Saturday, May 28, 2016

A very special a garden fence in Hamnavoe, Shetland - lace knitting but not as you know it!

This garden fence was made a few years ago by Anne Eunson, an expert in the traditional Shetland lace knitting.  Anne used black fishermens netting twine to knit herself a Shetland lace fence!
The plants have grown, so not so easy to see the detail - look at the shadows! Click here to see photos of it a few years ago.

Here's a very different style Shetland fence, made from rope.
This fence is at Nesting Primary School. There is also a small example at Sumburgh Head lighthouse.

Rope holding down thatch in Burra.


I now have an extra pair of hands!  
My mum found these in a second hand shop in Lerwick.
They were used to shape newly knitted gloves after they'd been washed. I like the thumbs, still tied on, separate pieces of wood.

 I've been working on a few different projects while in Shetland,  including finishing off this lobster mitt.  Made from fishing twine, inspired by fishermen's gloves in Newfoundland, I used the Norse technique of nalbinding.  I started making it while in woody Point, Newfoundland earlier this year while artist in residence for the Crafts Council of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Newfoundland fishermen's inspired mitts, 
at Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, Shetland, where I've been living this month.

A week today I'll be on my
 way to the north coast of Iceland. I'm planing to continue making my Newfoundland fishermen's inspired mitts while their, and of course, they'll be nalbound!

If you'd like to find out more about these mitts and my Newfoundland residency, and previous research in Iceland, click the page tabs.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Windy knots and fishy knots

A shelter for a boat: 


There aren't many trees in Shetland, so where did they get wood for building boats?  Here's an extract from ' The Shetland boat: history, construction and folklore'. 

"Norway boat imports are also mentioned in the 1791-1799 Statistical Account of Scotland. The Reverend James Barclay in the Parish of Unst states:16"

“The boats are put together here, but the boards are brought, ready shaped and dressed, from Norway.” 

Boat noust - Fethaland
Aparently a trained eye was needed when selecting wood.
You didn't want any 'windy knots' in the wood, but 'fishy knots' were a bonus.

If your wood had 'wind-knots', it's the wind you have to look out for. Tie your hour up securely in its noust when not out at sea, or risk it being dashed to splinters in the wind

If your wood has 'fishy-knots', you will have a good catch.

Click the link below to read more about this superstition and listen to a recording made in the 1970s in Dunrossness. You'll find the 'play' button on the left hand side of the page.

Read about it here, page 126 of Shetland folklore by John Spence published in 1899.

Boat noust - Scatness

Boat noust - Bousta nr Sandness.  I also found Magellan daisies growing near by and Loki's candles on Bousta beach.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Shetland - Anderson High School pupils, laughing, eating and knitting in Fjara cafe bar.

My month in Shetland is nearly over, but the islands people are still full of surprises. Today we went for lunch at the Fjara cafe bar in Lerwick - a trendy place to hang out, and spied a group of young folk, laughing, eating and KNITTING!!

And yes, she knitted this jumper herself!

They were pupils from Anderson High School, who'd opted to get together and knit during a week of activities while exams were going on at school. Some were beginners, others already quite accomplished, wearing jumpers they'd knitted themselves. They were all following a traditional pattern for a fishermans hat, available in a leaflet about Shetland wool week.

Why not have a go yourself, and knit a piece of Shetland history:

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Staring at rocks - lichens in Shetland

Skrottie & Crottle

skrootie claith

Shetland lichen used as a dye

Parmelia saxatilis

This 1916 publication 

"A book on vegetable dyes" by Mairet, Ethel M.

Page 45 for chapter on lichens.

This website has a few nuggets of interesting historical details of lichen dyes in Shetland:

I wonder is this it - the highly textured part forming a circle?

Picture of the real thing:



"There was — and probably still is — a superstition among fishermen on the West Coast that crottal seeks its native rocks and they were therefore averse to wearing garments dyed with crottal or to taking on board anyone so clad."
Info from:

Staring at rocks - lichens in Shetland

The gentle Shetlander - Adam Christie.

