So many things had happened since the start till the end of this Project.. Below you can read some stories of my five months in China, as I am not the best story teller, these are more like strait forward news about what we did?, how we did?
This is a research project about conservation of orchids, and everything we were able to do is because of my dearest friend
Thank you Sophie! Your energy was the driving force for us to complete this project and we did it!
Please look the ‘Sophie Williams’ section, to get more news about Sophie Williams. She is a warrior, she is the core of this project.
A trip in China, and it is all about Orchids!
Here I am, after a year later, back to Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) to work on my final painting for the exhibition, and actually start our exhibition marathon.
Nothing has changed here since last year, almost everything was same, except some nice people has joined to the crew of XTBG, and some nice people has left for their own adventures. So it was not difficult at all for me to settle and start to work on my new specie of orchid!
After a couple of days dealing with some paper works and finding my new studio, I was ready to start. I couldn’t use the same old amazing studio last year, although it was still exactly how I left it! This time of the year, weather is getting a bit of crazy in Xishuangbanna, so the studio was boiling even with the airconditioner! But my friend, Kyle very kindly offered to share his office with me. Although he was almost getting crazy, during the time I was in his office, we handle it well anyway. He was thinking somebody is knocking the door all the time! =) No, no, it wasn’t me!
My desk in Kyle's office
Well, so I have settle in his room with a view of the mountains (I am talking about actual rainforest mountains, not rubber tree mountains!) and a good light. Then I have immediately visited the orchid nursery, to pick my plant. One of my favorite place in the garden. So many very valuable orchids are flowering at the same time, and this make me mad.. almost impossible to choose what to paint. After couple of hours I have spent in the nursery, just looking, photographing amazing orchids of China, I have selected my specimen… Dendrobium fimbriatum.
When I was getting crazy in the Orchid nursery...
This was the 10th and the final painting I did for this project. Dendrobium was the missing genus for my series of paintings, and I was really hoping to catch its flowering time. So in May, Dendrobium fimbriatum was full blossoming, as well as some nice flower buds was just showing off!
It took about a month to complete this painting from scratch, but I took it easy, it wasn’t long hours of working, some days I took off to get relax in this amazing part of the world. As a team also we were working very hard to finalize the preparations of our exhibition marathon.
Once my final painting and all the preparations are done, we were ready to start our exhibition marathon!
We are ready to start!
To make this happen and easily going, we come up with a plan. Painting will travel on land, we will fly =) So, we framed all the paintings, 41 illustrations total, packed and placed them in a car with great deal of care to not damage them!
This is the plan, we start at south-west, finish at north-east of China.. This is a proper marathon!
Constant packing and unpacking, setting the exhibition area, welcoming people, photo shooting, talking with visitors, press, but mainly trying to shift some minds about orchid conservations. This was all about these exhibition marathon.
Our exhibition marathon was as below with some photos...
1. Xishuagbanna Tropic Botanical Garden - 2 - 10 July, 2016
2. Wuhan Botanical Garden - 16 - 24 July, 2016
3. Guangzhou Botanical Garden - 30 July - 7 August, 2016
4. Xiamen Botanical Garden - 13 - 21 August, 2016
5. Beijing Botanical Garden - 27 August - 4 September 2016
The interest to our exhibition was really nice. As our time was limited and we had a written programme, for that reason we couldn't do so much.. But we were able to add an additional exhibition, a day workshop in Shenzhen, Fairly Lake Botanical Garden.
In the end, we are happy and proud!
Song and me, the last day of the exhibition marathon!
Sophie Willams. She was the core and the center of the project.
Sophie is a friend of mine, we have met years ago in Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. She is an incredible educator, and works a lot about conservation subjects.
When I had the idea of travelling to China, she immediately contacted me and asked ‘Why not Orchids?’ and started to tell me about her ideas. While she was telling me her dreams, my China trip started to get better and better.
In 2015, Sophie and I have started to seed all the ideas, we wrote down our plan, and getting more and more excited! In the end, our plan is to ‘Save Orchids’. How can you not get excited?
