ExtInked Ecological Art and Tattoos at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Just got home from an afternoon of storytelling at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, with the lovely and talented Claire Druett.  We told stories about trees and conservation to a bunch of clued-in under-eights and their parents.  After the session, a dad came up to us and asked us if we knew Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, telling us it was his favourite book growing up and that if anyone could get through it with dry eyes, they had no heart.  I got a bit teary just seeing the passion with which he talked about it.  The books we read as children matter.

In between story sessions, I like to take a wander through the gallery space outside the room we tell in.  It always has fascinating exhibits created at the intersection of nature and culture.  ExtInked is the art project currently on show until July 29th.  Ultimate Holding Company of Manchester worked with conservation organizations to identify 100 of Britain’s endangered species.  Pen and ink drawings were then done of these species by artist Jai Redman.  After a local exhibition, people were invited to apply to become volunteer ambassadors for one of the species and have it’s image tattooed on their body.  Over 500 people applied.

The drawings are lovely but what captivated me was the slide show of photos of people getting tattooed and a series of portraits of these ambassadors.  An incredibly diverse range of people took part and the act of being tattooed, by tattoo artists Ink vs Steel,  appeared to have the solemnity of a ritual of initiation.  I want to talk to these ambassadors.  I want to know what led them to want to have a species image inked into their flesh and how this has changed their lives.

To view the images and portraits, go to the ExtInked website.

Talking Tree Storytellers can be found at 2pm on the third Sunday of each month at the John Hope Gateway Building of the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh.  For a list of exhibitions at the RBGE, click here.

Claire Druett’s storytelling page.

Alette J Willis’s storytelling page.

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