Have you ever heard of a Tardigrade? No, us either….

Public Art can take many forms, from sculptures to poetry, from planting schemes to soundscapes; but it’s not often public art takes the form of an ancient microscopic animal (a “water bear” who manages a telephone) or a carpet made up of moss and people’s dreams for a better future… That’s less common.  

In February 2024, after weeks of rain, the clouds parted and Spring felt like it was just around the corner at Felix Road Adventure PlaygroundThe Art and Energy Collective had arrived early to set up and children from the neighbouring Felix Road Raised in Bristol Nursery began to trickle in to see what was happening.

As part of a public art programme supported by developer Juniper Homes, the Art and Energy Collective were inspired to create a new national participatory artwork which they have called The Mossy Carpet!  

The Art and Energy Collective is a group of artists, makers, thinkers and tinkerers who want to use their skills to respond to the climate emergency. They specialise in designing mass participation artworks that help people connect with nature and take steps towards a brighter greener futures.

The project stemmed from the history of land around Felix Road being used as part of the huge colliery network in the City.  Art and Energy wanted to create a project that taught people about how fossil fuels were made, how vital mosses were in this process and how important they are now in maintaining biodiversity even in the most urban environment.  

The Mossy Carpet is currently touring the UK through a series of workshops where people can learn about how important mosses are for our environment, how these tiny plants and the small creatures that live on them, are fighting the good fight to green our world again and to show how even the smallest action can collectively achieve something huge!

Have you ever heard of a Tardigrade? No, us either….

Definition: tar·​di·​grade ˈtär-də-ˌgrād. : a phylum (Tardigrada) of microscopic invertebrates with four pairs of stout legs that live usually in water or damp moss. Also known as ‘water bear’.

Children from the nursery and those families visiting the adventure playground were given magnifying glasses and shown how to explore their local moss world, seeing the huge range of small plants in their neighbourhood and then being inspired to create their own mossy pom pom out of recycled materials to add to an ever growing mossy carpet.  Once that was done, all were invited to have a chat with the ancient Tardigrade and tell the little water bear’s telephone what small actions they would take to help their environment. The Tardigrade had a busy day!

We thought the children from the Raised in Bristol Nursery and Felix Road Adventure Playground were brilliant!  

We were so pleased they found mosses in the tiniest cracks in pavements and tarmac on site, a little bit of wilderness always present, and we loved the enthusiasm for mossy pompom making for The Mossy Carpet.   We look forward to sharing photos of the Carpet as it grows in length and travels further afield.

Thank you for taking part and sharing the small moss like actions that you take to help the environment. You give us great hope for the future!

Jenny Ayrton