I've been involved with 'outsider art' for a few years now, working with Joyce Laing and her Art Extraordinary collection in Fife, making full size replicas of Angus Macphee's grass garments, and for Horse and bamboo theatres touring production, Angus.  Click here to read more about Angus 'weaver of grass'.

Carved by Adams grandnephew, Peter Christie, this memorial, next to Cunningsburgh history group hut, is a celebration of his life. Peters son, Steven, works in Shetland museum where some of Adams original work is on display.
Joyce also had a collection of stone carvings.  These were made by Shetlander, Adam Christie.  

"....Christie came to Sunnyside Hospital in 1901 at the age of 32 with severe depression, died there in 1950 and was buried in a pauper’s grave in Montrose.
He carved stone faces and figures with a six-inch nail and an old file, made fiddles from tea chests, painted and wrote poetry...."

Click here to read more about Adam Christie.

Angus's grass garments, along with my replicas, Adam Christies work and the Art Extraordinary collection are now with Glasgow Museums. 
Shetland Museum And Montrose Museum also have some of Adam Christies work.
'Goliath' by Adam Christie, on display in Shetland Museum.
I continue to make replicas of Angus's grass garments, and am currently exhibiting in Radical Crafts, the first UK touring exhibition of international outsider craft.

Someone has been untying wind-knots!

A bit blowy this morning at Sumburgh Head Lighthouse.

Want to know more about wind-knots, click here.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sunday, May 22, 2016

16th February 1900 - storm hits Shetland.

These huge boulders at Grutness, South Shetland were piled up on the shore during a storm on the 16th February 1900. They haven't moved much since, as lichen has made it's home on many of the boulders. Click here for info on the storm reported in the Shetland Times.

The boulders are all neatly lined up, like huge fish scales.  I've been drawing lichens from the Grutness shore.

Loki's Candle and broch at Brough Head, Eastshore ,South Shetland

Did this Loki's candle ( curl of birch bark) float here from Newfoundland??
I took a photo of it in the window of a now ruined croft, at Brough Head, next to where we found it.

A fascinating location....

"...A broch, damaged by the sea and by comparatively modern but disused dwellings. It has an unusually large cluster of outbuildings, the whole complex probably covering about an acre. It has yielded numerous fragments of broch pottery...." More info here :

A few more links :
This one is a PDF and gives a detailed description of the settlement buildings, including a 17th c merchants booth. Click here.

And I just like the photo of this archaeologist when he was younger:

Magellan Daisy (Senecio smithii) at Eastshore, south Shetland.

 View from Harpers Marina, Pool of Virkie near Sumburgh, to Eastshore.

 Growing in a stream in Eastshore, on Robert Goudies land, the Magellan Daisy .  Robert has lived. In the house for about 5 years. It had been  empty for 10 years before that. Although Robert didn't know much about the plants origins, he was interested in the theories behind how it came to be growing in Shetland.
Check the tabs at the top of my blog for info about the mystery!

Roberts family are from Tingwall and Nesting in the north of Shetland. The name can be traced back to the 1700's ion the Islands. Robert wondered if  Goudie, or variations of, came from Danish sailors.  A few generations of men in his own family have sailed the globe   - maybe they brought back the seed's from the flower, a native if South America!?!?

There are more clumps growing next to the road in the boggy ground at the last turn off to Eastshore, before Sumburgh airport.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Skovi Kapps and witches spells - Shetland.

 These two bowls are in Scalloway Museum, Shetland. They are made from wood and highly decorated inside and out. I have one at home. They are originally from the Baltic/Russian area. There used to be a large one in Thurso library, Caithness.  I think they may have been grain measuring bowls? Anyone out there know more?
In  Shetland, they are known as skovi kapps.  Once brought here during trading in the Baltic, they were supposedly used by Shetland witches to cause storms st sea and sink boats.  They filled a large bowl with water, and floated one of the smaller ones in it. After reciting a curse, they stirred up the water. This was replicated out at sea where a particular boat named in the curse was located.  This method of raising the wind, and using three knots folklore (witch knots), seems to be common in the north.

The last witches to be burnt in Shetland were Barbara Tulloch and her daughter Ellen King. It was in Scalloway, 1712.

To the light. Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, Shetland

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This is my front door. Artist in residence for all of May.