Our Floral Wave - A Labour of Love
During our Kaleidoscope of Colour Art Festival this year, my school’s Malvern Road fence was awash with flowers in sections of green, red, blue, yellow, purple, orange and pink. Dubbed Our Floral Wave, the work consisted of 4,000 transformed plastic bottles and stretched 40 metres. It turned heads as people walked, trammed or drove passed.
The genesis of the installation began with a conversation between Suzie Stanford, a school mum who is also a renowned installation artist and myself, the head of Junior Art at Lauriston Girls’ School.
We discussed what kind of project could involve the whole school community in its creation. Playing to Suzie’s strengths as an artist who specialises in upcycling and the girls’ interest in the environment, the idea of creating something from plastic bottles soon took shape.
This evolved into a major enterprise in which students, parents and staff from across the school started collecting bottles. Some even went so far as to contact local businesses to source more.
As the influx of bottles began, a regular team of parents provided additional support by removing labels, washing and cutting the bottles ready for use. These were then cut, folded and transformed during art lessons and at lunchtime sessions into an astonishing array of plastic flowers. Once cut and shaped, the flowers had to be painted. Given that the installation needed to be able to withstand the extremes of Melbourne’s weather, a few trial flowers were left out in all weather conditions for a few weeks to test the resilience of the acrylic paint to be used. Once the durability of the Chromacryl paint was established the decoration commenced.
Throughout the making of the flowers, Suzie Stanford made regular visits to the school to engage with the girls, providing an infectious level of enthusiasm which everyone loved.
Suzie’s initial idea was to create a cacti wave but by the end of the project students had made exotics, tropicals and flowers that haven’t even been discovered yet.
During the creation of the wave a team of senior girls were involved in documenting the whole process. The result was a very polished short film Bottles Unfold: a story of an installation artwork by Suzie Stanford, in which various members of the school community were interviewed, along with some great footage of the girls working on the flowers.
The most powerful learning to emerge from this enterprise, apart from it being a valuable awareness-raising exercise about our throw-away society, was the level of interaction between students, parents and teachers in the creation of something bigger than the sum of its parts. Once installed, Our Floral Wave was more breathtakingly beautiful than anyone had imagined.
As such, the whole experience has served to illustrate in a very powerful way what coming together as a community can do and, more pertinently, what many hands and minds working together can create.
Head of Junior Art
Lauriston Girls School