But, life sometimes can be a very bad joke. And it twisted our ankles so badly. My dearest friend Sophie, very sadly got Japanese encephalitis in June, 2015. Since then she is in hospital in a special care unit.
She was in coma for a couple of months, she stop breathing, she couldn’t speak, she couldn’t walk, all the scariest things that you can imagine had happened. But, Sophie is special, and she is a worrier! So slowly she started to do everything we have been told that she can not.
After her situation, I was heart broken, and there was no way I could continue this project on my own. At least I was thinking this way till I have visited her in the hospital. After I saw her, I saw someone perhaps the strongest person I have ever seen, fighting with a biggest challenge of her life. Lying down in the bed with machines and cables around, but all you see is her giant smile, not the cables. This moment was the trigger for me I have decided to continue and complete something that she has started.
Just before Sophie got ill, she had applied a funding for our project, and she got it. Actually this was the last mail she has written me, ‘I got it!!!’ , before she got ill. We had 150.000 RMB to make this project real, thanks to Sophie.
So, we had her ideas, we had the funding that she got, I had the courage to continue, only missing part was the team members. It is still something that I can not do it my own, as our project was all about surveys, a research projects. But also, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG), where she was working part time, was also willing to continue to this project. It was so great to see that everyone in XTBG was come together to help this project. So we were ready to continue with our new team!
With a great force of Richard Corlett, we come up with this new team. Prof. Gao, who is the head of the orchid team, suggested one of his master student, Song, to work on this project, doing all the surveys and the research as her master degree subject. Wang Ximin, head of education in XTBG, also a very good friend of Sophie, willingly become the leader of the project and did all the arrangement with other botanic gardens, and support us whenever we need to continue our project with ease.. My part in this project just continued as it is, preparing the illustrations, making all the arrangement about designing the exhibition area, and trying to keep safe all the illustrations. This was a bit stressful part for me, because not only my paintings were there, also two other Chinese illustrators were happy to involve with our project. Hui Rui Hua has prepared 20 orchid paintings with traditional Chinese style and Yan Lan is another Chinese artist who is working on scientific illustrations of orchids. She has prepared 11 illustrations, and her paintings actually belong to the Shanghai Botanical Garden. They were very kindly let us to use the original artworks for our exhibition marathon.
From right to left - Myself, Wang Ximin, Song, Mr. Li
So, our team was ready. All we need is a great driver who can cross China with our precious illustrations, and for that Mr. Li was on board! We are ready to go!
As a team we faced some challenges, we had some fun times, we got tired, we got happy, we got sick, but we did everyting together in a short intensive time. That was also very nice, Zhang, boyfriend of Song, was volunteer to help us through the exhibitions, which made us to think, what we would do without him? Thanks Zhang!
Zhang and Song
Before we have started our exhibition marathon, We have designed and publish this little booklet. The main idea of this booklet was disseminate the idea in a wider audience, so that people can buy our booklet, and give to the others, so does the knowledge will go with it.
We have published 5000 booklet, about 4000 booklet was sold during the exhibitions.
All the sale of these booklets will go to Sophie Willams for her treatment. We have managed to collect £980 during our exhibition marathon. Not bad ei?
This is the main point of these exhibitions. So our idea was to make a survey with the people who visited the exhibition, mostly ‘yes or no’ questions, like ‘Are they buying any wild orchids?’ or some questions about ‘Was this exhibition effective to disseminate the situation of threatened orchids? etc. So that, Song can understand and analyze the relation between people and the orchids.
This was the first phase of the survey. So through the exhibitions, Song did these surveys with as many people as possible, and couple of months later she will contact with these people again, to see and analyze that has anything changed about buying wild orchids.. So we still need to wait for some months to get some result. I am looking forward to see the results. As soon as Song has completed her work, I will write here the results, and hoping we did change some minds.
Many people joined our surveys, and hopefully they will join again in the future to complete our research.