Artist Jo Atherton has exhibited her unique weaving and printing around the UK and beyond, at venues including the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, London Luton Airport and the University of Edinburgh. In 2017, Jo was invited to speak at the University of Cambridge in support of their Curious Objects exhibition, and subsequently Being Human, the National Festival of the Humanities. She also produced a weekend of activities beneath the iconic Cutty Sark as part of the Totally Thames Festival which she will return to deliver again in 2018.

This year, Jo has been invited to The Harbour Gallery on the island of Jersey to lead a week of flotsam inspired workshops. She is a creative advisor to University College London for their plastic-free campaign and has also been invited to speak about her work at the international PetroCultures conference at the University of Glasgow this summer. She has been invited to spend World Oceans Day with The National Maritime Museum in London, and will be involved in an Ocean Matters event at Bristol Aquarium. Jo has been delivering workshops for five years and is a Verified Provider with the educational service, The Culture Challenge, along with being an Arts Award Advisor. Jo has a BA (Hons) in English Literature and MA in Cultural & Critical Studies, and is currently writing www.fifty-things.com, an anthology of objects collected on the UK coastline.

Jo Atherton's tapestries, woven with flotsam gathered on the UK coastline
Jo Atherton’s tapestries, woven with flotsam gathered on the UK coastline


Oceanographers and biologists can study the state of our seas and all the processes contained therein, but intercepting the tideline offers a unique resource for artistic interpretation of would-be relics of the future.

Our oceans have become a soup of flotsam; a suspension of orphaned objects temporarily deposited on our coastline twice a day. These plastic fragments are symptomatic of the modern age. Indeed prior to the Second World War and the advent of mass produced plastics, beachcombing the tideline would result in an organic bounty – a smoothed piece of driftwood, or perhaps an unusual shell, not the man-made and toxic detritus so common on beaches of the world today.

Through my work I highlight the diversity of plastic objects washing ashore on the British coastline, and how the ubiquity of this material enables us to reinterpret stories of our time. The longevity of plastic allows many discarded items to undergo incredible transatlantic journeys before settling as a disparate collection of relics along the shore.

Notwithstanding obvious environmental concerns, intercepting the  tideline reveals the pervasiveness of plastic in our lives and in turn, affords insights into our tastes, lifestyles and histories.