'The Green Man' is most commonly represented as a face surrounded by leaves, or with vegetation sprouting from the nose, mouth and head. Sometimes the face is composed entirely from leaves and foliage. Green Men are used as decorative architectural features, usually representing fertility and the regenerative cycle of the seasons.

I am interested in reinterpreting ‘The Green Man’ as symbol of the city of Stoke-on-Trent at this point in time; a motif that not only represents a sense of regeneration and renewal but one that could also be used to bring about changes, by highlighting what is effectively public artwork that already exists.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Steeling Skies Sheffield- The Green Man of Woolley Wood and Concord Park

I am taking the Green Man project to Concorde Park, Shiregreen, Sheffield at the Weekend (Saturday 21st & Sunday 22nd August) for the Rednile curated 'Steeling Skies' art celebration event, which aims to draw attention to this large beautiful park on residents doorstep and to encourage families to enjoy their surroundings and join in new activities. Read more about the project here

Double-click on flyer to enlarge and print a copy

A 'Green Man' creature will emerge from Woolley Wood to interact with the public in Concord Park. The Green Man will become the embodiment of the woodland and park site, by constructing an outfit for a performer to wear made from foliage, flowers, weeds and debris found in the local area. The creature will reference the ancient woodland site whilst instigating responses about the current state of the park and possible future visions for the area.

The history of the symbol of The Green Man suggests he takes on many forms. Interpretations of him as a protective deity of forests and woodlands are relevant to ideas of conservation and heritage of the woodland. Like the park, this figure is steeped in ancient history with roots evident in the earliest belief systems. He is also Multicultural; appearing throughout many religions, in different forms, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, paganism to name a few. It has been suggested that he is archetypal; understood by all. The Character will also aim to emphasise mans interdependence with trees – suggesting the importance of trees both in the in the modern world, with growing environmental awareness, and further back time when they were a source of shelter, furniture, and heating. Also, on a more local level, they were used for making the charcoal that fuelled the steel industry.

The work will be based around the idea of 'sightings' and the development of a ‘myth’. This elusive and enigmatic character will wander the park and surrounding areas throughout the weekend. The public will be encouraged to ‘spot’ this creature, mirroring wildlife spotters and ‘twitchers’ who visit the woodland. The performance will also offer a participatory element where the public will be invited to add foliage to The Green Man.

The character is intended to allow the public explore and consider their surroundings and highlight the importance of green spaces and natural habitats within the city environment, with emphasis of the ancient woodland ‘Woolley Wood’. It could also become a tool to bring about positive changes to the park – i.e. how much better would he look without rubbish on him? as littering is a widespread issue, highlighted in Woolley Wood management plan. It will also link to natural history of the park by conjuring the idea that this creature originates further back in time, an ancient inhabitant that has witnessed the woodland and the previous park landscape

Saturday, 14 August 2010

End of Residency day Sat 14th Aug- Kate Lynch Exploring The Green Men of Stoke

To celebrate the end of my residency here at SHOP I am giving away 25 limited edition Green Man themed multiples.

Come along to SHOP today for your last chance to create your own Green Man, follow the Green Man trail in Stoke town and Pick up your FREE artist multiple.

I am giving away plantable Green Men made from seeded paper. The images featured on the paper circles have been created by me and the public during workshop sessions (chosen images can be seen below). Was your Green Man selected to appear on the plantable paper circles?

Once you have been in and received your free plantable Green Man, plant him and watch your hope for the city grow, bloom and flourish.

Write your hope for the city, or a personal wish, on the blank side of the paper circle.
Plant the Green Man circle in a pot, or directly into soil outdoors. Cover with a thin layer of soil and keep moist until seedlings are established.

The paper will bloom when planted and looked after
Perhaps The Green Man can help your wish to come true using his regenerative powers.

After Saturday the limited edition multiples will be on sale for £2 each from SHOP

Friday, 13 August 2010

Other Green Men in Stoke

Thanks to David Haden of Creative Stoke and Robert Cochrane for highlighting other Green Men to be seen in Stoke.

Robert Cochrane had taken his hand made Green Man around Stoke to be photographed with Josiah Wedgwood's and Josiah Spode's graves in Stoke Minster Church Yard. The Green Man here is re-visiting a pagan site of worship too, relevant to the origins and history of the symbol- a visiting Green Man, but a Green Man in Stoke none the less. I wonder where else Robert will take his Green Man?

David made me aware that the Shakespeare mosaic on the Old Stoke Library, which I was aware of and pass on a daily basis, features green foliage. This does make him a Green Man, which I had missed! Also, there are many links that can be found with the Green Man in Shakespeare’s writing; he appears as the ‘shrewd and knavish’ Puck in a midsummer nights dream, for example.

Carol Ballard writes about Shakespeare’s links with the Green Man:

‘One of the most interesting aspects of the Green Man is that in Shakespeare's day — and right through the late Victorian period — he was not much more than an architectural stop-gap, capable of being scaled down or grafted on to church architecture or furniture, as if even while being carved into wood or stone he could manifest his shape-changing magic. Yet the Green Man had an almost physical presence, "becoming part of his [Shakespeare's] creative language later to resurface in what was to be perhaps his most popular play, A Midsummer Night's Dream!"

Ballard makes many references to A Midsummer Night's Dream, but it is when she is making less specific references to creativity that her prose becomes most interesting, such as in the following paragraph:

"[The Green Man] makes for a significant study not only for those of anthropological inclination but also for the student of visual arts and creative thinking — for who's to say that the greatest creative mind in the world of English literature did not see a direct parallel to the human condition in this dualistic image representing both death and rebirth...."
Although most of the text of Ballard's small chapbook explores the places where Shakespeare might have made his Green Man "sightings," the more intriguing explorations are those which address the significance of the Green Man to contemporary creative artists.

I am going to do a bit more research about this, and see if I can get hold of a copy of Ballard’s book.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

A Green Man?

A Green Man? Click the link to read an article about a man who sprouted a pea plant in his lungs. This conjures up images of one of the 'spewing' or 'disgorging' Green Men where vegetation grow from their mouths, noses, eyes and ears.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Green Girl- Box Brownie Camera photographic 'tradition'

One of the 'green girl' photos, circa 1905/6

These types of Images of girls submerged in hedges are an occurring phenomenon within early Box Brownie Camera photographs. David Haden, who made me aware of this, is researching this further, trying to find out the origins of the 'tradition'.

Thanks to David for the relevant research and bringing this image for me to look at in SHOP today.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

SHOP Residency Launch and Progress so far

The first few days at shop have been really busy and so far I have collected a good amount of research, feedback about the Green Man, along with people's ‘Hope for Stoke’.

On the opening Saturday of my residency at SHOP a few visitors had come to share an abundance of knowledge about the Green Man and were so interested in the project.

Outside looking in

Public Responses

Robert had come in to express his interest in the Green Man, and my project, and sat and had a good read through some of the research books whilst he was here. He will be coming back to the clay tile workshops and share some of his skills as a sculptor/ ceramicist which will be appreciated on the day.

The 'Green Man Library' in use

I had another visitor called David- creator of the Creative Stoke website. David was already very knowledgeable about the Green Man, ancient traditions, customs and folklore of Britain and the local area. He had previously sent me this link to some fascinating albums on flickr, Stoke old town's archaic faces and creatures and Stoke-on-Trent's house gargoyles some of which are Green Men. He had some interesting insights relating to my project that he wanted to share:

He told me about a mysterious photographic ‘tradition’ where images exist of young girls submerged in hedges, this seemed to be a widespread phenomenon as various images exist. It is thought that the girls in the images were responding to children’s literature at the time but no-one really knows where it came from. How fascinating. David thought it would be a good idea to re-create these images using local hedges and local girls. It is something I intend to research further as I love the idea. I have been trawling the internet for these images but cannot find anything. David is returning to SHOP with some further research and books; I hope some more info about this idea is amongst the resources he brings for me.

Another interesting bit of information relating to the history of photography that David thought relevant is this image of a leaf which is thought the be world’s earliest example of a fixed photograph.

The picture had previously been attributed to Henry Fox Talbot, who is credited with taking the world's first photographs in the 1830s. however it is now thought that a letter 'W' on the image may stand for Thomas Wedgwood (1771-1805), as Wedgwood was known to have experimented with photography in the 1790s, while living in Bristol, but none of his work was thought to have survived.

