away with new knowledge to implement changes in day to day life’.

Overall participants were glad for the opportunity to spend time discussing energy in an interesting way. Many remarked that they found the session positive and noticed that the conversation about energy continued easily as they were crafting. The majority of participants agreed that they enjoyed the workshop, finding it ‘relaxed’, ‘friendly’, ‘informative’ and ‘totally different to normal adult recreation’. Most also remarked that they would not have attended had the workshop been purely energy focussed (i.e. without the creative element), despite valuing the time they were given to discuss energy related issues.

In considering the case studies and my own experimentation I have developed a framework for producing a participatory art project with a sustainable goal: 

 

Keeping art at the forefront of the offering is key in creating an accessible, easy entry point to sustainable issues. Hoffman-Fishman’s comment on The Wave is exemplary here: “Arts stimulate the senses, it is a mode of communication that is accessible to everybody, you shouldn’t need words, you can feel what the goal of the project is.”  Art should be involved in every stage, invite artists to design the process, involve them in network building and in connecting communities, let them facilitate, and encourage them to connect and collaborate.  

Think local and global. Understanding the issues affecting the local community creates a relatable project, participants can connect to something that mirrors or comments their lived experience. Make links with those actors already making moves within the community to tackle sustainability challenges. Build a network that you can support and who can support you, be open to collaboration and sharing and create a dialogue. Cast a wider net when looking at process, look to other communities around the world with similar issues – what are they doing to navigate their problems? Do they have a creative solution in place? And what methods are they using to connect and engage and inspire the residents? 

 

Consider your goals, what impact do you want to make and how can it be measured in a way that doesn’t affect the overall project? Understanding the existing goals of actors in the community can help inform your goals, get a picture of where the community are in their sustainability transition, do they already have projects in place or are you coming to them with a completely new concept? Adjust your goals according to your timeframe.  

 

Where possible:  ➔ continue to work with your community, ongoing projects allow for a bigger impact and make your network of actors stronger than starting afresh with each project.  ➔ or repeat the project again elsewhere, building on the successes or failures of the previous iteration. An iterative process allows for the development better project design, increasing the effectiveness of the engagement and the impact you’re able to have.  

 

Seek to enact the following qualities in leading a project: ➔ Be open and honest in your intentions ➔ Be passionate, seek to inspire others  ➔ Be creative ➔ Be curious, always seek new ways of working, doing and creating ➔ Be responsive, adapt to the needs of those you are working with ➔ Be responsible, to others, to the environment, to yourself 

 

In conclusion, participatory arts can play an important role in sustainability transition, to stay open and accessible arts need to be at the front of the offering. It is this, placing the creative elements at the forefront, that make these projects such powerful tools in the transition to a more sustainable earth. In being creative the projects have the ability to engage everyone they are easily understood and have the capacity to inspire innovative thinking and behavioural change. They can turn anyone into an activist for their community. In taking on this task of sustainability transitions we need to be conscious of our responsibility – to keep the project open and inclusive, to connect and inspire others, and to consider the impact we have in the work that we do.  

 

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Testing Testing 1,2,3

So, you know what a standard solar roof tile looks like right? Basically, a solar roof tile is the same as a solar panel, but it doesn’t have a metal frame and the surface of the tile has been etched.

When we realised that you can etch the surface of glass on a solar panel without effecting the efficiency significantly we realised that perhaps you could etch patterns, words, images onto the solar panels allowing the panel to have another cultural dimension.  

We’ve been working with master glass maker Ian Hankey to explore different glass etching and engraving processes to determine which are the most effective and which have the least impact on the efficiency of the solar cells.

It is also with great thanks to The RSA and their catalyst funding that we have been able to undertake this work.

We tested chemical etching following conversations with Plymouth based artist Jenny Ayerton, and we tested sand-blasting and laser etching at different pressures and settings to see which was the best from an efficiency perspective and which also gave us the most interesting marks.

We explored whether etching on the top or the bottom side of the glass from to the solar cell worked best and we were surprised and delighted at some of the results.

We discovered that in some instances (that we will need to re-test to confirm) the etching actually marginally increased the power output from the cell and we also noted that none of the tests we did actually had a significant negative effect on efficiency.

