Monday, September 28, 2015

grass shoes

This week I've been working on a pair of shoes, made from grass (home grown), commissioned for the exhibition 'Radical Craft'.  The shoes are full size replicas of those made by outsider artist, Angus McPhee.   This shoe is 55cm long. The construction technique is looping.  

28th Sept 2015 - 4th pair of replica Angus MacPhee grass shoes.
One of my replica's on top of Angus MacPhee's original grass shoes.
Angus Macphee weaver of grass - original grass shoes.
Angus made more than one pair of shoes. This pair, are sadly falling apart. It did mean however, that I could get a closer look at the construction method.  Angus made a grass sock, then stitched a couple of layers of grass soles to the base - making it a platform shoe.

" exhibition of Outsider Craft, the first of its kind to be originated and toured in the UK.."    Click here for more info and a list of the very extraordinary exhibitors.

This is the 4th pair of replicas I've made.  The others are now in  collections:

Northampton Museum
Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester
Glasgow Museums

Click here for more information about Angus McPhee and my replica garments.  

Friday, September 11, 2015

search for botanical connections with fishing / whaling continues

 My search for botanical connections with fishing/whaling continues,  as I read in a book purchased at An Lanntair art centre in Stornoway last week,   ‘Whaling and the Hebrides’  published in 2008 by The Island Book Trust:

 ‘..As the ship sailed, women would have thrown oranges or shoes on board, or hidden money on the ship to buy their men luck.  Women gave their men a garland as a good luck charm, with one knot for every whale they hoped that the ship would catch.” an extract, written by Malcolm Archibald.
If you know anything about these traditions, particularly the garland with knots, please do get in touch!!  Books / websites / Museums - anything! 
Flora of the Bhaltos Peninsula has inspired.... these Western Isles garlands may have been very colourful indeed.  Click here to see what inspired me - the results of a short residency for An Lanntair and the Bhaltos Community Trust.
Building on inspiration.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Drawing between the midges and the rain.

"..An Lanntair and the Bhaltos Community Trust award An Sùileachan Residency to artist Joanne B Kaar..."
2 weeks in the Western Isles
22nd August - 5th September 2015
I arrived home very late on Saturday 5th Sept, after a fantastic two weeks in the Western Isles.
Otter Bunkhouse - my accommodation - I didn't see the otters, but golden eagles flew around the area nearly every day.
My seemingly simple initial proposal of 'walking books', being out and about wandering the landscape, drawing what I saw, building on this with research on the history of the area came into sharp focus after the first full day on the island when we were given the warmest of welcomes by Donella and Colin MacDonald  from the Bhaltos Community Trust, with a tour of the area on a very sunny day, followed by dinner at their house.
View from the Otter Bunkhouse - dramatic sky.
There was just so much to see and so much history and 2 weeks is a very short time.
View of the Bhaltos Peninsula.

That evening  (Sunday 23rd Aug), I had to make a few decisions - what would I focus on?  There were many old tracks and peat roads leading into the hills, but if I spent my time walking, I might not get any drawing done. Taking the obvious circular road around the Bhaltos Peninsula (about 6 miles of twisting single track road), I decide to follow it and draw along the way.  This also meant I would be visible within the community - this was the first artist residency they'd hosted. 
A small display of my previous artwork - set up in the Bhaltos Community Trust office (my studio space for the residency which I didn't really use -my time was spent in the landscape).
With my plan narrowed, I set off drawing what I saw around the peninsula, starting with the fish farms, then looking at a few of the wild flowers. 
 Now, there's only so much you can see through a midge net.  The midges were horrendous, and they never let up for the whole two weeks.   
Drawing through a midge net!
  That evening, I lay out my 5 drawings to review my plan.  It wasn't going well. If I'd continued drawing at random what I saw, they wouldn't really have a focus.  The drawings which worked the best were those of the wild flowers.  So, again, narrowing down my ideas, I decided to continue observational drawing in the landscape (this I definitely wanted to do, as at home I spend too much time on the computer).  This time, focusing only on the flora of the peninsula - documenting a variety of plants, and with time ticking by, this meant driving to each location rather than too much walking to gather as much info as possible.
When the midges went away, it rained, heavy thundery downpours - so just as well my car was never far away, and my drawings - all rollerball black ink and acrylic ink for colour, were small - easy to cover and protect from the elements.
As the week went on, the more plants I drew, the better the collection of work began to look - I like pattern - my drawing style is line drawing in pen, one chance to get it right, then coloured in. 

