If you've seen a miniature garden spring from nowhere in a crack in the road, then you've probably witnessed a slice of magic from The Pothole Gardener. Artist Steve Wheen talks to Don't Panic about his creative process, his love of inspiring happiness and how to join the guerilla gardening movement.
So, what made you want to start The Pothole Gardener project?
It was part of a university project when I was doing my MA Design Studies at Central Saint Martins, it's all grown from there (pun intended!). It is primarily a project based around turning something crappy into something happier. It’s about creating moments of happiness for people in unexpected places.
There are videos and photos on your site of people’s amazing reactions to your pothole gardens. You can’t help but smile when you see one. Why do you think they respond so well to them?
I think there's something special about miniature, tiny things. Small things trigger our imaginations. Look at how kids play with toys - their imaginations run wild. Holes of Happiness, my short documentary tried to capture this range of emotions from people and also how they processed what they were looking at and why they thought it was there.
Do you start off with a brief or a plan for the gardens, or do you prefer to see where it goes on its own?
I used to just put plants in potholes, but my gardens have been getting a lot more complex over time and I take my time now planning them. I'm working on my Olympic series at the moment and I've been working on these (both finding plants, building props and also finding potholes) for about three months.
Do you venture into other, more formal art-forms at all, or are you a hardcore artistic vigilante?
I make films for a living, so I guess I'm not really a hardcore artistic vigilante :)
You met Camilla Duchess of Cornwall the other day! What’s she like?
She was amazing, so lovely. We chatted for ages and had a great laugh. She even did a spot of gardening with me.
So what’s next for the pothole gardener? Is there a pothole in the world that you’re dying to get your hands on?
I'm finishing up my Olympic series at the moment, and then my book comes out later in the summer (The Little Book of Little Gardens). I want to do more potholing overseas as I recently went to Milan and had some great reactions!
What would you say to someone who wanted to start guerrilla gardening for themselves?
Do it. Stop thinking about it and just get in there and get your hands dirty, you'll love it.
You can see all of Steve's pothole creations at www.thepotholegardener.com