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Norwich, England

Balanced-Earth creates suspended and wall-mounted kinetic artworks adorned with plants, showcasing a harmonious blend of art, design and nature. In Balanced-Earth, Karen Whiterod aligns her technical expertise, past inspirations, and a commitment to low environmental impact. Her background as a jewellery maker lends diverse skills to utilizing offcuts and waste materials. With care, she transforms these unwanted resources into decorative frames to hold living plants, evoking a need for us to nurture our natural environment. The vessels, held in the frames, are made with her own paperpulp recipe, allowing excess water to transpire through microporous walls. Both practical and artistic, the suspended and wall-mounted designs enable plant-lovers to display their collections without space constraints. Other forms showcase a single paperpulp vessel or small glass vessel elevated above a sea-sculpted brick, a poignant nod to coastal erosion in her home county of Norfolk. Each design has the name of a bird species on the BTO red list (indicating population decline).

Our products/services

Balanced-Earth creates decorative, sculptural vessels for plants, flowers and foliage. Surface-based, wall-mounted and suspended kinetic forms. Commissions are welcome.


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Story and ethos

My concern about the environment began while working as a jewellery designer-maker in the 90s, when I became aware that my nylon offcuts would go into landfill. I was also diagnosed with epilepsy and wondered if the solvents from screen printing and the chemical dyes could effect my health. I began working with plastic waste to make sculptures and provide environmental art workshops. Learning about carbon emissions and climate change from environmental scientists at the University of East Anglia and joining local activist groups. Making to a good standard has been a constant throughout my changing practice, even when working with discarded materials. “Truth to the Material” principle has guided me in finding the most suitable making techniques for each material I use and to design using a material’s unique properties. One example of this is the wire removed from beehive supers in the Spring. It is tangled and blackened when I receive it. I like the chaotic mess. I try to retain this quality, while making a structurally strong frame, weaving the wire and hammering to create the circular disc-form to hold the vessel. There is a wellbeing aspect underlying my practice, which I believe is integral to maintaining my own health (I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2010). The format of Balanced-Earth, making decorative frames from a variety of discarded materials means I can continue with creative, stimulating explorations. For a while I was unable to make, when the slightest movement would trigger pain in my joints. I appreciate being able to use my hands again, there is a joy in making and my tenacity and resilience to keep it in my life, has become stronger that ever. Balanced-Earth works explore biophilic and circular design.

In Balanced-Earth, I strive to replicate the “living lightly” philosophy of my domestic life, making considered choices in using the Earth’s resources and being mindful of our environmental footprint. The materials chosen to make the Balanced-Earth designs have their own stories as they had previous uses. Some have been collected on walks, given by friends or were excess from another creative endeavour. This is also about choices for energy suppliers and technology suppliers that contribute to Balanced-Earth. After having a city centre based studio for 25 years, currently I work from home. Collecting materials, which seem to have potential, is continuous. This provides opportunity for research and experimentation, which I enjoy. I design and make all Balanced-Earth artefacts. Having many plants around me to test the vessels and balanced compositions.

I use waste or found materials in making Balanced-Earth artefacts. The vessels are made with paperpulp. The frames holding the vessels are made with offcuts, materials excess, unwanted items, eg CDs. In making the aluminium and CDs frames, the centres are cut-out to accommodate the vessels. Then these are used to make frames for glass test-tube vases. The oak of the wall-mounts is from the off-cuts bin of my local sawmill. I buy stainless steel, however it states on the British Stainless Steel website, that 60% is recycled content, this together with improvements in manufacturing practice reduces the energy consumption, emissions and carbon footprint of producing mills. Also I make hooks with offcuts of the stainless steel branches. Any remaining waste is collected for metal recycling. The surface-based designs, planted vessels and small vases, are balanced above compositions of driftwood and sea-sculpted bricks. These are collected from Norfolk beaches, where there are regular landslides from the soft cliffs, evidence of coastal erosion. I have a gallery page on my website detailing the stories behind my materials, choice of energy provider and technology. My energy provider is Good Energy. The Balanced-Earth website is hosted by Green Hosting. My desktop computer is made by VeryPC, so any parts can be replaced as they stop working. I use Ecosia search engine, which plants trees. My packaging is recyclable. The kinetic sculptures have been given names of birds on the BTO/RSPB red list of species which are globally threatened.

I am working on a new design to recycle glass vessels in suspended compositions. Inspired by Ikebana arrangements, this idea would accommodate fresh flowers and foliage alongside twisting dried stems and seedheads. I am excited by the potential of combining collections of planted vessels with vessels of flowers and foliage in water as a suspended arrangement. Once developed they could lead to a hiring service for events, eg weddings, conferences. I would like to work on commissioned pieces. The vessels can be arranged in a variety of forms with the stainless steel branches. The vessel frames can be made in many materials. I am regularly given materials and currently have a considerable quantity of copper offcuts, which I’m looking forward to using. I have chosen to make the vessels in a neutral grey paperpulp, so the decoration is in the frames. I am considering allowing small areas of newsprint text to be revealed on the surface of the vessel to convey the materials origin. I have ideas for workshops and hope to offer these in the following two years. I have considerable experience of providing workshops for children both in schools and at events. I would like to offer adult workshops in the future.


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