When we hear a birdsong that stirs our interest or notice the texture of the bark on a tree we are nearing the borderlands where human language and the language of “more-than-human” nature converge. An ‘ecograph’ is a word that is slightly unconventional, which has the potential to draw attention to details of nature and revive our awareness of the rudiments of language. They are created through an iterative process of drawing a personal experience of nature and describing it with (ordinary) words. ‘Ecographs’ is an ongoing public artwork consisting of three phases:

‘Ecographs’ workshops typically involve the exploration of a chosen subject, such as “the substance we call ‘water'”, or “the thing we call the ‘moon'”. Through sensory experience of the subject or recollections of past encounters, participants develop impressions that serve as the basis for graphic representations, eliciting further interpretation and refinement.

Workshops are suitable for any age, and can be tailored to different contexts. Partnering organizations have included universities, senior centers, boys and girls clubs, science institutes, pre-school programs, art museums and more. A short guide can be downloaded here. For more information or to inquire about arranging an artist-led workshop please contact us.

Every ecograph that is created is added to the growing “dictionary” of symbols (see below). Each entry includes the creator’s ecograph, pronunciation, and a brief story or explanatory note.
In addition to a continuous exhibition online, ‘Ecographs’ is exhibited from time to time in public venues where people can select their favorites and draw them in new renditions using Chinese brush and ink. ‘Ecographs’ has been exhibited at art and design exhibitions, school festivals, street fairs and farmers markets in different creative formats. For more information or to inquire about bringing ‘Ecographs’ to your event please write to us.

Like Chinese ideographs, ecographs are easily reproducible but also individually expressive. Each one contains a delightful double life as picture-and-symbol that invites interpretation. Whether joyful, disturbing, comic, or profound, ecographs all share the potential to renew our awareness of the communicating world around us, and stimulate minds that are open to dialogue.


Moon Festival Gathering

Date: September 11 (1:30-3pm) & 15(2:30-9pm), 2016.
Venue: Studio 5, 169 Jiashan Road, No. 5, Shanghai
Guides: George Kaye, Chen Wenzhong
Partners: The British Kitchen, 食飨集, Fireflies Culture, iEnergy


Clouds thin out in twilight cool and clear,
The cosmos soundlessly turns the shining sphere.
This life, this night, will not be so long,
Next moon, next year, what shall appear.
【 宋】苏轼

We are happy to invite all friends to two moon festival events at the Studio:

  1. Join us on Sunday for a lantern-making and “moon” ecograph drawing activity. What’s another word for ‘moon’? Language is how we describe a phenomenon that is dark, elliptical, and pock-marked with mystery, so let’s not be stingy with words. Ecographs are invented words that are like Chinese ideographs, which express individual experiences of nature.
  2. On Thursday afternoon (中秋节)more lantern-making using bamboo and rice paper. When your lantern is complete decorate it with your favorite ‘moon’ ecographs in Chinese ink. Stay for ‘moon-cookie’ decorating from The British Kitchen, moon cakes from 食飨集, and an evening of moon-themed free-drawing. A light harvest dinner will be served at 5pm, and we will take our lanterns outside as the moon rises! Poems, songs, stories or sounds inspired by the moon encouraged!

Lantern Craftwork

Date: September 10, 2016. 10am – 4pm
Venue: Fangcundi Market, Yunhai Plaza, Shanghai
Guides: George Kaye, Helen Zhang
Partner: Fangcundi Market

Celebrate the harvest!

On Saturday, Septemer 10 join us at Fancundi Farmers Market. Peruse fresh fruits & vegetables and homemade products offered by some of the friendliest and most devoted members of Shanghai’s farm community. ARTSpring will be hosting a bamboo lantern-making booth where you can choose between round or square design, or devise your own!

