The Project

Edinburgh Printmakers programme operator, Judith Liddle, appointed artists Matt Donovan and Hallie Siegel to draw upon the local area to create their design for the Rust Garden and were obvious choices due to their interest in print and visual text.

One of the main purposes of the garden was to give locals a chance to interact with a space that has been derelict for some time. The main idea for the Rust Garden was to create a path made up of tiny rusted steel letters that visitors can play with, walk over and even put in their pocket to take home. It is this idea of being at risk that fascinated Judith as it shows how an area can change and gives the sense of the rise and fall of industry in the area.


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At Subcon Laser, we love new and interesting projects and the idea of the Rust Garden held an immediate appeal. We usually create pieces that are designed to resist rust and use a special treatment to ensure the longevity of the laser cut pieces but in this case, an integral part of the garden would be the rust.

In this case, we did not treat the mild steel so that the natural oxidisation process would begin. This meant that by the time the letters arrived in Edinburgh from our Nuneaton factory, they were already starting to shift in colour.

While we are used to steel being bright silver and reflective, and stainless steel is certainly the most popular material we use, in this instance, the oxidisation brings out purples and oranges that have been mirrored by the careful planting choices in the garden. This design adds a further layer to the garden as the plants will gradually take over as the steel rusts and disintegrates into nothingness leaving only a hint of it ever being there in the colour of the leaves.

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The Rust Garden was launched on 29th July 2016 to locals and guests as well as spontaneous attendees. Over a hundred people came to walk over the path and interact with the space that for so long has been a no-go area.

The new garden aimed to bring people in the community together as a place of reflection but, perhaps even more importantly, as a safe and clean environment that can be enjoyed by everyone.

Many of the locals who attended made use of the laser cut letters to show their gratitude to the artists and The Edinburgh Printmakers and left messages of thanks around the space.

The garden was part of the Edinburgh festival until August 28th 2016 and is now open for anyone and everyone to enjoy, but the team hope that the garden will become a fixed feature. (4)


Unfixed from plaques and walls, and instead jumbled underfoot as one passes into the garden, their original meaning is deconstructed and becomes unrecognizable. Yet while the rusted letters area tangible and solemn reminder of our ultimate transience, they also remind us of our immeasurable creative potential. In this way, Rust Garden becomes an ephemeral bridge that straddles two places in time.

On their website, Donovan and Siegel describe their project like this:

The garden has been a hit with members of the local community. Passers-by have used the letters to fashion words, phrases – even short poems – and have left their creations behind for others to discover.

With its range of newly-installed flowering flora, the site has really sprung into life – and this sense of renewal has been mirrored by the people of Fountainbridge and beyond, who continue to update and refresh the garden with their messages.

Tom Flanagan, Marketing Officer at Edinburgh Printmakers said of the project: