Take a few minutes to relax and enjoy the insights of a talented artist, who also happens to be a truly inspirational nature lover.
All photos provided by Caroline Bond
Caroline Bond describes herself as an eco artist, working mainly with marine debts and ghost nets that are cleared from the waters of the British Isles. Although her creativity seems to know no bounds, she centers her work on weaving baskets, bowls, rugs or wall hangings from the lengths of rope that she retrieves and recycles from her local beaches. In addition, Caroline weaves small birds and animals from fishing line that is sent to her from around the world. Living on the seafront in East Sussex, in the United Kingdom, means that she essentially has all her art materials readily available on her doorstep. The joy of finding them for free is balanced, of course, with the sadness in knowing that the pollution of the world’s seas and oceans continues to worsen.
With a bachelor’s degree in Book Arts and Crafts from the London College of Printing (now called the London College of Communication,) Caroline is excited to discover that the discipline of books arts is gaining in popularity. With her design-based background, Caroline is conscious of imposing rules upon herself regarding what she can or cannot use in her work. Nothing is purchased new unless deemed to be totally imperative and made from natural materials; everything else is recycled from beach cleanups, reclaimed from marine litter, and acquired secondhand. In addition, Caroline chooses to abstain from using glue in her work. We were thrilled to have this talented artist agree to participate in our interview series, as her dedication to the natural environment shines through in so many aspects of her life and work!
Caroline, where in the world did you grow up?
I grew up in East Sussex, home of the Seven Sisters white chalk cliffs, and the rolling green hills of the South Downs National Park. My childhood was filled with the total freedom of the outdoors and the need for being outside is something that is now totally a part of who I am today. I wandered in forests and swam in mud filled rivers, climbing trees and talking to animals for the first ten years of my life. Our little town of Seaford sits at the bottom of the white chalk cliff of Seaford Head and boasts a seafront that is enjoyed by the town’s inhabitants and their families.
My primary school was in Alfriston, a tiny village just up the River Cuckmere from here, and it was there that my peers and I enjoyed a very traditional, old fashioned, British childhood. Everyone’s parents were farmers or horse owners or in some way agricultural so the outside was literally "ours" to run wild in. We were really quite feral. It was quite a shock turning up for secondary school with twigs in our hair and mud on our knees to be met with girls who wore make-up and used hairbrushes. I was really quite taken aback at how town people were so different from us.
What are some of your favorite memories from childhood?
Whenever I feel a connection to nature it humbles me, from when I was a child to now. From feeling the hot sand blowing into my tiny face on the beaches of Biscarrosse in France, stinging my sun browned face, and carrying the smell of the pine trees on it into my nose, to talking quietly to the birds and the animals until they landed on me or came close enough for me to smell their fur, these interactions sparked a total wonder for nature and a fascination with how all living things are connected. My mother’s firm rules on only one hour of TV a day meant we made our own fun and mostly that happened outside with our dogs and our tortoise, Zorba (bought from a Greek man, hence the name).
We had bats in one house that used to tuck themselves up behind the windows, a delight to my inquisitive mind! Horse riding on the South Downs as payment for clearing the paddocks of horse dung and poisonous plants--cantering in the sunshine has its own feeling of freedom that I think surfing is the only thing I’ve found that’s come close to.
I love the memories of going winkle picking with my parents, filling up my little bucket with the tiny snails to take them home for our dinner. I learnt a lot from my grandfather, who taught me about plants and gardening and the relationship between human and plant. My dad had to travel a lot for work so our holidays were sometimes really road trips through Europe. I have seen a lot of nature and scenery from the car window with crazy mix tapes of Queen and Bob Marley blaring out of the speakers.
Do you remember one special place with particular fondness?
Birling Gap in East Sussex is now a National Trust area. We would spend long summer days here under the great white cliffs of chalk, lined with flints from ages gone by, rock pooling and fossil hunting and slipping over and finding starfish. I don't remember ever taking anything to the beach apart from a towel. We never took any toys with us because we made our own games. There was always driftwood to make into imaginary items and even doorways to imaginary worlds. We learnt how to make fires in the sand and how to make the fire "safe" by circling them with large flints. My dad taught me to fish when I was very young in France and it's a skill that I have passed on to my step children and to all of my friends. We'd cook fish straight out of the sea on the fires and sit brown and full around the flames telling ghost stories and singing songs until we started to fade. Being with friends outside like this during my summers as a kid are the memories that invoke the warmest feelings. My parents were quite bohemian and for that I am very appreciative.
How has nature inspired you to live the life you are currently living?
Cleaning the beaches every day as I walk the dog is not a chore. Whatever the weather, whatever the season, I am delighted to give back to the places that inspire me the most. Because of my close connection to nature, putting back a little love every day to the place I live is really just part of the cycle. Animals clean other animals in nature, don't they? Little fish clean bigger fish in return for security and protection. I guess it just comes naturally to me to want to keep the places I enjoy the most looking and feeling their best. Where I live, and my environment, is after all an extension of myself. Positive changes have a knock on effect, and since the popularity of the 2 minute beach clean movement in our town, there is such a difference in the amount of people helping to keep the beaches clean. I just hope my work can draw people in aesthetically and then inform them latterly about marine pollution. It's such a large scale problem and the fact is that anyone picking up even the smallest piece of litter will be a positive effect for the planet. What's not to love about that!
My total refusal to work inside means that I am actually self employed as a gardener. I get to be muddy and tired and smell like cut grass and twigs for most of the year, then use the winter storm season to gather my ghost nets from the sea and weave all throughout winter time.
Can you recommend a special book, or books, from your childhood?
I used to pore over my parents atlas of the world with color photos and dream about going off to see all the wonderful places within its pages. That book got used in so many games I can't even begin to imagine how many times it was used. It was just fascinating that things that were only on the next page over were actually sometimes days away from each other, miles and miles apart, but bound together in that book, seemingly so small. We had piles and piles of National Geographic Magazines that were also played with and pored over. I wrote to them when I was ten asking if I could come for work experience as a marine biologist photographer and to my surprise they actually responded. It came on a tiny card and was a type written response, thanking me for my interest and to reapply when I was a bit older. I literally thought that was it! Job done! I'm going to work for them and do that!
Alas, that did not come into fruition, but all those images in front of me—tangible books to look at and flip through and read bits of—definitely fed my interest enough to keep my love for nature burning bright. You can't connect with a computer screen in the same way you can with a book. It needs to be held in your hands and stared at with wonder before you don't even realise you've fallen asleep with all those beautiful pictures dancing behind your eyes, carrying you on their shoulders into dreams.
Our sincere thanks to Caroline for sharing her memories of a wonderful nature-filled childhood with us. Her unique handcrafted items are showcased on her Instagram @kittiekipper, where you can learn more about her ongoing projects and daily beach cleanups.