Unlocking the energy of art
What happens when you put a solar panel into the hands of an artist?
What happens when invite a solar-panel artist to lead a random group of people on an Art and Energy workshop?
On a stormy Saturday in September, I attended a fabulous one-day workshop run by Art and Energy CIC to learn about solar technology, explore how individuals can create their own solar panels and to create my own piece of artwork that has the capability to charge a mobile phone...amazing!
Art and Energy is a collective of artists finding ways to use their skills to respond to the climate emergency. It is a social enterprise founded in 2018 by Chloe Uden, a social entrepreneur with a bright vision to make beautiful things that also give us green energy and can act as both a celebration of creative possibilities and an antidote to fear and anxiety about the future.
This workshop was a beautiful invitation to step into a creative space that is taking bright steps into a sustainable future. We started off by exploring some of the merits of solar technology in a world dominated by fossil-fuel energies, and learned about the processes and materials that go into making a solar panel. We then entered into a creative journey to make our own solar panelled artwork, with Chloe and fellow artist Jenny Ayrton guiding us through the five stages of process with calmness, enthusiasm and gentle confidence.
When you become immersed in creating art, your mind is able to break away from distracting thoughts and really focus on the task at hand. There were many stages of this workshop that took infinite concentration on one small task, and I found myself falling into a blissful meditative state where life stood still and all that mattered in that moment was gently soldering my little strip of tabbing wire onto the delicate wafer-thin solar cell. There was a real sense of calm in the room at many points during the day, as the creative process took us all into an almost meditative state of peace.
As a teacher, Chloe also echoes this sense of calm, with her guidance both patient and energising at the same time, taking us through a very complex process with ease and inviting us to unleash our creative selves with confidence.
The benefits of creative projects are well known for their therapeutic capacities and this workshop was a powerful reminder for myself of the joy that comes from making – from using my hands, from being slow, gentle and purposeful with my intentions and from being in a place of flow. It was such a gift to be offered this space in a workshop that was pretty jam-packed with a lot of things to do and learn – let’s not forget we were creating artistic devices to be powered by the sun – pretty big stuff!
And yet, there felt a gentle ebb and flow of energy in the workshop – at times we slowed right down into our creative process, and towards the end speeding up as the energy was transferred back into the artwork.
The final moment – when each of us stood under the UV light to test our artworks by plugging them into our mobile phones – felt so very exciting, and it was great to feel the same sense of excitement from Chloe each time, who was literally jumping for joy.
I left the workshop utterly energised. In just six hours we had learned about the process of creating and producing solar panels, explored and practiced the process of creating solar artworks, learned skills of soldering, electronics, paintwork, craft-processes, enjoyed a blissful meditation whilst crafting and went home with a beautiful piece of art which now sits on my kitchen wall and can charge my mobile phone. I also now have the skills, confidence and capacity to make my own solar-chargers and pass this knowledge onto other people – another gift from the workshop.
Art and Energy CIC is an extraordinary bold and bright social enterprise on a mission “to empower people to get involved in transforming our power systems and by working together, we hope to use our energy for the good of the planet”, and it will be exciting to see the sparks that they create as they continue to grow.
Rachel Musson | Director of ThoughtBox Education CIC