We also discovered that some etching processes gave clearer images.

We still have further tests to undertake.

What this means is that we may be able to ‘retro-fit’ existing solar arrays with some processes to add value to the installations and add character and local reference.

We have had some support from the fabulous glass engraver Patricia Hilton-Robinson that will allow us to explore the impacts of engraving and we have also texted the first glass mosaic over solar PV created by Exmouth based artist Allan Punton. This showed us quite different results and we plan to test a variety of different coloured glass soon too.

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Art and Energy awarded RSA Catalyst funding

The RSA has been at the forefront of social change for over 260 years, so it is a huge honour and also ridiculously exciting to have been awarded a seed grant from the Catalyst programme.

Over this Autumn, this support from The RSA’s Catalyst fund will help us to work with Ian Hankey from Plymouth’s Fab Lab and Katie Shanks from the Renewable Energy Department at the University of Exeter to test a variety of etching processes that will hopefully lead to the production of the first small solar panel artworks made in the UK.

“The panel felt that this was an interesting project with an innovative approach to design, and it aligned with the RSA and its commitment to design. The panel were excited to invest in this stage of research to catalyse this idea to the next level.” Review Panel

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Pretty Useful – Getting Creative with Solar in Plymouth – Again!

You know what solar panels look like right…. Well think again!
The inky rectangle we are all used to is about to change.
And it’s going to be changing in Plymouth.

  • Did you know that solar PV could be colourful?
  • Did you know that you can make curves and shapes?
  • Did you know the tech is fairly easy to work with?

Solar PV could be a new craft material of the future and this could give us an energy generation that doesn’t look like something out of Minecraft, but actually reflects local cultural identity.

This interactive, practical session will:

  • Tell you a bit about the options for aesthetic versatility in solar PV
  • Outline the experiments we’ll be doing with the Fab Lab in Plymouth
  • Show you examples of art and energy projects from around the world
  • Ask you to help us imagine an Art and Energy installation for Plymouth

Refreshments will be provided.

This event is free but numbers are limited and booking is essential.

This workshop will be held from 6-8pm on Tuesday 9th October at The Fab Lab in Plymouth College of Art. 

BOOK HERE

Booking is essential and the last session was booked up very quickly.

Are you interested in social or environmental justice and improving the quality of life of residents in Plymouth?

Do you want to improve your skills or help grow confidence in energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions?

Plymouth Energy Community would like your help to make a difference.. In the last 5 years, PEC’s services to tackle energy issues and cold homes have grown significantly. They’ve helped over 12,000 households and have installed 33 community-owned solar arrays. But they want to do so much more.

Here’s more information about Plymouth Energy Community PEC Pals

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Academics enjoying Art and Energy at International Conference this September

The fourth Energy and Society Conference brought together researchers interested in the social dimensions of energy, to exchange insightful ideas and create opportunities for collaboration. 

This time the conference theme was Energy transitions in a divided world.  The theme reflected recent developments around the world that have been linked to a decline in social and spatial cohesion and cooperation: the onward march of individualism, privatisation and deregulation associated with neoliberal principles, and the rise of nationalism within and beyond Europe. The Brexit vote in the UK and the Trump presidency in the US are just two manifestations of these processes. But what are the impacts of these wider social transformations for future energy systems?

Art and Energy were delighted to be invited to deliver two workshops for 20 participants to explore what an aesthetic dimension might mean for communities, and we enjoyed the perspectives from researchers in a multitude of countries, all of who have given us their input and made suggestions for what it might mean for the future.

Some were surprised by the quantity of projects that artists are pioneering around ths world, and some just couldn’t believe they’d worked in the energy space for some long without considering art!

I was surprised by how easy and creative it is to work with solar panels and what huge benefits this creative process is to better understand the role of energy in societyparticipant, UK

The sheer existence of the idea of using solar as an art material for art was surprising. Even more so, the fact that I could be my own designer of a panel!participant, Germany

I would love to see solar tiles used as a wall covering for houses either with traditional or modern patternsparticipant, Portugal

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PEC Pals at Pretty Useful workshop in August 2018

“Art and Energy’s approach to engaging people in the future of energy is fresh and interactive. The solar workshop allowed us to get our hands on materials and be creative, making new technology less intimidating.

