Press release

Student speaks up for seaweed

Published on 3 September 2021

Seaweed: it’s slimy, smells and often comes hand in hand with a swarm of flies, but one University of Dundee student is encouraging others to rethink how we engage with the marine plant

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Cally Nurse (59) chose to explore and reveal the true beauty and strengths of seaweed as part of the final project for her MFA Art & Humanities course. Her work features in the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design Masters Showcase 2021, which launches tonight.

Growing up by the sea, Cally has always been drawn to the coast and the marine life that comes with it, so it’s not surprising that research for her Masters project saw her focus on seaweed in all its natural glory.

For the project, titled ‘The Mighty Voice’, she has created a collection of wearable sculptures and jewellery using dried seaweed, keeping the true form and character of the marine plant. She hopes that by giving seaweed an aesthetic value, viewers will reconsider it in the light of its potential and what it does for the world.

“Seaweed is often viewed as repulsive and something to be avoided, but why?” said Cally.

“Perhaps if we looked at it in a different way, we might find it more interesting.

“Seaweed has huge ecological value. It protects our coastlines. Kelp forests are really important for marine habitat and marine food, and they are also massive carbon absorbers. It's helping us in so many ways yet it’s unacknowledged. We need to get on with all these other species and recognise their strengths.”

After collecting various types of seaweed from beaches in Broughty Ferry and Anstruther, Cally would bring them back to her home in Newburgh, Fife.

“I would wash it in the sea first and then again at home,” Cally continued.

“Then I would dry it out on the washing line, much to the amusement of my neighbours.

“I had great big, five feet long strands hanging on the washing line, from my shower in the bathroom and even in the shed. The drying process is really complicated, and you've got to be patient. I'm learning all the way through. This has all been research and experimental.”

Cally completed an undergraduate degree in History of Art in the mid 1980’s but never went on to work in the industry. Now at almost 60 years-old and set to graduate from her Masters course, she has every intention of following her passion.

“My daughters are grown up and independent, and I thought ‘what do I really, really want to do’?” she said. “I just thought, I want to go and do some art again.

“I think this is just the beginning.”

The Masters Showcase is a staple event that has attracted thousands of visitors over the years both in-person and online.

More than 60 students will be displaying transformative design and visually stunning art created on the MSc Animation & VFX, MFA Art & Humanities, MSc Forensic Art & Facial Identification, MSc Medical Art, MDes (Res) Masters by Research, and MSc Product Design courses.

Image credits: 

Daniella Levins - 2,3

Tina Norris - 4


Jessica Rorke

Media Relations Officer

+44 (0)1382 388878