Moths Matter: Pop-up workshop at Wildwood

Moths Matter: a pop-up workshop at Wildwood

4 min read
An illustrated icon by Ed Harrison of a blue and green lanbdscape flourishing with nature.

As the warm embrace of summer envelops the British countryside, I found myself immersed in a new creative venture in collaboration with Butterfly Conservation for National Insect Week.

Moths inhabit diverse environments, from sunny shores to icy mountain peaks, yet their populations are declining. Over the past 150 years, more than 60 species have gone extinct.

Dispelling moth myths and protecting their habitats is a key part of Butterfly Conservation's work. And for the launch of their new #MothsMatter campaign, they brought me on board to use my creative skills to help support their mission.

A man stands and overlooks two children playing with an educational board about moths.

Setting up the workshop materials as crowds begin to gather. Image credit: Alex Sedgmond

Nestled in the heart of Wildwood, this workshop was a collaborative effort to unveil the beauty and significance of day-flying moths. It was a day filled with wonder, creativity, and discovery, all while highlighting the beautiful yet often-overlooked heroes of our ecosystem – moths.

Misunderstood Moths

One of the challenges in raising awareness about moths is the common misconception that they are solely responsible for destroying clothes.

But in reality, only a tiny fraction of moth species feed on textiles.

This misunderstanding has contributed to a widespread underappreciation of these remarkable insects — and our small team was on a mission to do something about it.

Two young children placing a paper caterpillar onto an educational board about the moth life cycle.

Young nature enthusiasts learning about the moth life cycle. Image credit: Alex Sedgmond

I recently wrote a blog post to share the behind-the-scenes process of an infographic board I made. Crafted from plywood and paper, the installation piece displays fun facts and interactive information with the aim of de-bunking some of the myths and misbeliefs about moths.

It showcased the diversity of day-flying moths, their ecological roles (it's not all about the butterflies and the bees!) and their importance in maintaining a healthy environment.

A set of small minature paper clothes hung up on wooden pegs with tiny clothes hangers

Miniature paper clothes (cut at a 1:12 scale). Image credit: Alex Sedgmond

The piece also features miniature clothes (cut out at a 1:12 scale) — a pair of moth-eaten socks, a chomped-up scarf, and a holey jumper, all carefully attached to miniature clothes hangers. These were hung up to accompany a key message about the total number of moth species that actually eat our clothes - only two!

Within an hour or two of arrival, I was delighted to see visitors playfully engaging with the infographic and asking all sorts of interesting questions about moths.

The primary aim of the infographic was to bring the topic of moths to life and connect the dots between art and science in an engaging, interactive and memorable experience.

And sure enough, within an hour of setting up, we were delighted to see visitors interacting with the infographic; from guessing the overall species numbers to learning about the moth life cycle.

A birdseye view of a green cutting mat with two pairs of hands assembling paper insects.

Preparing the Jersey Tiger moth kits, consisting of paper wings and antennae (held together by sticky velcro dots). Image credit: Alex Sedgmond

A woman and man sat on a bench doing crafts, laughing together

Julia Bethan whispering something (probably rude and/or inappropriate). Image credit: Alex Sedgmond

But that was just the beginning. The main event of the day was our papercut workshop, which was designed to engage the general public—especially young children—in the beauty and fragility of day-flying moths through craft.

I prepared dozens of Jersey Tiger moth papercut kits for people to sit down and assemble – a hands-on, creative task to get participants to think about these enchanting creatures in a new light and take home a moth of their own.

A woman holding a large brown moth specimen in her hand

Emma shared an array of live moth specimens for people to hold. Image credit: Alex Sedgmond

A young boy looks down and smiles at his blue jumper with a round sticker on it.

Every moth maker gets a sticker. Image credit: Alex Sedgmond

I was not alone in this endeavour. My partner Julia Bethan (an exceptionally talented creative illustrator in her own right) added her smile and artistic touch to the event.

Capturing the magic of the day was the talented photographer, Alex Sedgmond, whose lens skillfully documented the wonder, joy, and curiosity that filled the air. His photographs serve as a lasting memory of a day that celebrated the importance of day-flying moths.

The colourful card used for the moth workshop kits was kindly donated by Fedrigoni Papers who also donated all of the paper to Under the Skin, an art activism collective that I run with my brother.

A young boy sits at a table with a colouring pencil, drawing on a paper moth.

Adding the all-important details to the wings. Image credit: Alex Sedgmond

To make the experience even more immersive, we were joined by Emma Pestridge, a dedicated representative from Butterfly Conservation UK who brought along live specimens of moths in small pots.

From Buff-Tip to Poplar Hawk-moths, Silver Y's to Peppered Moths, it was an incredible opportunity for participants (and us!) to observe these delicate insects up close and ask questions about their behaviour, life cycle, and the crucial role they play in our ecosystems.

A young girl sits at a table showing a man her orange papercraft moth

Another mothermatician completes a papercut moth. Image credit: Alex Sedgmond

A young boy holding a paper moth in the air within a forest.

A paper moth takes flight! Image credit: Alex Sedgmond

As the event came to an end and Wildwood prepared for closing, our small team began packing away the workshop materials with smiles on our faces and a sense of fulfilment and joy.

We felt the whole day had exceeded expectations and ignited a passion for moths in the hearts of many, whilst shining a light on these often-ignored insects and fostering a newfound appreciation for their role in our ecosystems.

We had managed to captivate and engage a wide audience, young and old, and our whole day at Wildwood was a testament to the power of shared enthusiasm for these remarkable insects.

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