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Flotsam artist, Jo Atherton

Jo Atherton is a local artist who uses the marine litter as her inspiration to create individual pieces of Flotsam and Jetsam art work. We recently caught up with Jo, to take a look a the pieces of art she puts together with other peoples rubbish…

Watch Jo's Tedx Talk

Jo Atherton – Guest Blogger

The saying goes that one person’s trash is another’s treasure, and this is certainly the case for me. I am an artist who creates intricate tapestries with flotsam gathered from the Atlantic coast of Cornwall.

I am repeatedly drawn back to Watergate beach to collect material for my flotsam weaving. Jutting out into the North Atlantic Current, a tributary of the Gulf Stream, this coastline serves as a unique collection point for material from all over the planet.

A stroll along this beach never fails to provide a thought-provoking artefact for me to include in my tapestries. My favourite finds from Watergate include lobster pot tags from as far away as Newfoundland, Canada, and small pieces of Lego. In 1997, a container carrying these popular Danish toys fell off a cargo ship close to Land’s End and fragments are still washing ashore today.

Much like the stone tools, pottery and metals that archaeologists use to define human cultures of the past, a layer of plastic will one day signify our own throwaway society. I am captivated by the stories behind the objects I find – Where did they come from? How did they end up in the sea? What was their intended use?

Tidal currents ignore nations and boundaries when delivering marine litter to new shores. Rather than foster a culture of blame, by weaving with these international objects, I am hinting at the need for a shared responsibility when dealing with the important environmental issue of marine litter.

Initially, the intricacies and vibrant colours of my weavings are striking, but on realising they are comprised completely from marine debris, their existence becomes all the more alarming. Worryingly, Greenpeace reports that the marine plastics problem is now affecting all of the world’s oceans. It is the cause of injuries and deaths for numerous marine creatures, either through entanglement or they are poisoned, mistaking plastics for prey.

Next time you visit Watergate, why not see what has delivered to our shores and leave the beach a little bit cleaner as a result? There are many objects out there that have travelled thousands of miles, and who knows, you just might be lucky enough to find a piece of Lego!

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Jo Atherton Flotsam Artist Weaves


Joanna has been selected to exhibit her unique weavings in a solo shows. This builds on the success of participating in Not A Drop, a 48-hour art event in London that used creativity to draw attention to the ecological, social and political issues associated with water.

Joanna recently won the Gateway Gallery art competition and looks forward to a solo show at London Luton International Airport. ‘Beyond The Horizon’ will take place later this year in the main terminal building and will feature a collection of large flotsam weavings created in response to the liminal nature of the airport space.

A former Fellow of Digswell Arts Trust, Joanna was recently invited to return as a Trustee. She is Artist in Residence at St Francis’ College in Letchworth, and writes a monthly column in the Hertfordshire Visual Arts newsletter. She has an MA in Cultural & Critical Studies from Birkbeck College,University of London and a BA (Hons) in English Literature from King Alfred’s College,University of Winchester.

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Discover Jo's work

Jo Atherton 

Jo Atherton Flotsam Artist Cornish Blue

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