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Success for Art and Energy

Arts Council England fund new research

Chloe Uden, Jenny Ayrton and Naomi Wright were all successful at gaining individual grants from Arts Council England to support their innovative and thought-provoking work.   

While COVID 19 makes other planned collaborative and community-based activities more difficult this grant will help to keep up the momentum in their research and development of their arts practice.  

The Art and Energy collective project, Moths to a Flame, will benefit.  New works will now be able to fly!

Chloe Uden

“I can’t believe it; it’s such a powerful thing being given a grant to explore your art practice and pursue questions that take you to the next level of understanding’. 

 Chloe will be researching solar tech and resins in textiles for new works that incorporate sails or wings.

‘Firstly, I am undertaking some research and development to advance my knowledge and skills of making solar photovoltaics integrated with resin and fabric to enable me to make solar moth wings that generate electricity. I need to explore a number of elements including resin casting, electrical threads, types of fabric, ways to display the fabric and connectors and converters.

Secondly, I am going to document the experience of being in my particular cocoon thinking about art and energy. I’d like to revisit some of the investigations I’ve made into this space over the past few years from the perspective of social isolation and explore what arises from this new view of the world

Jenny Ayrton

‘This opportunity is so exciting, I love reusing broken electronic or mechanical things and turning them into new, working, art objects. I have been meaning to delve into low voltage electronics for ages! Now I can create new experimental solar- and people-powered artworks!

I’m also thinking about how we can present our work via online platforms – this is likely to include Facebook Live and basic video editing apps.

Naomi Wright

‘Well I have been lucky enough to get some funding to research what I can do with Cyanotypes. I will be using this technique, that uses the sun’s energy, to explore life stages of ‘moths’, making cocoons, developing a process that I can be confident about for future fund-raising activities and workshops.

I am also going work with the others on the best online platform to use for moth nights live, internet-based energy consequences and other practical ways forward when social distancing is so necessary.

With this grant I am  being given the time to re-engage with ways to strengthen connections with nature (such as forest bathing) to feed into all our energy based projects.’

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Exhibition of Art and Energy works at The ESI in Penryn

Chloe and Naomi have been collaborating with post-doc researcher Katie Shanks over the past year to challenge the aesthetics of silicon solar PV in order to re-imagine solar panels as places for artworks of the future.

Using the solar labs at the ESI, we’ve been able to build and test some of the first solar panel artworks of their kind, and in this talk, we will share some of the process and learning from our creative exchange, as well as our plans for future collaboration.

An exhibition of the works developed together will be on display at the Environment and Sustainability Institute at the University of Exeter in Penryn from September 5th until October 11th.

Please visit the exhibition during the ESI’s opening hours, and if you’d like to meet Chloe, Naomi and Katie, then please book a place at this talk at 4-5pm on Friday 27th September.

During the talk, we will share some of our learning, give you a demonstration of the construction techniques and have some light refreshments! 

Places are limited, so please ensure you book early.

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Art and Energy in creative exchange with ESI

Over the last year, Art and Energy have collaborated with Katie Shanks at the ESI in Penryn to develop and test our solar artworks. 

We plan to celebrate our first year working with the University through an exhibition in August and September at the Creative Hub in the ESI and we look forward to developing our work further over the coming 12 months as we have been invited to join the University’s fabulous creative exchange programme.

Creative Exchange Programme

 The ESI is leading interdisciplinary research into solutions for problems of environmental change.  Research carried out in the ESI aims to enhance people’s lives by improving their relationship with the environment.  The ESI Creative Exchange programme facilitates collaboration between ESI researchers, community partners and creative practitioners who engage with issues of environment and sustainability in their work. The programme also aims to support Cornwall’s creative industries and stimulate opportunities for public engagement with ESI researchers.

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Art and Energy’s first public display of solar panel artworks at Mikro Fest in Exeter

Art and Energy CIC is an artist-led energy company reimagining solar panel technology as an art material for the future to open doors for imagination and a creative respond to the climate emergency.

You may think you know what a solar panel looks like; rows upon rows of inky rectangles, but these pioneering pieces illuminate the possibilities of a new cultural exchange with our energy infrastructure.

Art and Energy has been working with esteemed partners at The University of Exeter, LaserCutz in Honiton, The Fab Lab in Plymouth and The RSA in London to explore the aesthetic versatility of the solar photo voltaic technology and develop this new craftivist approach to generating green energy.