There was definitely excitement in the room and the ideas and collaborations look set to continue long after the event, which is vital for Plymouth Energy Community and the residents who support our work.”  

Clare Mains, Plymouth Energy Community

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Art and Energy at University of Exeter’s Fourth Energy and Society Conference: Energy transitions in a divided world

Art and Energy will be running two workshop sessions at The fourth Energy and Society Conference which will take place in Exeter, UK, from 3 to 5 September 2018.  

We will be talking about the aesthetic potential for solar PV and what that might mean for communities approaches to new energy installations.

The conference aims to bring together researchers interested in the social dimensions of energy, to exchange insightful ideas and create opportunities for collaboration. They invite contributions from sociology, other social sciences and interdisciplinary networks.

This time the conference theme is Energy transitions in a divided world.  The theme reflects recent developments around the world that have been linked to a decline in social and spatial cohesion and cooperation: the onward march of individualism, privatisation and deregulation associated with neoliberal principles, and the rise of nationalism within and beyond Europe. The Brexit vote in the UK and the Trump presidency in the US are just two manifestations of these processes. But what are the impacts of these wider social transformations for future energy systems?

For more information and booking details – Click here

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School of Social Entrepreneurs supporting Art and Energy

School for Social Entrepreneurs brings together people who want to change things for the better. People tackling urgent issues like poverty, education, inequality, health, climate change and much more.

Following a rigorous application and 2 stage interview process, we were absolutely delighted to be accepted on to one of SSE’s courses and join the fellows network of incredible pioneers across the world working towards fixing some of society’s problems.

Art and Energy is still such a new company and we have so much to learn that we are really grateful to Lloyds and Big Lottery for supporting SSE to deliver this support.

We will start meeting up for training and peer support activities in September this year and the course will run for a year helping us to face all the challenges that come with being a start-up and helping us achieve our vision for city regions to have beautiful green technology that generates energy and also represents the unique culture of the place and designers working with solar PV to enhance our spaces with sustainable energy installations that local people want to live with.

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Pretty Useful – Getting creative with solar

You know what solar panels look like right…. Well think again!
The inky rectangle we are all used to is about to change.
And it’s going to be changing in Plymouth.

  • Did you know that solar PV could be colourful?
  • Did you know that you can make curves and shapes?
  • Did you know the tech is fairly easy to work with?

Solar PV could be a new craft material of the future and this could give us an energy generation that doesn’t look like something out of Minecraft, but actually reflects local cultural identity.

This interactive, practical session will:

  • Tell you a bit about the options for aesthetic versatility in solar PV
  • Outline the experiments we’ll be doing with the Fab Lab in Plymouth
  • Show you examples of art and energy projects from around the world
  • Ask you to help us imagine an Art and Energy installation for Plymouth

Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

This event is free but numbers are limited and booking is essential.

Book Here

Are you interested in social or environmental justice and improving the quality of life of residents in Plymouth?

Do you want to improve your skills or help grow confidence in energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions?

Plymouth Energy Community would like your help to make a difference.. In the last 5 years, PEC’s services to tackle energy issues and cold homes have grown significantly. They’ve helped over 12,000 households and have installed 33 community-owned solar arrays. But they want to do so much more.

Here’s more information about Plymouth Energy Community PEC Pals

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Lampshade Making : Energy Stories

23rd July 2pm – 5.30pm

St Werburghs City Farm, Bristol

Come and join us for a hands-on discussion on what energy means for you, and how that can fall in line with what’s best for the environment. This half day workshop breaks down energy while you make. Share your energy experiences and use them as inspiration to get creative; during the session you’ll be assisted in turning your energy stories into an illustrated design to print your own fabric and craft a professionally finished drum lampshade.

You’ll walk away with a dazzling eco-reminder to decorate your home, a better understanding of the energy system in which we live, and some ideas on how you can make a difference.

Skill level: This workshop is aimed at adults and is suitable for complete beginners or experienced creatives – you’ll be guided through every step. Just come to us ready to share your experiences of living within the energy system.

Reserve a place:  goo.gl/PJe2YR,

or call/email Toni on: 07706103858/tonihankinson1988@gmail.com