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Incubation Programme

Introducing the artist: Elspeth Diederix

Incubation Programme

Words by Suzanna Knight

Photos by Marie Wanders

As the first artist to win the Let it Grow Artist Grant, award-winning photographer Elspeth Diederix will use her artistic vision to introduce us to the incredible, ever-changing cosmos of a city garden. Elspeth takes ordinary, everyday objects out of their usual surroundings and captures their unique essence with her camera, making us look, then look again, and once more until our preconceived notions of the subject disappear.

You have travelled all over the world to create your work. What inspired you to start a project at home, in your own garden?

Travel used to be a catalyst in my creative process – when you’re travelling you have time to really look at things, and you’re constantly seeing things for the first time.  When you’re always surrounded by the same sights, you stop noticing the beauty of it all. But travel gets tricky with three kids, so I needed to find something else to trigger my curiosity, something that wouldn’t require leaving the country.

And you found it?

Turns out there was a whole new world waiting for me right in our own backyard! The garden is a cosmos of sorts, it changes every day, every minute, even. Something starts to grow, something else withers and dies, seasons change, new flowers pop up out of nowhere. It’s magical and it opens your eyes to this bizarre, ever-changing natural world. We look at it every day, but we don’t see it. That’s why I started the Studio Garden blog, to experiment with and inspire people to look at this common natural world with a new perspective.

Every flower is a miracle in its own right, but I wanted to amplify the true miracles of the floral world.

Tell us about the Studio Garden.

I started the blog to discover this new world – it’s like a playground for me. I don’t produce that much work as a photographer because my images are so immaculately crafted and researched; everything has to be perfect. Those restrictions don’t exist in the garden or on the blog since the photos I take there are just sketches. I document what’s happening to the plants and flowers; it could be a picture of a flower, or a beautiful leaf, or a wet bunch of rhubarb chard. Recently I also started an Instagram account for the garden- I love playing around with taking pictures with my phone, those filters are so much fun! The Studio Garden allows me to be completely free. The photographs are experiments, tests, visual updates that create a little window into this miraculous world.

What can you tell us about the Miracle Garden, the project you proposed to Let it Grow?

My initial idea was to photograph all these extraordinary species of flowers and the miracles that surround them- a flower bud that seems to glow in the dark, or a mysteriously patterned leaf that appears as if out nowhere, and display the photographs somewhere in the city. Every flower is a miracle in its own right,  but I wanted to amplify the true miracles of the floral world.

Then we thought, what if there was a physical space, an actual green paradise right in the middle of the city where we can grow these plant miracles, and people can follow their growth process and come see them in real life? That’s what led to the idea of the Miracle Garden. My friend Dagmar van Wijngaarden and I recently took a course in garden design and are currently enrolled in a gardening course. We had talked about how great it would be to design a ‘cutting garden’ where people could come and buy fresh flowers. Then I will photograph the goings-on in the garden, and post these photographs on the blog so people can follow the process. The blog will be the garden’s online home; this way, people around the world can follow the transition of this city garden throughout the year. The Miracle Series, the idea that started this whole project, will be staged scenes of the plant miracles that take place in this garden, around three images per season, and will be posted at random and unexpected locations around town. The images are meant to trigger curiosity and awe, make people wonder about the origins of these miracles. A QR-code or URL will lead them to the place where these wonders take place: the Miracle Garden.

The photographs are experiments, tests, visual updates that create a little window into this miraculous world.

What will the garden look like, and where will it be?

The garden is growing only in our minds right now, but we could imagine it would be somewhere in a park, like Rembrandtpark or Erasmuspark. We have a huge list of flowers we’d like to grow, there’s so many amazing different species. Even the simplest ones, just think of a pink lily of the valley, or a perfectly round giant allium, purple irises, or multi-coloured tulips! The garden would have two large, straight rows rows of different kinds of flowers grown specifically for cutting, surrounded by a wilder garden, and a greenhouse for equipment and for cultivating all the seedlings. And like I said, you can follow the development of the garden online, on the website and via Instagram.

When will you start cultivating the garden?

We had planned to have flowers growing by April, but that means we’d have to plant the bulbs right now, and we don’t have a location yet. It’s a big project, one that will involve a lot of different people and require quite a bit of funding. But the plan is there, and we’re so excited to get started, and hope Let it Grow can help us make this happen.

What do you think the Miracle Garden will contribute to city life?

The garden literally brings flowers back to the city. The photographs will do so in a figurative sense since they will open your eyes to the beauty of the delicate petals and little stems. The garden will allow you to experience this in real life. There are already  lovely flower shops and stalls in the city, but wild, fresh cut flowers like these are hard to find. And you will be able to follow their process, so witness all the changes flowers go through. That creates a true connection. See these root stalks? They’re going to be an anemone nemorosa ‘Monstrosa’- this delightful little quirky flower. How great is that?