Who knew seaweed-pressing could be so much fun? Clearly many Victorian women did, and it was the growing interest in these collectors that prompted member and seaweed expert Sarah Hotchkiss to lead a special and very successful Coastwise Seaweed Pressing workshop on 3 June.
Sarah’s love for seaweed, honed during happy years working in South Australia’s State Herbarium, had led her to visit Devon museum collections, which include those of notable Victorian collector, Barnstaple-born, Mrs Amelia Griffiths.
As a result some 20 of us, including guests from Exeter & Barnstaple Museums, gathered on Cheyne Beach on 3 June to gather seaweed under her guidance. Artist Bryony Gillard and her film cameraman were on hand to capture a contemporary group’s activities as part of her Exeter Museum project on women seaweed collectors.
Ilfracombe and North Devon Sub-Aqua Club kindly hosted the indoor session, member Amanda Gartshore giving her time generously to do so. There Sarah gave us a demonstration, supplied us with kit and set us to work, with advice and encouragement. Then it was down to us, and with much concentrated activity, dozens of potential pressings resulted.
Paula Ferris’s verdict “We learnt to see seaweed properly, in exquisite detail, each type with its own characteristic pattern. We got to appreciate the beauty of algae structure, and Coastwise members learned that a good pressing will help with identification. Sarah's help was much needed and appreciated.”
Pictured (courtesy of Paula and Rob Ferris) from top:- collecting algae samples from Cheyne Beach, Sarah Hodgkiss demonstrates techniques, arranging a sample under water, filming the workshop for the Exeter Museum project.