why a kelp forest?

why a kelp forest?

In conjunction with her CCBC gallery show, we asked artist Sarah Groves to share with us a bit about herself,
her inspiration, her audience and her other projects. 

The installation will be on view in our gallery from april 2 – may 3, 2023. 

Why a kelp forest?

Creating the Copper Kelp Forest has been been lots of fun! Coastal ecology along Atlantic and Pacific shores where I have played and worked has intrigued me from childhood through university and beyond. For the past 20+ years my attention has focused on metalsmithing – making jewellery and small sculptural objects from copper, silver and gold. The Copper Kelp Forest is a fusion of my interests in coastal ecology and metalsmithing.

On the Pacific coast I have explored kelp forests from small boats in Clayoquot Sound and Haro Strait. As a small boat approaches a kelp bed, its momentum is slowed by languorous mats of kelp, the canopy of the kelp forest. What lives below in the depths of the kelp forest? Who passes through? As a failed scuba diver, I had to rely on accounts from scuba-diving friends, field guides, the Vancouver Aquarium, and dives into the web to answer these questions. Kelp forests, the old growth forests of the marine world, are complex ecological communities that provide food, shelter and refuge for a diversity of organisms. They serve as protective nurseries for many species. Kelp forests are under threat from coastal development, marine activities, climate change, and ocean warming – we need to take better care of these communities. Exploring and learning about them is the first step.

The fluid undulating motion of kelp makes me think of anticlastic raising, an ancient metal forging technique that creates wavelike forms using very thin (i.e. 0.2 mm) sheets of metal. During the pandemic shutdown I worked to puzzle out how to forge kelp fronds using anticlastic raising. After months of trial and error punctuated with bouts of frustration, I figured out how to counterweight each copper kelp frond to balance it in a realistic position. Finally linked the copper fronds together as mobiles.

Designing and prototyping new objects are my favourite parts of the creative process! Once the kelp frond mobiles were moving like a kelp forest, the copper inhabitants started to arrive. Inspired by images and living creatures I used a variety of metal-working techniques to design and fabricate rockfish, halibut, jellyfish, sea stars, herring and a skate. A kelp crab may also appear, and in the future I hope to design other creatures that will inhabit the copper kelp forest.

“Coastal ecology along Atlantic and Pacific shores where I have played and worked has intrigued me from childhood through university and beyond.

Why copper?

Copper is delightful material to work and form. It is beautiful, malleable, responsive, recyclable, and readily coloured with various patinas. It is affordable and easy to source. I pick up scraps from sheet metal shops and salvage yards. Sometimes my used copper etching plates with
“bonus” texture are given new life in my sculptural work. On several occasions I have come home to find scraps of copper (including a heavy greasy copper coil from the motor of an electric trolley bus) stacked neatly and anonymously by my front door – presumably from friends who are decluttering or renovating their homes. In the corner of my workshop a  plastic bin collects copper scraps. Some will find their way into future projects while others will go to metal recycling to be reincarnated as wire or plate.

Artist bio
I am a metalsmith/jeweller working with copper, silver, gold, pearls, and natural gemstones. I use a variety of techniques – forging, anticlastic raising, fabrication, and lost-wax casting to create original designs. My experience as a printmaker and ecologist influences my designs which often incorporate a variety of textures, patinas, and references to natural objects. I delight in taking a piece of metal and transforming it into something new whether it is my own design or a commission that emerges through collaboration with a client.