A perfect evening at Calgary Bay on the Isle of Mull, Scotland; the sea like a silver mirror and the sky turning pastel shades as the sun sets. The sound of the waves and cries of oyster catchers at the edge of the water. A gaggle of Barnacle geese pass overhead, looking for grazing in the nearby fields. A moment of calm. Earlier in the week, the first evening of the holiday, I sat out late, watching the stars appear until the sky was full, and wished upon shooting stars, space dust that fell as the Earth passed through debris associated with the Swift-Tuttle comet precipitating the Perseid meteor shower. Across the valley, Tawny owls call to each other, beginning their nightly hunt. This holiday was a much-needed haven of inspiration and restoration; a time to visit family and friends after almost a year of absence, and a time to travel, to reconnect with those special places that brings silence amongst all the noise.
After almost a year of restricted travel, I feel lucky to have been able to return to the UK during August, to see family and friends, and to holiday on the Isle of Mull; I feel recharged and ready for the colder months. The value of being able to travel, to explore and experience different places is vital to the progressions of my work. August is a month where not much weaving happens, but I have some exciting projects beginning to take shape, and after a month away from the loom, I’m itching to get back to it.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park
The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is one of those special places. A place for art and nature to coexist in the rolling parklands that surround Bretton Hall. I first discovered YSP whilst studying in Sheffield in the early 1990s, and wandered amongst the Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore works that sit so comfortably in the Yorkshire landscape. The walk around the perimeter and up to the Longside Gallery passes works by Andy Goldsworthy, with views out towards Emley Moor. Inside the gallery, with its changing collection, I found, among other work, pieces by Rachel Whiteread and Alice Channer – whose work I was later this month was to discover at Orford Ness.
The Isle of Mull: a special place
Mull and Calgary Bay have become a part of my life. First discovered while on a cycling tour of the Hebrides some 15 years ago, Mull is somewhere I have returned to almost every year now. It has witnessed first me, then me accompanied by my children, who have played happily on the white sands of Calgary Bay each summer and have also grown attached to this place. The colour and textures, the light, the wonders of its nature, the ever-changing weather, the feeling of being exposed to the vastness of the Atlantic. These are all a part of its magic.
Tobermory, the largest settlement on Mull, is home to An Tobar Arts Centre, cafe and gallery. In the gallery at the time of my visit was a collection of screen printed textiles by Eve Campbell exploring the shapes and patterns of the ‘cultural landscapes’ in the Hebrides, and inspired by the intricate patterns formed by the marks of nature and by the island’s inhabitants over thousands of years. This was accompanied by a fascinating collection of aerial photographs of stone fanks, or sheepfolds, on Mull, Iona and Ulva, by local Carolyne Mazur. These structures are scattered across the island, and illustrate changes in crofting and farming life over the last 200 years, themselves becoming abstract images perfectly capturing the colours and atmospheres of Mull and its sister-islands.
Orford Ness: nature prevails
I recently visited the Orford Ness Nature Reserve and former military testing site on the Suffolk coast, UK. Managed by the National Trust, nature is regaining its hold on this very special piece of coastline, a constantly shifting spit of shingle and salt marshes formed by the prevailing northerly wind. During the 20th century, and especially the Cold War, it was used to test aircraft, communications and weapons. The now eerily abandoned structures are submitting to the onslaught of the weather and flora.
It currently hosts ‘Afterness’ – an exhibition of new artworks by various artists in conjunction with Artangel. ‘Lethality and Vulnerability’ by Alice Channer, housed in The Shelter, is a writhing organic structure that escapes its space through the windows of the building, echoing the brambles and other flora that are consuming the manmade structures.
Black Beacon, originally constructed to develop radio systems for marine navigation, houses the ‘Library of Sound’. This collection of archival sound recordings captured on Ness by Iain Chambers, Chris Watson and Brian d’Souza morphs the sounds of the spit into atmospheric music.
This exhibition requires commitment – a long walk, as the artworks are installed on the far side of the spit, which can only be reached by booking a boat via the National Trust. This unsettling yet beautiful place will surely find its way into my future work.
‘Ness’, a novella/prose poem by Rob Macfarlane and illustrated by Stanley Donwood, tells the story of a salt-and-shingle island where the land is coming to life to reclaim its own. From the book:
Listen. Listen now. Listen to Ness.
Ness speaks. Ness speaks gull, speaks wave, speaks bracken & lapwing, speaks bullet, ruin, gale, deception.
‘Song of Ness, the drifting song, the final song …’
The bomb is buried beneath more layers of moss, more layers of moths.
The ferro-concrete is experiencing uncontrolled ruination.
Willow flourishes as forest, elder jungles each dip, each hollowness.
The falcon is bearing the day away.
The foreshore is moving as if it were alive, because it is alive.
After moonrise. Long light. Low sun. Slow dusk.
Shingle hush from distal to Ness.
Woven art textiles and exhibition: capturing memories
Weaving purely as an art form, creating art pieces intended as wall art for interiors, has been a focus of my work this year. It enables me to experiment freely and work with unusual materials. In July, I finished a second collection of wallhangings, and some of my work will be displayed at the upcoming WEEFNETWERK exhibition (17-26 September, Steenfabriek at Gilze, The Netherlands). I’m currently looking for more opportunities to exhibit my work.
New palette and future work
For September I have a new palette of colours to work with. I’ll be working on a new collection of cushions and soft furnishings. I’m currently having a sale of older designs, scarves and cushions, in my online shop LiminalWeave.
Until next time…
Here in The Netherlands it feels like summer is mellowing into autumn, and dusk falls earlier as we approach the September equinox; there’s a sense of change in the air. I look forward to seeing you here again for my next blog in September as I continue on my journey through the ever-changing year.
With warm August wishes, Veronica