A Rubbish Eureka Moment: An Artist’s Environmental Quest by Julia Barton

Hello, my name is Julia Barton and I am a visual artist and member of Ragged University, I am based in Edinburgh and I make installations, prints and recently began performing. The work I make is often inspired by the natural world, the environment I find myself in and I am passionate about reclaiming and reusing as many materials as I can to make works and hence I often enjoy beach combing.
Last October I took an early morning walk on Polbain beach in Ross-Shire expecting to enjoy the sea and to search for odd washed up objects, but when I got close everything was reversed, the high tide line was a massive tangle of manmade materials and I had to literally search for seaweed amongst the rubbish. A Rubbish Eureka moment!

Littoral project

My interest in the litter quickly began to change from intrigued collector to sickened environmental campaigner. In desperation I tried to remove some of the rubbish I filled a washed up plastic fishing buoy with frayed rope,  aerosol cans, polystyrene, plastic bottles, spoons and a toy duck. These objects now travel with me wherever I go as a reminder of the state of our beaches and have spurred me on to plan this project which I have entitled littoral…

littoral  – in marine terms means the zone between the low and the high tide water marks

I now rarely step onto a beach without a rising fear of drowning in litter!  Hence I have become an obsessive artist on a quest. I want to examine the litter we find along our coast, consider its origins, how it got there and what the consequences are for our marine environment and ourselves, with this information I will  create art interventions and possibly a performance that draws attention to beach litter. I intend starting on the west coast of Scotland where I began to wake up to the sheer volume of beach litter which is occurring. So far I have found a high school and art community in Ullapool that are keen to work with me to develop my project and I plan to head there in September.  Eventually I wuld like to take the project to other coastal locations around the country.
I have a great deal of support from organisations such as the Marine Conservation Society in Scotland, the Marine Biological Station Millport and Keep Scotland Beautiful but they are unable to offer funding. I have applied to Creative Scotland and I am still waiting to hear whether I have been successful. To be eligible for their funding I need to find funding of approximately £1,200 so I have set up a Littoral crowd funding appeal and I am searching out other possible sources funding.
So far I have raised £720 which is fantastic especially since most people will be on the beach at the moment not reading e mails. But I would love more help with spreading the word about my littoral:sci-art project and any donations people  can afford. I will be creating artworks to send out as a reward for donations and in kind support such as accommodation in the Ullapool area, possibly a caravan/campervan, a virtual assistant, microscopes. I am in the process of setting up a blog which like the face book page will document the progress of the project please link up and pass on any information you have about particular beaches, connections you have that might be interesting and any ideas  re places to find funding etc  Many thanks Julia

Examples of my previous work can be seen at:


Email me at:

[email protected]