This has nice links with the ceramic industry and the ‘n
atural’ elements associated with the green man. I created some quick responses to the image using imprints of the clay that will be used to construct Green Man plaques in my workshop tomorrow along with imprints from Spode moulds, and a lithograph leaf.

Cut lithograph leaf response
Clay leaf prints on paper, ceramic mould

We also talked about the Anglo-Saxon history of the Stoke minster site. I am intrigued by the fact that it was once a Pagan site of worship- perhaps the Victorian architects that designed the buildings along Church Street were responding to this, as the Green Men are present all along this street- creating an avenue, or procession of Green Men leading to the site. Mercia MacDermott writes about this in her book ‘Explore Green Men’, stating that the Victorians were enthusiastic ‘revivers of traditions’ however none of them attempted to revive folk customs that the foliate heads represented, the use of them was just ‘part and parcel of the gothic style’. She goes on to suggest that these Green Men are therefore meaningless and can ‘tell us no secrets, because none was embodied in them’ however, in one circumstance, I disagree with this as I have found something very interesting about the Green Men on the Jackson’s Buildings, which is revealed in the piece ‘A Conversation with the Green Man’ which is currently on display in SHOP- come and have a look. I do also like this idea that these Victorian Green Men of Stoke are blank canvases, that currently have no meaning, that myself and the public can re-interpret and give meaning to be relevant to our town today, as this was my intention for the project from the start.

The Green Men that appear within Stoke Minster are to be found on the organ there. This was created in 1899 by James Jepsom Binns of Bramley, Leeds. It was commissioned by master potter Henry J. Johnson for his home at Oulton, near Stone. He later moved to Westwood Hall, Leek (now Westwood College), and the organ was installed in his music room there, Before finally being installed in Stoke Minster In 1921. To me, the Green Men that look out from the front of the organ over the interior of the church ‘completes’ the small trail of the Green Men of Stoke, and the symbol is so fitting to the area with it’s history as a Pagan site of worship that it is a strange coincidence that these Green Men ended up there.

A lady called Lynne who is a Cleaner at the Famous Lion pub was interested in the Green Man on the building she works in and also in the lithographs, as most of her family were involved in the ceramic
industry and she had worked cutting lithographs. She was interested in coming back to cut some out ready for my workshops- reviving and old process she was familiar with. She also wants to take some away with her to make handmade cards with. Working with the lithographs also brought back memories for her of the ‘pear drop’ smell she associated with the litho process.

She told me how she misses seeing Stoke busy with people from the Spode factory- in particular the familiar ‘blue pinnies’ and ‘men with white trousers’ that descended on the town in lunch breaks. I love this idea that something as simple as coloured clothing acts as a beacon of thriving industry. I also think this would make a brilliant performance; to infiltrate the town with this visual symbol of the old industry here. Who would remember and respond to seeing people in this attire once again? Blue and white are colours also synonymous with Spode factory and the ceramics industry, referencing the plate patterns.

A lady called Tammy has been in a few times on her Lunch Break. She was interested in the Ghillie suit style Green Man costume as she owns a Ghillie suit and is a trained sniper! She made it clear that she already knew all about the Green Man especially how he could become a symbol of Change for the town and made some really interesting comments about the regeneration of the town- how she hopes for change that is ‘transparent’ and ‘useful’.This idea of transparency is one that is referenced in the GREEN/REGEN piece with the multilayered transparent lithographs layered over the town through the window.

I have struggled to take notes of all of the amazing comments people have been making I could do with a dictaphone. The questions to answer on the back of the Green Man trail map are proving to be a good way of collecting some of the public’s thoughts so far.

Photographer Martin Elliott was set up outside on the Launch day. He was approaching people to photograph- characters that he was interested in as a document of Stoke town which will be featured in an exhibition in the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, the idea of the portraits is to create a connection with the inhabitants of the city in 100 years time- leaving them a message for the future. David’s presence certainl
y drew more people in to SHOP and created an area alive with activity visible from the road.

Behjat Omer also installed his portraits in the empty shop opposite, again visually activating the area. I like the way the Green Man we are constructing in drop in workshops is a similar scale to his portraits and they look across the courtyard to each other.