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