"Nature Scriptorium" at ARTHarbin

Date: December 16-22, 2014
Venue: ARTHarbin International Exhibition of Contemporary Art, Art Home Plaza 艺汇家, Harbin.
Guides: George Kaye, Teng Haiying
Sponsor: Harbin Bureau of Public Affairs

The Nature Scriptorium is a six-sided pagoda constructed of bamboo and rice paper onto which individual ecographs are inscribed by the public with Chinese brush and ink. For ArtHarbin, a subset of ecographs are exhibited that directly relate to the 5 elements of Chinese philosophy (metal, wood, water, fire, earth), plus the enveloping air, i.e. 气(”qi”). Suspended above the scriptorium are six hand-made kites adorned with ecographs that relate to the sensation of air.

For the opening ceremony the artist Teng Haiying created an ink painting on the entryway panel of the structure, filling the large sheet of rice paper in swift strokes with the image of a bee hovering in the air, piercing a flower with its tongue.

The ecographs scriptorium is designed and constructed by George Kaye. ARTHarbin is hosted by the Harbin Bureau of Public Affairs, and includes the works of over 20 artists from China and abroad. More information about ArtHarbin is available at www.yihuijia.com.cn.

Ecographs: EarthWood

Workshop Date: October 19, 2014
Workshop Venue: ‘One World One Home’ Salon, Sinan Road No. 49, Shanghai
Arts Practitioner(s): Vivi He, George Kaye
Sponsor: ‘One World One Home’

What is wood? What is earth (soil)? Through hands-on experimentation with woody-earthy materials we’ll explore the boundaries between these two elements/phases of Chinese philosophy.

That Flies

Exhibition Date: April 19-20, 2014
Exhibition Venue: Shanghai Ecodesign Fair, The NEST (105 Puyu Xi Rd, Shanghai)
Artists: George Kaye, Siu Tang, Zhang Jian-Jun and Barbara Edelstein, and individual ecographs creators
Partner: Xuhang Town Kite Club
Sponsor: Shanghai EcoDesign Fair

Air, 气,हवा, אוויר , hewa, לופט, umoya, ਹਵਾ, هواء. The thing that flies in our nostrils and flies though our lungs, flies over the treetops and across the cosmic night goes by many names. That Flies is a kite exhibition and interactive public artwork which invites everyone to devise a new name for the “thing that flies”, to make kites and decorate them with these names, and then to see if they fly.


Kitemaking in Xuhang Town

Workshop Date: April 4, 2014
Workshop Venue: Xuhang Town Cultural Activity Center
Arts Practitioner(s): Zhang Jian-Jun, Barbara Edelstein, Siu Tang, George Kaye
Partners: Xuhang Town Kite Club, Xuhang Town Middle School
Sponsor: Shangahi Ecodesign Fair

Members of Xuhang Kite Club will lead us in a kitemaking workshop using traditional paper and bamboo technique. We will use kite paper decorated with ecographs describing “air” (created in prior workshops), and the final kites will be exhibited at the Shanghai Ecodesign Fair on April 19-20.

Drawing Air

Exhibition Date: March 30, 2014
Exhibition Venue: Xiangyang Park, Shanghai
Artist(s): Zhang Jian-Jun
Sponsor: Hunan Neighborhood, Shanghai Ecodesign Fair

A public calligraphy demonstration and “open air” drawing activity with Zhang Jian-Jun. Draw original symbols for “air” on kite-making paper, for use by Xuhang Kite Club. Final kite designs will be exhibited at the Shanghai Ecodesign Fair, April 19-20.


Ecographs: Air

Workshop Date: March 22, 2014
Workshop Venue: Shanghai Library, 3F Innovation Space
Arts Practitioner(s): Vivi He, Gong Muzhi, George Kaye
Sponsor: Shanghai Library, Shanghai Ecodesign Fair

How can the diverse qualities of air be represented graphically? In this workshop we will experiment with sensing air and create new words using Chinese brush and ink on paper. Final artworks will be exhibited at the Ecodesign Fair in April.


Ecographs Scriptorium: 2013 DesignShanghai

Exhibition Date: January 19, 2014
Exhibition Venue: The Nest, 105 Puyu West Road, Shanghai
Arts Practitioner(s) George Kaye,Zhang Yi,Ding Yiyin
Partners:Shanghai Roots & Shoots,Hezhong Environmental Advocacy Center,Xin Che JianWABC, Helin Art
Sponsor: 2013 Design Shanghai Organization Committee

Five tables surround a pagoda built of bamboo and rice paper. At each table a representative from a selected civil society organization leads an art activity related to the five elements of Chinese philosophy (metal, wood, water,fire, earth). Visitors draw ecographs from the dictionary relating to the five elements on the five walls of the pagoda, or invent their own.

