helen nodding

moss graffiti

10 years on from originally publishing my idea to create 'moss graffiti', I've been continually amazed by the way in which the idea seems to have captured the imaginations of so many: and equally disappointed that I've only had a limited amount of successful attempts at actually making it work!


I've decided that it's a good idea to write a short account of how I was first inspired to try out the idea, as well as detail the legacy that has been created by those 'moss graffiti experts' whose fingers have proven to be far greener than my own...!

The idea of "moss graffiti" first struck me back in 2005 whilst on my lunch break at work.  I had gone for a walk and happened to notice some incredibly beautiful emerald green moss growing around the base of a bollard in the street.  I begun to wonder how moss grew and spread itself around the city, as it seemed to be beautifying drainpipes and walls everywhere I looked.  I went back to work, google searched: "how does moss grow" and came across several gardeners websites detailing variations on a recipe to grow a moss-milkshake which could be used to grow moss on bland garden walls, adding colour and texture.  The possibility struck me that you could use the same technique to create designs or words using the moss paint.  I thought that this was definitely an idea worth sharing so I posted it on my old website: www.storiesfromspace.co.uk along with some artistic impressions of how the completed graffiti may look.  I titled the web page 'Moss Graffiti' as it seemed a fitting name for the idea.  


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An old acquaintance of mine, the artist and illustrator Jon Burgerman, recommended my website to his friends at New York's 'Wooster Collective' who run a popular street art site. They posted a link to the site on their blog with a special mention of the moss graffiti idea...

Before I knew it, and much to my surprise, the idea had gone viral and I was receiving related emails or invitations to publish it in a number of international books and magazines.  I had very little real success with the recipe myself as it is so dependent on getting exactly right conditions to grow the moss in. However, with the endlessly helpful tips and suggestions from green-fingered visitors to my website,  I found the best way was to grow the moss in controlled conditions and transfer the design outside which didn't seem quite as poetic, but is certainly a lot easier to achieve success with. You can read the modified recipe here.


The idea of 'green graffiti' has been pushed further by an array of other artists, and I have seen some incredible examples popping up on the internet, including Edina Todoki's creatures and Anna Garforth's poetry.  I have no idea whether their ideas were inspired by the recipe that I posted or were entirely independent of it... either way the moss graffiti project has certainly developed a life of its own!

the moss graffiti story