Published 24.10.2022
by Kids’ Own

Artist Sarah Lundy Reflects on Green Futures Project

Green Futures, funded by Creative Ireland (Sligo), provided an opportunity for a group of children and young people in County Sligo to work collaboratively with Kids’ Own Associate Artist Sarah Ellen Lundy while exploring important themes and ideas that connect to climate action in the Cranmore Co-Op Community Garden. Read about the Green Futures Project here.

As part of this project, Sarah Ellen also had dedicated studio time to actively respond and progress her responses to working with the children. This enabled Sarah Ellen to further her studio practice from working with the children on this project, valuing the exchange and reciprocity of working together.

Read the first of Sarah Ellen’s reflections on her studio time below.

Image Warning Note from Kids’ Own: This post contains imagery of taxidermy and the taxidermy process.


Reflections from Sarah Ellen

The Green Futures Project is an initiative of Kids Own Publishing Partnership in collaboration with Cranmore Community Development Company facilitated by myself, Sarah Ellen Lundy, visual artist. It is funded by Creative Ireland (Sligo) and documented throughout by Cian Flynn. Through my work, I endeavour to engender environmental awareness through creative engagement with flora and fauna through my taxidermy and herbarium specimens. The Cranmore Community Garden, under the guardianship of the superwoman Dr. Connie Nell, was an ideal location for these workshops with the local young people in addressing the climate crisis on a local level with a view to better comprehending the inextricable link between all things and our situation to the global pandemic.

It has been such an intuitively vital element to this project that former director of Kids’ Own and talented writer Jo Holmwood saw to incorporate into the infrastructure of the schedule a period of studio time for me to respond to my facilitation work within the remit of my personal practice. This is a rarity and a luxury. Sometimes as an artist, one gets bogged down with working on projects outside of one’s studio. Now both strands of my work have been brought together through the community workshops being followed by a period in the studio, with my great gratitude for Jo’s vision to build this essential but too often overlooked aspect of the creator’s creativity into the project.
Though there is a very direct cross-over between the premise and materials employed in both my outreach and pedagogical work and my expanded studio practice in terms of it all revolving around the [super/]natural world, in my facilitation work, I do have to pander to age-appropriate audiences to a certain degree whilst in my studio and practice. I have an artistic licence, which I feel entitled to exercise to its fullest potential as needed with nothing off limits as it is art and as such a means of expressing something that has no voice elsewhere.

Green Futures Workshop

On the final day of our ten days of workshops, I set up something of an autumnal alter of objects to mark the end of summer, which included a hide of otter fur, crab apples, dried poppy seed heads etc. I invited the young people to pick an item they felt drawn to with each doing so and to draw it on paper before being asked to pass it onto the person to their left, creating a rotation of objects echoing the cyclical orientation of the natural world. It also operated as a metaphor for what goes around comes around, recurrence and how we are all bound in the same system. It was an activity to subliminally impart the urgency of the climate crisis through the use of symbolic natural materials involved and their status as ‘timeless’ symbols. These symbols also included empty egg nests, skulls of animals, dried fungi-ancient agent of decay, bell-ringing alert, sand timer-time is up, the time is nigh.

This moment from the project is manifesting as a limited edition bookmark for SAMHAIN22 in a spectre-esque aesthetic to give the impression of something past, something lost perhaps. A bookmark was chosen as Kids’ Own is a publisher of books, but also a bookmark is a marker of a place in time, a point in a trajectory and as such a direct metaphor for the time-sensitive yet literary based aspect of this particular project, also the fact it is finite -a limited resource!

The image above shows Sarah Ellen’s bookmark.



Working with communities and young as-yet untrained budding artists, I got to thinking about outsider art as well as folk art owing to my use of a timeless natural object that has been used in folk magic & ritualistic practices, including piseogs in Irish rural tradition and mythology.

I finally got a chance to look through a book I had gotten on Irish artist Janet Mullarney who sadly passed away in 2020 during the pandemic and whose work is very raw, almost primitive in its execution. One particular recurrent element in her work which I was drawn to was a figure with a horse’s head. On researching this, I was led to a Welsh winter folk practice involving a horses skull called Mari Lwyd [marry loyd], which is apparently related to the December wren day here in Ireland as both involve procession to the local households and signing at each. This association in turn, reminded me of a young wren that I had in cold storage for the last few months after finding it dead on a road. I decided to defrost and ask my fathers expertise as to the possibility of preserving it through taxidermy with a view to reconstructing it with the hunting of the wren tradition where a wren was found, killed and displayed aloft a bouquets of furze and holly before being brought around to households where the ‘wren boys’ would sing and ask for money to ‘bury the wren’. The idea of burying the wren was that the bad luck it was associated with would be buried with it. This bad luck stems from various accounts of the wren flying out from the foliage and in so doing, giving away the hiding place of fugitives, one of which was the proverbial St. Stephen, whose cover was being blown by the bird was subsequently caught and killed.

In my as yet unfinished version, the wren, which as it is only a baby chick of an already tiny avian, meaning it is barely fully formed in terms of limbs and plumage, is depicted as flying nay escaping from its human captor whose hands have been dismembered, the bars of the cage broken and the wren holds a key in its beak, harking to its holding a secret and the possibility for freedom in its own self. It also relates to another well-known story about the wren who became ‘king of the birds’ through its wisdom. In the competition of endurance flight, it hid in the eagle’s wing and when this bird finally exhausted, assuming it had won the competition, the wren emerged fresh as a victor ascending to the highest heights; it was odd that this ‘sculpture’ of sorts happened at the same time the new king of England was sworn in.


Raven Skull Futur


Inspired by my workshops with the young people and their approach to my studio collection, as well as the primitive folk approach of Janet Mullarney, I am going to experiment with the basic materials of air drying clay which I use in workshops but have never actually used myself having not done my primary degree in visual arts. I will incorporate this material with found avian objects in my studio such as skeletal bird wings and a Ravens skull to make a hybrid human-animal sculpture based on the Harpie bird/woman of mythology and specifically Gustave Dores depiction of it in his engravings.