An Artist's Story

Early in the 1970’s there was an exhi­bi­tion of Navajo rugs at the Royal

Scot­tish Museum in Edin­burgh, Scot­land. It was the first time these rugs had been seen in Scot­land. For me it was the beginning  a life­time fas­ci­na­tion with the colours, pat­terns and tex­tures of the woven form. Even now over forty years later I can still go to the art of the Native Amer­i­cans for inspi­ra­tion...... but there have been many other influ­ences on my work along the way.

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Two years at the Scot­tish Col­lege of Tex­tiles, five years at Edin­burgh Col­lege of Art and a sum­mer school at Tyler School of Art in Philadel­phia gave me the “tools of my trade”. I also enjoyed the lux­ury of time to devote to my work, with­out dis­trac­tion.  It is, how­ever, travel to other cul­tures… Turkey, Japan, Mex­ico and North Amer­ica, and a life lived on both sides of the Atlantic that has really informed my work. And of course no Scot­tish artist can fail to be inspired by the land, sea and ever chang­ing sky of their home­land, and that is ever the case for me!

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After graduation I emigrated with my fiancee to the USA.  Life there in the late 70’s and early 80’s was new, exciting and prolific, with exhibitions in Scotland and the US, and awards from the Philadelphia Guild of Handweavers and the Handweavers Guild of America.

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In the 80’s and back in Scot­land, I began to weave minia­tures, enjoy­ing the abil­ity to have a fin­ished piece in a mat­ter of hours rather than months! We lived and worked on the Far North West coast in a com­mu­nity of crafts­peo­ple, and ran a small gallery dur­ing the sum­mer months.

 

These tapestries are all about 2″x 2″, wool, cotton, mohair and silk, some framed under glass.  They are the first of hundreds that I’ve woven in the years since.

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The Scottish Highlands

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Surrounded by this kind of landscape how could we not be inspired! We would walk almost daily down this road to Balnakeil Beach. This is where we lived and ran our business. 60 miles of single lane roads with passing places to the next bigger village. 110 miles to the nearest hospital or supermarket. No television reception! The mail bus came once a day and all our orders had to be shipped by mail.

Miniature Landscape Tapestries

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In the Far North, land­scape became the obvi­ous sub­ject mat­ter for minia­ture tapes­tries. They proved very pop­u­lar in our gallery dur­ing the tourist sea­son, and we began to mar­ket them else­where through gift and trade shows. My hus­band, a book­binder, designed hand made note­books, and both prod­ucts were selected by the British Design Cen­tre, London.

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Ruadh Workshops

The woven minia­ture land­scape tapes­tries were exhib­ited in trade shows in  New York, Lon­don, Paris and Frank­furt and found their way to gal­leries, gift shops and museum shops throughout the world. I trained local women as apprentices to weave and help with their pro­duc­tion. Oth­ers learned sim­ple book­bind­ing skills. By the late 1980’s more than 40 people had learned to weave and had found employment with Ruadh Work­shops, helping contribute to the local economy.

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After about 6 years in Balnakeil Craft Village we moved our family and our business a bit further south to Cromarty on the Black Isle, and nearer Inverness.  Here I branched out designing more Limited Edition pieces and  collection of Miniature Navajo blankets framed under glass.  Each design was carefully researched and reproduced as accurately as possible given the limitation of scale….a return to my original inspiration!

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Dur­ing this time I main­tained a reg­u­lar sched­ule of exhi­bi­tions in the USA and Europe. But by 1989 it had become clear that our two sons would need more oppor­tu­ni­ties than we could offer them in the remote High­lands. A choice had to be made to move closer to the urban areas of the UK or return to the USA.

In 1989 we emi­grated again to the Philadel­phia area of the USA. Free of the need to run a busi­ness, I was again able to weave what I felt inspired to weave. My work could evolve!

Pastel and Fibre

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In the 90’s I started playing with pastel. It was fun to have a more immediate medium. I could even get my hands dirty!. First representative pieces, then some incorporating fibre. Fibre and pastel seem quite alike in their visual qualities and work well together.

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Mixed  Media

By the 2000s my work was becoming more like mixed media collage as I incorporated different materials.

 

These years also allowed time to teach spinning, knit “prayer shawls’ and learn to digitize and print my work.

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Musical Influence

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It is difficult to imagine my life without music: I have been singing in choirs since I was a child and have had the privilege of singing literally hundreds of works from the choral repertoire.

 

Sometimes my work as an artist is influenced by a piece I am rehearsing, sometimes influenced just by having music playing in the background. Sometimes a particular piece of music becomes the art work, as in “The Silver Swan” (By Orlando Gibbons), other times actual fragments of the printed music become part of the piece as in “Voices in the Choir”

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Here and Now

Much has happened since the beginning of this story. My husband has become an Episcopal priest with his own parish, all our parents, aunts and uncles have died, and our two sons have grown into fine adults with creative projects of their own in music and sound, film and IT.

 

For eight years with a doctor friend I managed a Clinic for people with no health insurance. Now retired from that I again spend my days in my studio and garden.

I have been trying in my pastels to capture the mist, sea and sky of home…the ‘haar’ as it’s sometimes called. These have become more abstract as time has gone on and have inspired a new style of tapestry in which I try to create the ‘feel’ of the mist. They are woven in mohair and brushed…it is almost like like painting in mohair and I am excited to see where they will lead me!  

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I am thrilled to now be working in my new studio in The Spring City Mill Studios.

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Everything Changes

In the spring of 2020 the Corona virus hit.  I have been fortunate to be able to work from home (although I miss my new studio) and I have had a burst of creativity!  I began to work on a small scale in oil pastel.  Initially I hoped  they would be a new inspiration for tapestries, but I found I enjoyed these small works for themselves.  Here are a few of my favourites.  The growing collection can be found in the NEW section under OIL PASTELS.  

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Who knows what lies ahead, but I am grateful for the gifts I have been given, and will continue to use them as long as I can.  I am sure this is not the end of my story!