How to select materials

You will want to think about materials early in the project in order to research, acquire and test your chosen medium for creating the line.

Chalk and pigment for HighWaterLine | Miami
photo credit: Eve Mosher

Each HighWaterLine project will want to determine the materials most appropriate for their region. Here are some general guidelines for choosing your materials for creating the line:

  • Temporary – the intention is to create an action that sparks curiosity and conversation. In the U.S we used dry chalk (used to mark little league fields) mixed with blue pigment. In the U.K. temporary paint was used, which worked well in this very rainy region of the world.
  • Environmentally friendly – the chalk used was derived from limestone, which is non-toxic. Because the project is seeking to highlight an environmental issue, it was important that the material be environmentally friendly.
  • Portable – Materials will need to be relatively easy to transport in order to successfully mark the entire route. We mixed the chalk and pigments in buckets and used bike trailers to move the chalk and markers along the length of the route.
  • Blue – Blue makes the line stand out, even a pale blue makes it appear different from the many white lines that exist in our streetscape. Many people also associate the color blue with water.
  • Slow pace & curious – A major point of the project is to spark conversations on the street. A marking system that encourages a slow pace and is rather curious looking will inspire more interactions with the public along the way.
  • Providing opportunities for answering questions – It might be helpful to provide a url or social media hashtag next to the line so that passersby who encounter the line after the marking has occurred, can learn more about what the line represents. Remember, it’s important to learn what is permissible in your town, city or district. For example, it was illegal to place a website address next to the line in NYC and Miami because these cities categorized this as illegal advertising.
  • Test – Sample the actual chalk, paint or pigment you’ll be using on spaces you will mark in advance to discern how water soluble / temporary it really is.

You will need to think/plan strategically about how long you want to spend marking the line and how you will transport the materials needed to support the actual creation of the line. Some tips for planning include:

  • For the dry chalk, we have found that you need about 4 bags (50 lbs or 25kg) of chalk per mile.
  • You can expect to cover about one mile per hour if you go at a slow pace and encounter a lot of people.

Depending on your materials, you may need to acquire storage prior to the marking of the line. Consider if the storage site needs to be weatherproof. If you need to mix materials, choose a site that can get messy.