Dispatches from a Small World

Three years. 648 sketches. One blog...

Dispatches from a Small World started as a lockdown project reporting in sketches from my urban garden. It became a blog. Now the blog is an online archive for this enormous project.

But it’s bigger than the sum of its sketches:

Of necessity, I began with scrap paper and a mishmash of materials, from inherited bottles of ink to a kitchen scourer.
That’s given me an interest in found materials, which I’ve used in workshops and activities to make drawing more affordable and less intimidating.

Sitting with plants and garden wildlife, I’ve wallowed in complex colour, been cheered by the glorious non-uniformity of plants, watched wildlife working and been astonished by pattern.

That’s had people asking me to run sketching activities for respite from working day and digital noise, a no-pressure hour of looking through drawing. And at the active end, it’s had me drawing species live during a wildlife tour of a nature site.

I made the blog because I couldn’t work out how to translate the project into a book.

Blogging has made me go out looking for stories – and open to the stories I didn’t expect coming to me. And that has led to my doing something I had no idea existed – investigative drawing.

The project has expanded my production knowledge too: taking my sketches onto cards and garments, I’ve looked at every element of supply and learned from customers.

Above all, these weekly reports from the garden have taught me about time. An enthusiastic (though not wildly competent) gardener, I had thought in terms of the gardening season. Through this project I’ve discovered a thing in perpetual motion.

That’s made me think differently about lifecycles, communications and age – which has fed fresh insight into my design and design thinking work.

Why have I brought Dispatches to a close? Well, the garden is full of surprises but after three years, I don’t want to start repeating myself. There are new stories to tell; other worlds to explore.

What will happen to the sketches? That’s work in progress...

Visit Dispatches from a Small World
Follow me on Instagram @lydiathornley
Visit my Teemill shop for sketches on organic cotton garments and totes.