Saturday, September 28, 2013

Making Connections - Iceland - Part 3 of 4

Þórður Tómasson stands proudly when I ask if I can take his photo.  Quite right too, as this is his museum at  Skogar  in South Iceland. He started collecting in 1949, and hasn't stopped since.   

The collection relates to everyday life in Iceland, from fishing to farming and everything in-between. 

Many of the artefact's would have been quite at home in Mary-Ann's Cottage, in Caithness, Scotland, a croft house built in the 1850's and farmed by the same family for 150 years, now open to the public in the summer months, run by the volunteers of the Caithness Heritage Trust. This weekend it closes for the season. Mary-Ann was the last in the family to live there. It's only a few hundred yards from my house, and has continued to fascinate me.

Wood was in short supply, both in Iceland and Caithness, and was put to similar uses.

"Driftwood was a resource of vital importance in olden times, used for building houses, boats and bridges,  and for all kinds of farm implements and domestic utensils. Many trees originating in Siberia, such as pine, fir and larch, are carried to Iceland via the Arctic Ocean currents, while the Gulf Stream brings mahogany, for instance, from Central America,  The driftwood, impregnated with salt water, generlly withstood Iceland's wet and windy weather conditions well.
Those who owned or leased land along the shore had a right to all that washed ashore there.  Each estate had it's own mark. when timber or other driftwood was found on the shore, the owner's driftwood mark was cut into it; this established his right to the wood, even if it was carried by the waves to another beach before it could be collected."  Info from Skogar Museum.
This caught my eye, a sheep-skin oilskin jacket in Skogar Museum, and below one of my artworks, made a few years ago......... an adult size paper jacket inspired by the maiden voyage of the Westland Ship in 1879 from Scotland to New Zealand. Mary-Anns father, William Young was one of the crew.  I printed nautical imagery related to the voyage on my handmade papers, then brushed it with kakishibu, a traditional Japanese technique of waterproofing paper (it also made it insect proof and a deep rusty colour).
There are more direct connections too, the use of horse hair for rope making.  At Mary-Anns,  I found a tin with fragments of horse hair attached to fishing hooks. A strong material, it was a prized, and in short supply.  Mary-Ann and her family had two horses, Tom and Dolly, so they had their own supply of hair.  Reading in 'Highland Folk Ways' by I. F. Grant, she tells of St Kilda men unable to marry until they had a horse hair fowling rope so he could catch seabirds and provide for his family.  A St. Kilda woman was also to offer 1lb of horsehair  as a wedding dowry. 

They should have moved to Iceland where the Icelandic horse (I'm told I shouldn't say pony!), introduced originally by Vikings,  a hardy animal, are in abundance.   Horse hair was used for rope making, weaving horse harnesses, in-soles for animal skin shoes, rugs, sieves and more...... including what has been described as the first abstract art in Iceland.  This wall hanging is made from horse-hair by the mother of one our hosts Auður Hildur Hákonardóttir. It now hangs in Skogar Museum.  
One of the traditional skills workshops organise by our hosts at their shop and workshop at Thingborg , was making a woven belt - we didn't use horse hair (It was tricky enough just using wool!).


If you'd like to see more photos from inside Skogar Museum, click here to go to my Iceland 2013 flickr set.  Photo to the right... Hildur tells us about horse hair and it's many uses.

Part 4 of Icelandic Connections.......soon.

The funders for this Icelandic adventure were Grundtvig, ARCH and the partners in Iceland were Thingborg or 'The Wool House'.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Joanne. I visited Iceland back in 2006, and was amazed by it. I visited the National Museum, which has a fantastic collection. I didn't manage to have such adventures as you're having though. It's somewhere I'd like to visit again. You're bringing back good memories!