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Looking back on 2020

Jan 04, 2021

There is no doubt a collective sense of exhaustion in the air.

It has been a challenging year on so many levels and like us, you’re probably breathing a sigh of relief to have 2020 behind you.

Just as we turn the chapter on an exceptionally challenging year, we want to look back on the things that went well in 2020. That is what this post is all about. We hope this short chronicle of positivity can provide a sprinkling of optimism to the beginning of your year. We hope 2021 brings more appreciation for the natural world and a greater awakening to the possibility of regenerating a healthier planet for all living species.

Thank you for being on this journey with us. We wish you a happy and healthy New Year.

Ed and James

In February 2020 we launched our first solo exhibition at the ONCA gallery in Brighton. Photo credit: Alex Sedgmond

February 2020

Launching our first solo exhibition: ‘Shining a Spotlight on Extinction’; a ten day exhibition showcasing five years of work in one gallery setting. How surreal to think this was less than a year ago.

The event took place in the ONCA Gallery in Brighton and we were overwhelmed with the positive response. We saw support from friends, family, collaborators, and the Brighton community. Throughout the week we invited visitors of all ages to get stuck into the screenprint process themselves, to breathe new life into old garments in our shared mission to celebrate biodiversity, shine a spotlight on extinction and raise money for endangered species around the world.

Jonny is all smiles during his printing session with James. We ran daily print workshops for visitors of all ages during our solo exhibition in Brighton. Photo credit: Alex Sedgmond

March 2020

Making PPE for the NHS: As the world went into lockdown for the first time, we turned our hands to making Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline NHS workers.

James and his fellow Glasgow Print Studio colleagues joined forces to produce over 2,000 face visors for frontline workers in hospitals, care homes and testing centres.

In March we turned our hands to making PPE for frontline NHS workers

April 2020

Adventures in our own backyard: Lockdown restrictions allowed us to find a higher level of appreciation for the outdoor spaces on our doorstep, as it did for countless other people around the world. Whilst James was out exploring the woodland trails on his mountain bike around Glasgow, Ed took to hiking and trail running the local hills in the South Wales valleys.

Starting one of many local mountain trails in the South Wales valleys.

May 2020

Natures resilience: We all witnessed the flourishing of wildflowers and insects amongst the uncut lawns, park hedgerows and roadsides.

This was natures’ way of showing us how resilient it is, and how it can thrive once given the chance. During this time we also saw the return of the swallows to the barn at our parents house, returning from an epic annual migration from South Africa. We will never grow tired of their impressive air displays; dive bombing for insects amidst a backdrop of blue plane-free skies.

June 2020

Sharing the mic with Adenike: In June we saw Black Lives Matter demonstrations sweeping across the world calling out for the end of racial injustice. In this historic moment we had the opportunity to interview social activist Adenike, to hear her story and take on the global events.

Adenike at a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration in London. Photo credit: ©Santo Basone @photopticon.

July 2020

Our first camera trap: Our collaboration with Global Wildlife Conservation inspired us to purchase a camera trap for our Dad as a gift for Fathers Day. He and Ed set it up in an oak woodland near our home in Wales. To our delight we captured photos of a prowling fox and cub at night within the first week!

We were delighted to capture a photo of a prowling fox cub at night on our camera trap.

August 2020

Gift from a printmaker: We were given a fine selection of fabric screenprint screens from a good friend. His father was a printmaker who sadly passed away some years ago. His equipment had been sitting in their garage for years until they discovered Under the Skin, and kindly decided to donate them to our project. We are so humbled by their generosity.

We will use these donated screens in future print workshops; teaching children and adults how to screenprint the wonders of wildlife onto old up-cycled garments. Our way of breathing new life into old clothing whilst celebrating biodiversity. We hope this is what he would have wanted.

We will use our donated screens to teach others how to screenprint in our future print workshops. Photo credit: Alex Sedgmond

September 2020

Partnership with Lonely Whale: Our latest screenprint — created in exclusive partnership with Lonely Whale — is a symbol of hope. Printed in a limited edition of just 120, this new artwork celebrates the epic anatomy of the humpback whale, a species that has made a colossal comeback since being hunted to near-extinction by the whaling industry during the 20th century.

20% of proceeds will go to the Ocean Heroes Network, giving agency to youth ages 11-18 to take action against plastic pollution in their communities around the world.

Our latest handcrafted screenprint is created in exclusive partnership with Lonely Whale.

October 2020

Donation to Ol Pejeta Conservancy: A flurry of Christmas sales for our Remembering Sudan artwork took us to print edition number 50/100. That’s £1,450, halfway toward our total target of £2,900.

The pandemic has taken its toll on conservation charities around the world, so we feel humbled to have been able to support Ol Pejeta to keep rhinos and other African wildlife safe during these challenging times. We want to say a massive thank you to all those who purchased this piece and helped make this happen.

We have just surpassed selling half of our Remembering Sudan limited edition screenprints.

November 2020

Good news for gorillas: Since reaching our target goal of £1,400 for mountain gorillas, our partners at the Gorilla Organisation have kept us updated with their conservation news.

The latest update is that – for some unknown reason – mountain gorillas are now having a baby boom. They are reproducing at a very high rate and they don’t know why. Scientists don’t know why. We certainly don’t know why. It’s good news so we’ll take it. But what we do know is this increase in newborn gorillas brings fresh hope for this endangered species.

December 2020

December down time: This time last year we hit the ground running, spinning plates with everything that needed to be done for our Brighton exhibition. This year, this January, we’ve slowed things right down. With everything that’s going on in the world (and a Christmas apart) we’ve decided to take a break. Time to reflect on the craziest year and reevaluate where things are heading – both for us at Under the Skin and collectively as a species.

What’s next? Keep on climbing the mountain…

We once received an email of encouragement from a customer who signed off with “Keep on climbing the mountain”.

This deeply resonated with us. At times this is exactly what this project can feel like – tackling a huge, daunting, unclimbable mountain. So many species in decline, such little time.

But like rock climbing, it’s all about breaking it up into small actions. After all, you can’t tackle an ascent without first focussing on the smaller actions; lacing up your shoes, coiling the rope, chalking your hands, and climbing the face, pitch-by-pitch.

And that’s precisely what we intend to do; mix inks, illustrate animals, run print workshops (eventually), and spend any spare moments outside appreciating nature.

Thank you for your continued commitment and taking the time to read this post. We really appreciate it and wish you the best for the year ahead.

Look closely enough and you can just about spot James approaching the summit during one of his climbing adventures in the Scottish Highlands. Photo credit: Zak Mooney.
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