Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Patagonia ~ Caithness

I designed a series of postcards, inspired by the mystery of the Magellan Daisy and Whalers.  They arrived in the post last week.  These are all destined for Patagonia as Ian Leith from Aberdeen has also been researching connections between Caithness and Patagonia.  Click here to read his blog. 
Ian is heading out to South America in November, but before he starts his adventure, he'll be in Caithness to share what info he has already gathered. With much thanks to Ian, he'll be taking a bundle of my postcards to hand out and perhaps reveal a bit more on the mystery of the Magellan Daisy and Whalers. Below is the text and image that's on the back of each postcard.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Dilly bags - Indigenous Australian crafts

I've been reading 'Baskets & Belonging' by Lissant Bolton, published by The British Museum to accompany an exhibition in 2011.
 Click here to see a collection of dilly bags.   Incorporating many different basketry techniques, looping or knotless netting is used widely - the shape of the bags often determined by their particular function such as the ones used for carrying pituir leaves and stems. The materials of these bags also tells the story of the trade in this nicotine-containing plant, as coloured  wool used in some of them  originated in European blankets. Click here to see a collection of original pituri bags.  Choice of materials determined by function, simple but beautiful designs used what was available in each area.  
My looped bag, made from combed soft-rush is purely decorative.

My future designs may be more interesting if I think about a particular function for each bag - the shapes would perhaps become more intriguing.

Coptic stitch - Nalbinding

Norse weren't the only culture to use the Coptic nalbinding stitch to make socks.  Click here to see a pair of red socks now in the V & A, made around 250-420 AD in Egypt.
This is one of my own socks, also made using the Coptic stitch but from combed soft-rush - in  2014. 



Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hats work-in-progress nalbinding with soft-rush - home grown.

It's thought that hats as well as mittens and shoes/socks were made by Norse although there is no archaeological evidence.   I am searching for info of hats made using nalbinding/looping techniques in different cultures. Apparently  Mummies of Ürümchi, one of the  Cherchen Man's ten hats and a hat which once belonged to Saint Simeon of Trier, all used nalbinding /looping techniques, quite wide ranging in time and location.   If you know of any, do please get in touch.  My work is experimental, using plant materials rather than wool to make my garments - all home grown. They are not replicas.  The Saint Simeon hat is lined with woven fabric, with a decorative band around the rim on the outside as well - this gives me ideas for different linings - some fabric, others my own papers made from home grown plants, they could be printed with decorative patterns.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Our fundraiser 'Postcard SEA' was an overwhelming success - we made £4532.88 for Brough Bay Association and Castletown Heritage Society

Visit our fundraiser website to see all 204 postcard size artworks inspired by the sea that were donated by the artists then sold by secret silent auction - artists names have been revealed!!!  Thank you all. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

3rd July - Skirza House near Freswick Caithness

 A sunny day out to Skirza, to see their Magellan Daisy in full bloom.  There's even a few whale bones outside the house, but sadly no connection with South America or Caithness whalers.
Click here for more info on the history of Skirza House.

And the photo below is of  'Happy Harry' - always smiling, what's left of a Christmas dinner!!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Naked Craft

My proposal for the exhibition 'Naked Craft' has been accepted.  I will be one of 40 makers (20 from Scotland and 20 from Canada) taking part.  The exhibition is due to open in Canada in early 2015.
 This is what I will be making:
Journeys over land, sea and through time.
A centuries old technique lost to both Scottish and Canadian shores , re-emerged in the hands of Angus MacPhee, a crofter from South Uist in the Western Isles of Scotland.  Angus spent almost 50 years in Craig Dunain psychiatric hospital in Inverness. During this time he chose not to speak - instead he made a series of incredible costumes out of grass. These he hung on trees in the hospital grounds.
Joyce Laing, the first art-therapist in Scotland, visited the psychiatric hospitals in search of ‘raw’ art, discovering Angus in the 1970’s.  She visited him over 20 years, saving some of his work for the Art Extraordinary Trust in Pittenweem Fife.  Angus became known as ‘the weaver of grass’. When Craig Dunain closed and care in the community was started, Angus went home 1996, he died a year later, taking with him the mystery of why and how and he made the grass garments. 
The grass ‘weavings’ made by Angus were now old and fragile, and Joyce wanted replicas to be made, before the originals were lost completely. In 2011 I visited  Joyce, and with the help of my husband Joe,  who made a sketch of the construction by  looking at a patch of more open weave, and the information from Joyce with her first had experience of seeing Angus work, I made notes and took measurements in my sketchbook.   
Angus had combined the techniques of traditional rope or simmans making he would have learnt as a crofter, with a construction technique which had long since died out with the Vikings – needle-binding, which pre-dates knitting.
The basic technique of nalbinding (also known as Looping - knotless netting - weaving without foundation and Vattarsaumur ) involves making a loop and feeding all of your yarn through it to make the next loop. This means you will have to work with short lengths of yarn, adding more as required. This description also fits the technique one once used by Angus MacPhee 'weaver' of grass to make garments. Angus used the materials he had available, mostly grasses and sometimes wool which he collected from the barbed fence of the hospital farm fields.  Because of the materials he used, most of his work is chunky and large.  The Vikings also used materials they had available for needle-binding – wool.  A very slow process which makes a dense fabric, they used it to make mostly gloves and socks.
My research took me to Iceland where I was invited by Freja Hlidkvist Omarsdottir, Curator of Collections at The National Museum Of Iceland to take a closer look at the only glove found in Iceland from the Viking times made using the needle-binding technique is kept. 
According to the sagas, Icelandic Viking, Leif Eriksson discovered  North America, but it wasn’t until the 1960, proof of Vikings in North America came to light at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, Canada during excavations when Icelandic- style house foundations and Norse artefacts were found. Vikings  had indeed landed, and briefly settled, in North America 500 years before Columbus.
It is this connection to our shared past, emerging through Angus MacPhee and his  extraordinary imagination and creativity using only his hands and local materials that I would like to explore contemporary ‘weavings’ using Juncus effusus (soft rush) which grows in abundance on my own field on Dunnet Head,  and in Canada, to make a series of socks, each with a different feel to them – some dense like the Viking techniques and others more open ‘weave’ like Angus MacPhees work. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Shetland Island of Yell from April to the end of June 2014!

My portable museum of curiosity inspired by Robert Dick the baker and botanist of Thurso is currently on loan  from Caithness Horizons Museum in Thurso to The Centre For Creative Industries on the Shetland Isle of Yell for 3 months. 
If you would like to borrow it, do contact Caithness Horizons Museum Thurso.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Nalbinding - building on last years research in Iceland - work in progress - sock made from combed soft-rush. Start of a series of socks I'll be making using a variety of nalbinding and looping techniques in soft-rush - this sock is my size and home grown.

The sock will be longer, and perhaps I'll add a thin red band along the top edge, a nod to the only nalbinding sock found in the UK - at York, the Coppergate sock. 
naalbinding   nålbinding    naalebinding  Nålebinding  knotless netting, knotless knitting,  single needle knitting, looping, weaving without foundation,  vattarsaumur , nõeltehnika, tkanie igłą ,   вязание иглой