We are Miche Fabre Lewin (BA; Dip. Art Therapy) and Flora Gathorne-Hardy (BA; Dip. LA; PhD). As two women artist-practitioner and academics, we are dedicated to enlivening cultural and ecological diversity through socially engaged arts. Touchstones (originally known as Touchstone collaborations) was founded in 2010 to restore and celebrate the convivial practice of the arts in the everyday.
We are long-term Artist Researchers with the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR) at Coventry University, UK; the Sustainability Institute, Stellenbosch, South Africa; the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World (CCANW); and the Centre for Future Thinking at Hawkwood, UK. We are members of the postgraduate teaching faculty with Crossfields International, Members of Art.Earth and, this coming year, will be participating as Equal Justice Artists in Residence with the Santa Fe Arts Institute.
Flora & Miche with 'Wild Cultures' sculpture originating from their 'chrysalis' drawing. Commissioned by the Sustainability Institute & metal-crafted by CP Wessels, Artvark.
Miche’s arts practice explores the ecological self. This focus emerges from her African roots and a radical art therapy background. For over 30 years she has been devising and facilitating social healing experiences which engage diverse groups of people with intercultural and agri-cultural encounters. Since 2000, Miche has been dedicated to an ecological gastronomy that reanimates artisan skills and culinary traditions. As the medium for personal and political transformation her convivial food actions, contemporary rituals and edible installations make visible the connections between the health of the body, the well-being of communities and the regeneration of ecosystems. She is currently completing her doctoral thesis at the Centre for Agroecology Water and Resilience (CAWR), Coventry University. Here Miche’s TEDx Soweto talk 'Cooking, Culture and Conversations'.
Flora studied initially as a geographer and plants-woman, following through to train as a Landscape Architect and set up an ecological landscape practice. Her PhD at the University of Cambridge explored the potential of community design as a pathway towards socially just environments. As a landscape practitioner, her work in the UK and internationally responds and promotes biodiversity in the city. Projects include playable spaces, habitats for healing and community-led ecological restoration. Within her arts practice Flora scripts drawings as visual improvisations that are emergent thinking forms for visioning with people and the more-than-human world. She is currently engaging with intuitive approaches to farming with nature as part of her exploration within touchstones ‘What a farm can be’.
Within our collaboration, we facilitate learning as Artist Researchers at CAWR and in partnership with the Agroecology Academy and Learning for Sustainability (LSF) at the Sustainability Institute, Stellenbosch, South Africa. We are both part of the Crossfields International postgraduate teaching faculty on the Masters of Arts Philosophy of Social Innovation: Researching Holistic Agroecology. This innovative Alanus University Masters programme is delivered in close cooperation with Crossfields International and its associated research community. We have been visiting tutors on the MA Narrative Environments at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.
Our writings and work appear in art and design journals, academic publications, practitioner guides, newsletters, and policy reports, including within:
- Soil Culture (2016) by Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World;
- Why Soil Matters: A European Perspective (2016) by the Greens/EFA at the European Parliament;
- Ecovention Europe: Arts to Transform Ecologies (2017) by Sue Spaid, curator of Ecovention Europe exhibition;
- 'Curating the Convivial for Soil Culture at Create' (2015) in Geohumanities: Space, Place and the Humanities Vol 1: 2;
- 'Liberation and the Art of Embodiment' by Miche Fabre Lewin in Revisiting Feminist Approaches to Art Therapy (2014) (ed) Susan Hogan;
- 'Ritual' by Miche Fabre Lewin in Living Food: A Feast for Soil and Soul (2016) by Daphne Lambert.
As part of our documentation here is a selection of films and videos featuring our collaboration:
World Soil Day with the Centre for Future Thinking at Hawkwood, UK.
Soil Saturdays celebrating UN International Year of Soil in collaboration with Centre for Art and the Natural World (CCANW).
Song to Soil with Koffifi Theatre Company and the Bag Factory, Johannesburg.
Cooking, Culture and Conversations Miche's TEDx Soweto talk.