With the help of the local community, lists of plants growing in the area were compiled - wild as well as gardens.  An added bonus - the rain fall records for the last 10 years - thank you all!!
    A trip to St. Kilda was part of the residency. It was not to be. We were on standby on 4 different days.  On one of them we managed to get a third of the way their. The waves were just too big - a 3m swell.  Not much white water, the rolling waves don't look at all dramatic in photos - but believe me, you had to hang on!  
Would love to try again, next year, perhaps a little earlier in the season, although Seatrek only managed half of their trips to St Kilda this year, because of the weather.
Add caption
Before arriving in Lewis, I already had the idea to combine outdoor clothing with my new work - so put a call out for any waterproofs that aren't waterproof anymore, wellington boots that leak etc.  I like that to view the wild flowers, I need to wear all this gear - waterproofs from head to toe.
Back on dry land, more drawing, a meet the artist session in my temporary studio,  one artists talk at An Lanntair, 3 children's workshops at An Lanntair and one at Uig Primary School (with all 12 children in the school), I gate crashed the weekly cake and blether session at Uig Communty Centre  and finally on the last day, a meet up with Jon MacLeod from An Lanntair to catch up and review the residency and return a book
'The Flora of Uig - reports from a 1938 expedition'.

Some things haven't changed, an extract from 1938 Flora of Uig:

And home again, back on my computer, sorting through all the work and reflecting -  it will take some time to develop this work further for possible exhibitions, but am happy with the initial information gathering and decision to focus on the flora of the Bhaltos Peninsula.
My drawings, made quickly between the midges and the rain.
 Click here to see all 53 drawings on pinterest.


"....After much deliberation the panel have selected the artist Joanne Kaar as the recipient of the 2015 An Sùileachan residency based in Uig and hosted and funded by the Bhaltos Community Trust and the artists Marian Leven and Will Maclean.
The residency has been set up to provide time and space to research, explore and create in a landscape of outstanding natural beauty that has a strong linguistic and cultural heritage. Based on the Bhaltos peninsula, on the Isle of Lewis it is hosted by the Bhaltos Community Trust. It offers private accommodation, studio space and a trip to St.Kilda as well as the opportunity to engage with the language, culture and heritage of the area. The residency also offers the opportunity to discover the rich flora and fauna of the area including the pristine marine environment.

The An Sùileachan Project was established to remember the 19th century Lewis Land Clearances. It will commemorate the 20th century land raids by the Reef Raiders and celebrate the Scottish Land Reforms and the creation of the Bhaltos Community Trust.

The Scottish artists Marian Leven and Will Maclean were commissioned to design a suitable monument based on their understanding of the local culture and history of the land raids in the Western Isles. The resulting memorial cairn was the recipient of the Saltire Public Art Award.
Joanne B Kaar is a renowned artist based at Dunnet Head, on the north coast of Caithness...."

For more information on the project please contact Jon Macleod at and for press information please contact: or on 01851708488

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

FREE workshop! Books for A Beachcomber.

Books for A Beachcomber
with artist Joanne B Kaar
FREE workshop
22nd Sept
Join artist Joanne B Kaar for a book binding workshop.
Limited numbers.
Booking Essential
Location: Caithness.

Phone: 07818588256

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Contemporary Artists in Rural Contexts

I'm delighted to be invited to take part in:
Contemporary Artists in Rural Contexts
Seminar at Coxwold Village Hall, Coxwold, North Yorkshire
Friday 2 October, 2015 10.00am – 3.45pm
Organised by Chrysalis Arts in partnership with Yorkshire and Humber Visual Arts Network (YVAN)
The day will explore how contemporary artists working in rural environments and with rural themes, either permanently or as part of short term projects and residencies, are developing new platforms and ideas for creating and showcasing visual arts practice and new approaches to collaboration and audience engagement.
As well as highlighting some current ideas and approaches inspiring artists, artist-led groups and curators, the seminar will look at how individual artists and those who work with them can create future projects and work opportunities – and what support could assist them.

For artists, arts managers, community and environmental officers, national parks, local authorities and others who commission and collaborate with visual artists.

There will be plenty of opportunities for networking and discussion. In addition, delegates who already have ideas for projects may book a slot for a one to one advice session.  Following the event, artists are invited to apply for one of three awards of £300 to support further development of their ideas (see below)
A buffet lunch is included in the £10 booking fee along with an opportunity for a lunchtime visit to Shandy Hall and to the Sentimental Landscapes exhibition.
Michelle Dickson - Arts Council England Director, Touring & North
Michelle will give an overview of Arts Council England’s perspective on rural cultural development.
Jan Hogarth was born and brought up in rural Dumfries and Galloway. She creates environmental art "quests", retreats and investigations. Jan has always had deep connections with landscape and much of her work is based on issues of land-use, people and landscape change. Her current project “Quest” celebrates the ancient, healing power of water and timeless journeys across the landscape. Jan is also a Director of Wide Open, a creative organisation for the development of public art and place-making projects across rural Scotland and orchestrator for Environmental Art Festival Scotland.
Joanne Kaar - Joanne is an artist working in a range of media who is inspired by journeys over land, sea and through time. For the past twenty years, she has been exhibiting and working around the world as both participant and instigator of arts and heritage projects and collaborations.
Simon Lee Dicker – artist, curator and founder of OSR projects in rural Somerset, Simon has recently been working on a major project based around the theme of ‘Momentum’ inspired by the Twineworks in the village of West Coker, its history, social impact and connection to the community in the area.
Richard Povall (Chair) - artist, educator and consultant with a passion for rural places and the environment. Richard currently works as a composer and sound artist, leads the MA Arts and Ecology course at Schumacher College, Dartington and was a founder and director of Aune Head Arts, working with and alongside communities in rural Devon.

