My Woolly Start

logo zfcIn 2016 – 2017, the Zero Footprint Campus project set up shop on the Utrecht Science Park, The Netherlands. As a follow up of two years of previous searching on campus by the Department of Search (co-founded by myself and Melle Smets), a network of artists and scientists, students, employees, hobbyists and general public applied their expertise to the sustainable goals of the campus: to be energy neutral by 2030. Twelve international artists worked for a year with a variety of scientists from various departments and co-created prototypes for debate and discussion. By doing so, a first public space on campus created questions and pathways towards a future campus complementing, challenging and/or intervening with top down decisions and numerous mandates which had previously helped to procure a campus of silos and lack of citizenship. Self organizing a public space in this environment was a challenge, but within a year, the Department of Search created a collective search engine, an experimental risk-taking thinking and doing space for art and scientific inquiry to work together, stemming from personal commitment, experience on the ground and communal concerns.


drawing: Melle Smets, 2017

For more information:

The Sweat(er)shop and D-stillery: can we keep in what’s going out?


Screen Shot 2018-03-18 at 16.49.05

In 2016, I created a interdepartmental makers network with the wool of 325 sheep of the campus’ veterinarian research farm, the Tolakker. Normally the wool is part of a gigantic global supply of unprocessed wool to China, but  was held back for a year and given value by the science community. The Sweat(er)shop was a public lab set up in the middle of the campus, transforming an empty square into a low tech and communal sweatshop for making university sweaters and ties from the wool of the Tolakker sheep.

Throughout the year, many workshops trained students, teachers and employees with the expertise of local felt hobbyist Oliva Garcia and fashion designer Wendy Cornelis. If you sweated hard enough, the sweater /tie was yours.

Felt Factory Billboard
Sweat(er)shop Billboard (4×4 meters), displayed in the Utrecht Science Park during the Zero Footprint Campus project. Cynthia Hathaway, 2016

download billboard: Sweat(er)shop Billboard copyright Hathaway

240 hands and 325 sheep making communal ‘inter-action-ary’ space

With the aims of making sweaters with local labor from an abundant wool supply, the Sweat(er)shop developed the desire and the ability of the campus consumer to ‘go local’ and become a citizen of a space they live and work in daily. Up until the Zerofootprint campus project, there was very little access to making the campus reflect and apply the incredible research behind its closed doors. By working through wool, a proactive group personalized scientific research making matter matter.


Screen Shot 2018-03-18 at 16.50.47

The scientist, glass artist, designer and a flock of sheep as ‘transformational-relational’ space makers

Part of the Sweat(er)shop, ‘The D-stillery’  was a welcomed initiative for chemists to apply their knowledge to distill lanolin from the sheep’s wool into vitamin D. It seemed an appropriate vitamin for a campus population suffering from being indoors and behind laptops. To see a muddy, smelly oil defined through a beautiful maze of chemical formulas used to turn a muck into a soft yellow sample of crystalline wonder, was evidence of trans-formational space-making. Knowledge from theory and books, and a constellation of expertise found a place to land in daily needs of a population. In addition, the sheep seen from windows became important partners to localize sustainable research and create a future campus model where everything in the landscaped matter. Matter came to matter.

Transformations and Turning Into: from muck to matter


*with many thanks to The Tolakker Research Farm, Cristina Chamorro Perez and Raymond Pieters of the HU Life Sciences Chemistry Department, and Hans Meijer and Peter de Graaf of the Instrumentation Glas Lab




%d bloggers like this: