Neighbours, Everybody Needs Creative Neighbours

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Juli-Bolanos-Durman in her studio at Custom Lane, above the ETL workshop.
Photo by Shannon Tofts Photography

As residents of Custom Lane, The Edinburgh Tool Library is lucky to have some very creative and supportive neighbours. We caught up with one of them, Juli Bolanos-Durman, who is putting her creativity to wonderful use to help others during the lockdown.

Hey Juli, tell us a bit about yourself, your practice, and your connection to the Tool Library.

I’m a Costa Rican artist based in Edinburgh since I graduated from my Master’s Degree from The University of Edinburgh.

I make my art from recycled glass, so when I moved in three years ago to Custom Lane, there was an immediate connection to ETL through the idea of giving materials a second chance.  And they are my neighbours of course!

Through my work, I invite the audience to delve into a magical world of second chances, where waste material is the starting point. I create raw pieces that are put together intuitively through the joyfulness of play, exploring different materials and ideas to challenge the boundaries of art and its meaning. I’m interested in how this visceral bond between the maker and material permeates the creative process, guiding it to become something new. These objects honour the instinctual need to create something with our hands, and how this act of making connects us to our forefathers/foremothers and the future. 

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Juli’s collection, “La Virgencita” is made entirely from recycled and repurposed glass.
Photo by Shannon Tofts Photography

Who is your inspiration?  Where does your creativity come from?

Inspiration comes from everywhere. I just try to stop and observe my surroundings. But my practice is led by my need to give discarded waste a second chance, to be repurposed and re-imagined to become something new.

My creativity comes from being in the garden all day, every day when I was a kid back in Costa Rica. I grew up with my cheeky cousins and we would entertain ourselves for hours on end, making up games and being mischievous. I credit that to my creative muscle and how anytime I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, I know this is an invaluable too will always be with me.

Lockdown is a bit of a strange time, but it seems you have found good use of your talents!  Can you tell us about this project you have been working on to keep kids entertained while they are inside?

We are being forced to stay in close quarters and in silence, something we aren’t used to much since we have gotten used to a busy life. But during this first couple of days in quarantine, I found myself really stressed, in fear of what was happening around the world and the future of it all. So I decided to turn off the news and focus on something small, something I could control. This started with my breathing, and then, since I love to draw and colour, I started doing this as much as I could.

The days started to ease and I began thinking that I wanted to contribute in some way.  I was chatting with Martha McNaughton, who works in PR, branding and communications in London. We partnered to do this project and in 2 weeks, #StayCreative with Juli was live.

I’ve created downloadable, printable or traceable drawings, inspired by my love of nature, which are free, and can be used to entertain kids and adults!  I’m hoping that people will enjoy the meditative nature of creating something, and by focussing on a small picture, they won’t feel anxious about the bigger one.

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Follow the link at the bottom of the page to get downloadable art for little and big ones to colour in and decorate, then tag Juli in social media using #StayCreative

You mentioned stress and anxiety of the situation.  How does doing something creative help reduce this?

I think creativity, and particularly in a situation when we are isolated, is important because we are doing it just for ourselves, to have fun, to foster joy through this meditation.  For me it’s drawing and colouring, but for others it might be going and organising their closet by colour, doing spreadsheets, or cooking.  Whatever it is, just go do it!

ETL is all about sharing.  Why do you think sharing is important?  (feel free to go as literal or tangential as you want)

No one is an island. We are social creatures that have deviated from this a bit, but this pandemic is here to remind of our core values and what really is important. I want to be a part of a community that takes care of each other and everyone has something particular of value to offer. 

This is why I have loved ETL initiative since I first meet you and all the wonderful work you have been doing for the community. This has inspired me to do more and connect. 

The creative industries and outlets for the general public to be creative are often the first things to go during financial crises.  How important do you think creativity will be to the morale of a community?

Creativity is a fundamental tool to foster joy, it is a meditation that calms the mind focusing on what is in front and helping regulate and regenerate our systems. For me, this is what making something with our hands represent to me and I love it. 

Life is going to be different once the health crisis is over.  What do you want the new ‘new normal’ to look like?

As well as a tragedy, this is also an opportunity for us to reimagine the world we are living in, but it clearly isn’t sustainable.  We need to go back to basics, and remember our core values: family, community and how we can support each other. The earth can’t sustain a capitalist model, and for us working in the creative industries, I hope that people start to think more locally, meet the makers that live near them and think about supporting local craftspeople and makers.  You might be able to pick up something on Amazon cheap as chips, but who is actually “paying” for that?

Finally, if people want to find out more about your work, or download your awesome kids project, how can they connect with you?

You can download the art from and share the outcome on social media through Instagram / Twitter using #StayCreative. Please tag me (@julibd_com) as I would love to see what you have come up with.