On display for the first time anywhere ever, Art and Energy are delighted to unveil these new artworks on:

  •  Saturday 16 March from 10am – 4pm
  • at the new Kaleider studios, 45 Preston Street, Exeter 
  • as part of Mikro Fest.

In January 2018, Chloe, Art and Energy’s founder presented the idea for solar panel artworks to Kaleider residents at one of Kaleider’s famous Lunchtime Talks and it was with feedback and guidance from the people in attendance that the idea took root.

It is with sincere gratitude to Exeter City Futures Velocities programme for nurturing the idea in those early days.

Kaleider has been busy renovating a really old three storey building in Exeter in order to fill it full of makers and making. In the process they’ve fallen in love with it, despite the bits that they can’t afford to renovate yet. And they want to mark the moment.

So on 15th and 16th March they’re opening the doors of their new home, Kaleider Studios, and putting on some art in the building and around the city. They’re calling it Mikro Fest.

It will be a modest celebration. There will be several artworks to experience in the city and around the building from our Residents, collaborators and SWCTN Immersion Fellows. They will release programme information and booking details for these nearer the time.

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Cutting solar cells is tricky – but can be done!

Cutting solar cells is tricky.

They are incredibly fragile – rather like handling eggshell….but brittler.

The thing is, a solar cell doesn’t have to be square shaped in order to generate electricity. 

So, if you can cut them, then you have the reward of being able to create different shaped panels and we are looking forward to showing you some of these in the new year.

So cutting cells is a challenge. As you will know from our various forrays into this in the past, we’ve tried all sorts of methods and all sorts of cutters – But Dave and Jo at LaserCutz in Honiton have helped us to find a solution.

I hope you’ll be impressed by the results!

With help from Ian Hankey at The Fab Lab in Plymouth and his talented code writing son Jamie Kaye, we’ve designed a spectrum of different shapes all with the same area so that we can see whether or not the shape of the cut cell has any impact on the energy generated by the cell.

So, it’ll be back to the solar lab in Penryn in the next few weeks to get results from this latest set of tests.

“We love this project as it so much fun but has a very real and practical aim” Dave and Jo at LaserCutz

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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.


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.


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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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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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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Dan Arnold imagines a butterfly car port

Hiya Dan!

Welcome to the Art and Energy team, can you tell us about you and your work?

Hello! Thank you very much, what an amazing thing to be part of!

I’m an artist and collaborator currently based in Penryn, Cornwall. My practice and research has taken me all over the world and I continue to seek inspiration from the natural processes that surround us and the collaborations that occur within the interconnected web.

My practice lies at the ever changing membrane between art and science and the processes that we find ourselves part of.

I make large scale sculptures and installations, films, animations and murals increasingly through a process of collaboration.

I’ve worked with NGOs, charities, Arts Council England, Glastonbury, schools, universities, planetariums and museums around the world. 

So, you’ve spent the last week with us speaking to people in Exeter about Art and Energy and developing ideas for projects that people in Exeter are interested in.

You were focusing on developing an idea for a solar carport. Can you tell us about it?

Sweet, yeah!

It’s been great talking to people in Exeter over that week. It’s super important that any project involves the local community otherwise there’s a high risk of alienating people or producing something that has no relevance to them.


That’s not what art is for, its another language and potentially powerful tool for change, that should be used to communicate and bring ideas together rather than sit on an overly intellectualised pedestal and only let the elite in.

Yeah, so solar car ports. Rad.

For me it’s important that large pieces of artwork also have a functionality about them – that they’re layered rather than just pretty (or ugly).


We’ve talked about the cabbage white butterfly and its super rad wings.

This led to the idea of using the butterfly’s chrysalis as a starting point for a from for the carport.

A chrysalis is a transitional object by nature and I like that; designing a functioning sculpture that converts energy and provides a space for ideas to grow (as well as other species).


A carport also needs to function when it is not charging a car, it’s a waste of resources for anything not to be used as much as possible.

It could also provide a meeting point for people, somewhere to interact and also charge phones etc, a space for ideas.

Part of the roof and the underside of the structure could also provide habitats for a struggling insect population and parts of the roof could be living.

The whole space an ecosystem and habitat for several species including ourselves as well as functioning as a source of power for the objects we use.