Patrick Wildgust – Curator of Shandy Hall. Built in around 1430, Shandy Hall is the former home of writer Laurence Sterne with a museum collection, separate gallery space and gardens. Under Patrick’s curatorship, Shandy Hall has hosted a wide-ranging programme of exciting, contemporary exhibitions, artists’ residencies and other creative activities.
Booking:  Seminar fee is £10 including a buffet lunch.  To book a place, contact Chrysalis Arts by email:, phone: 01756 748529 or send payment to: Chrysalis Arts, The Art Depot, Eshton Road, Gargrave, North Yorkshire, BD23 3PN
Individual advice slots (15 – 20 minutes)
These sessions are designed for artists who would like to talk through their ideas for a future project. They must be booked in advance on a first come, first served basis and will run concurrently with the presentations.

Getting to Coxwold by Public Transport.
The nearest railway station to Coxwold is Thirsk which is almost eight miles away. Thirsk is on the East Coast Mainline and has  regular train services from York and Leeds. If delegates require it, a minibus service to and from Coxwold will be available at Thirsk Station. Please note, bus places must be pre-booked on  booking form.
Proposal Awards for Artists
Following the seminar, artists are invited to submit an outline idea for a project or residency based around the seminar themes. We are interested in individual research and development projects focusing on an artist’s own practice, projects that involve working in collaboration with other artists or communities and cross artform projects. Ideas could draw on a range of themes from heritage, place-making and local identity to art and ecology, environmental art and current issues such as fracking.
The artists submitting the three winning projects will each receive awards of £300 to develop their proposals, along with support from Chrysalis Arts with developing them as funding applications.
Projects should take place in the Yorkshire region, either being based in a rural area or involving a rural theme.
Artists’ entries will be presented anonymously to a selection panel including representatives of Chrysalis Arts and YVAN. To make a proposal please write no more than 200 words in an email to or on a postcard to Emily Wilson at: Chrysalis Arts, The Art Depot, Eshton Road, Gargrave, North Yorkshire, BD23 3SE 
Each award is for £300 plus advice and support to develop the idea with Chrysalis Arts.
Coxwold Village Hall, Friday 2 October, 2015
10. 00 – 10.25     Arrivals and Coffee

10.25                   Welcome Chrysalis Arts
10.30                  Michelle Dickson, Arts Council England                     
10.45                     Richard Povall (Chair)
11.15                     Simon Lee Dicker
11.45                     Patrick Wildgust, Shandy Hall
12. 15 – 1.45 pm Lunch (Including visit to Shandy Hall)
1.50                        Jan Hogarth
2.20                        Joanne Kaar
2.50 – 3.45 pm Facilitated Discussion and Networking with Tea
A chance to explore and discuss ideas for future projects and identify opportunities for collaboration.
Short presentation by Chrysalis Arts to explain proposal awards and additional support we will offer.
Individual advice slots (15 – 20 minutes)
These sessions are designed for artists who would like to talk through their ideas for a future project. They must be booked in advance on a first come, first served basis and will run concurrently with the presentations.

Chrysalis Arts Development Ltd
The Art Depot
Eshton Road
North Yorkshire
BD23 3SE

Tel 0044(0)1756 749222
M 07702 128443



Friday, August 14, 2015

An artists Talk: I'll be the An Sùileachan artist-in-residence for An Lanntair and Valtos Community Trust. Based in Uig, on Lewis, the residency includes a trip to St.Kilda.

Artist's Talk: Joanne Kaar                     
Cuine When: Thursday 3rd September, 7.30pm - 8.30pm
Caite Where:An Lanntair Education Room
Cosgais Cost: £5

‘Bakers, Whalers and Grass Weavers’
Cuine When: Thursday 3rd September, 7.30pm - 8.30pm
Caite Where:An Lanntair Education Room
Cosgais Cost: £5
‘Bakers, Whalers and Grass Weavers’ While on an Artist’s Residency with the Valtos Community Trust, Joanne Kaar will talk about her background and work which takes inspiration from our landscape and heritage.
Book your tickets online here or call our Box Office on 01851 708480
Artist looking for old waterproofs and wellington boots!!!
While in the Western Isles for the An Sùileachan artist residency,  Joanne B Kaar from Caithness, will be working on a series of ‘Walking Books’: making drawings, annotated sketches, incorporating found objects and photography.  

Joanne will be making her own ‘walking books’ inspired by colours and materials associated with outdoor clothing for walking or fishing.  If you have any waterproofs that aren’t waterproof any more, wellington boots that have sprung leaks or rucksacks that have developed holes and the zips are broken. Joanne would be delighted to give them a new life.
Joanne will be staying at the Otter Bunkhouse in Cashader
Sat 22nd August - Sat 5th September. 
Otter Bunkhouse
Carishader, Uig
Isle of Lewis
HS2 9ER 
Tel:  07942349755