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

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Thar she blows.

Click here to see lots more photos of the portable museum on my flickr. 

Mystery of the Magellan Daisy  and whalers.

A Portable Museum of Curiosity.
Designed and made by Joanne & Joe Kaar.
Sound with thanks to Bob Pegg.
This is what you hear inside the box:


Monday, January 27, 2014

Portable Museum - layout for large flat fold out - Magellan Daisy and Caithness Whalers mystery

Mystery of Magellan Daisy and Caithness Whalers - progress on my portable museum of curiosity

Layers of enamel paint age the once shiny metal box.
Side panels are now printed on canvas and in place with black canvas edging.
Drawer labels also printed onto canvas.
still lots to do. I'm thinking about thick hemp rope to coil up and fill the gap above the drawers.


There's still lots to do - but it's starting to look like I imagined it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hooker's Mosses

 Sinigoe is on the edge of Brough village on the road to Dunnet Head lighthouse.  It was home to George Shearer, the last full time lobster fisherman working from Brough Harbour. There magnifient views from Sinigoe, overlooking the harbour and across the Pentland Firth to Orkney.  Sadly, George died a few years ago.  Sinigoe and Upper Sinigoe are also landmarks we look for when fishing in the Pentland Firth, launching also launching from Brough Harbour.  We often drift from Langipoe to Sinigoe, sometimes with a good haul of cod, other times, nothing!

This paper packet is one of Robert Dicks's paper wrappers - the baker and botanist of Thurso 1811-1866. Dunnet Head was one of his favourite places to walk. The paper wrappers are in Caithness Horizons Museum, Thurso. The Robert Dick area of the museum is being given a new look, as since the museum re-opened a few years ago, a lot more information about Robert Dick and his pressed herbarium had been discovered

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Our Botanical Exchange Club - Devon / Caithness

We ventured south to Devon for the festive season, to visit our relatives George and Linda at West Lake Orchards.
They are the other half of our botanical exchange.
Photo: George Travis writes a few labels on his herbarium sheets.
Inspired by the original Botanical Exchange Club of the 1830's, and the pressed herbarium sheets from collectors around the UK now in the Robert Dick Collection at Caithness Horizon Museum, Thurso near where I live, we decided to document the plants on our own land and a couple of nearby locations we have permissions to pick, by making a pressed herbarium, and exchange duplicate sheets with each other to compare plants and flowering times etc.
It's a long-term project, and we are all learning how to make herbarium sheets that will not only look beautiful, but will be of use to botanists in the future, so everything is archival with detailed labels on each sheet - a bit of double checking might be needed!
This December we packed a selection of our north herbarium sheets to take with us to give George and Linda in Devon.
They have special Culm grassland on their land, and was recently listed as a County Wildlife Site after a site inspection by Devon Wildlife Trust Nature Improvement area advisor Michael Symes.
Click here to read more about Culm grassland on Devon Wildlife Trusts website.

The flower below is a cowslip.  I am puzzled as to why the tips of the petals have turned green after pressing - any info welcome!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Crew Lists - my design inspired by real ones - perhaps on sale in a whalers ship chandlers 19th Century.

Ambergris - whalers gold

Ideas coming together for my portable museum of curiosity inspired by the mystery of the Magellan Daisy and whalers - a 19th Century whalers ship chandlers.

A Whalers Ship chandlers

Boxes for drawers in the portable museum all about the Magellan Daisy and Whalers mystery.  I'm narrowing ideas down, and taking the angle that this portable museum is a ship chandlers specifically for whalers - the mariners medicine box my portable museum is based on, fits perfectly.

Now working on Magellan Daisy Seeds and Ambergris.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Whalers - my portable museum

First try out of my ideas for inside my whaler /daisy box.  Imagery painted, then photographed, tinkered with a bit, then printed out on thin paper.... the whale at the top inside the lid will be made from copper - 3D.  Still early stages with lots of post-it stickers moving around with info, telling the story of Magellan daisy and whalers, Darwins voyage to South America on the Beagel in 1830's and the return of locals ~(York Minster, Jemmy Button, Fuega Basket - Memory Boat died before the return voyage), traditonal whale boats (pointed at both ends) Fitzroy also used to survey the coast of South America, and the traditional Fuegan Canoes - they carried fire in the centre of the boats  to each new camp (Tierra Del Fuego - land of fire).  Lots to pack in.

The box shape is inspired by a mariners medicine chest.  Whale bone pieces found on a local beach are in a bucket of bleach - in preparation of experimental scrimshaw.