From inside the pagoda the ecographs can be observed taking form. Like the boundaries between nature and culture, the walls of the pagoda are a place of information flow.

Ecographs: 5 Elements

Workshop Time: Summer & Fall 2013: Jun 1 (water), Jun 28 (metal), Sept 28 (water), Oct 20 (earth), Nov 9 (wood), Nov 23 (fire). 1:30pm – 3:00pm
Workshop Venue: Shanghai K11 chi Art Space
Arts Practitioner(s): George Kaye, Gong Muzhi, Ken Miao, Dryden Wells, Lu Jinjing
Sponsor: K11 Art Foundation

“Ecographs:Elements” is a fun art activity in which participants create a new symbol for different elements or phases of nature using Chinese brush and ink on paper. Through playful experimentation with water, wood, earth, fire and metal we will cultivate new awareness of language in nature. No experience in art or calligraphy necessary.

Ecographs at 2013 Shanghai Ecodesign Fair

Exhibition Date: April 13-14, 2013
Exhibition Venue: Shanghai Ecodesign Fair, ‘Cool Docks’, Shanghai
Guides: George Kaye, Sofia Yao, Han Pan, Chen Chao
Sponsor: Shanghai Ecodesign Fair

Choose your favorite ecograph from the “dictionary” (over 100 have been created to date in separate workshops) and draw it using brush and ink on a giant standing screen at the entrance of the Ecodesign Fair. Each ecograph is idiosyncratic, but they all express experiences of nature that expand our awareness of the communicating world.

Mini Green Challenge: Ecographs

Date: March 30, 2013. 10:00-11:30am.
Venue: chi K11 Art Space, Shanghai
Guides: George Kaye, Esther Qiu
Partners: Xindanwei, Shanghai Roots & Shoots
Sponsor(s): K11 Art Foundation, Shanghai Ecodesign Fair

Ecographs is a fun art activity in which participants create a personal symbol for eco-values using Chinese brush and ink on paper. What exactly are our values with respect to nature? Through a straightforward design methodology this question is explored verbally and visually. Each symbol that emerges is unique, but they all share a visual language that connects them to the earliest forms of human writing.

The workshop includes a demonstration and discussion with artists and calligraphers. No experience in art or calligraphy necessary. Participants designs will be mounted on scrolls for exhibition at the EcoDesign Fair, April 14-15 at the Cool Docks, Shanghai.

Mind Box

Exhibition Date: April 14, 2012
Exhibition Venue: Shanghai Ecodesign Fair, The Waterhouse, Shanghai
Artist: Zhao Yunbo
Partner(s): Shanghai Oasis Environmental Center, Marine Dream China, Shangyin Gongyi, Shanghai Roots & Shoots, Charyou
Sponsor(s): Shanghai Ecodesign Fair

“Mind Box” is an interactive exhibit that employs symbols for “eco-values” designed by participants of workshops organized by five different NGOs. Meet representatives from vital environmental organizations in Shanghai and render your eco-values in paint on a canvas mural spanning across a courtyard at the fair.

Illustrate Your 'Eco-values'

Workshop Dates: Feb 25 (Roots & Shoots, Oasis Environment), Feb 26 (Roots & Shoots), Mar 17 (Marine Dream, Charyou), Mar 31 (Shanyin Gongyi)
Workshop Venue(s): Various (throughout Shanghai)
Guides: George Kaye, Zhao Yunbo, Jianwei Fong, Zoe Wu
Sponsor: Shanghai Ecodesign Fair

During a series of workshop/discussions in February and March we will create original symbols that express “eco-values”, using a design methodology borrowed from ancient Chinese script. Final artworks will be rendered in brush and ink on rice paper and exhibited at the Shanghai Ecodesign Fair in April.