Since early last year I have been thinking about new directions in my work. Those of you who know me will be familiar with a series of pieces completed over several years that explored the marks made by stonemasons when they built the Romanesque churches that are part of our British landscape. In particular I was looking at the small church of St Athernase in Leuchars, Fife, just across the River Tay from me. However I feel that I can’t keep going with that – it’s run its course even although I still have an interest in the style of architecture, the history of that period and the marks are still fascinating as textural marks. I have used the textural surface of stone, the marks formed by stone masons as they dressed the stones for building, as a rich source of inspiration for my stitched textiles. The marks of production of these ancient stone blocks, looked to me as if they were stitches on fabric – stone marks in textiles. The subtle colour variations reflected their geology and indeed the geographical source, and helped form some of the colour schemes. The Qutub series was still engaged with stone marks but I found it impossible not to reflect the more vibrant colours that any visitor to India experiences and there is still more I want to do with this theme.
However, over the summer while out walking I started to think about Boundaries – that bit of land that marks the division in the land and separates the cultivated from the uncultivated, the tamed from the wild. The more I thought about it other Boundaries occurred to me, the social, culture, gendered boundaries we negotiate in society. I started taking notes and thinking about these themes and possibilities for new work. It would still have involved mark making, print and stitch but offered a chance to explore new ideas.
A week’s holiday in a well-known and much loved area of Scotland’s North West Highlands opened up another possibility which is where I want to now go with my work. I have a deep
emotional attachment to the area and I think it is time I explored the themes and ideas and see what happens.
The area is one of crofting and fishing, Gaelic speaking, but since my family started visiting and the roads have improved, it has become a popular place for holidays as it offers peace and wonderful, indeed spectacular, scenery. The village looks out on to the Minch and looking out to sea to the West, the islands of Skye and the Outer Hebrides are clearly visible. My childhood holidays were spent feeding pet lambs, collecting eggs from the hens, collecting and pressing the abundant wild flowers, playing on the beach and running wild. Blissful.
With Boundaries in mind I was observing the area during our trip with a view to incorporating elements into my new work because there the Boundaries really do mark the tamed and untamed. It suddenly occurred to me during one of our walks that the croft markers, the wooden posts that marked the Boundaries between crofts, were still very evident and indeed modern OS maps of the area clearly show these Boundaries. I had my project.
This then is what I’ve been thinking about and working on since September. After all these years I think it’s time I looked at this area.
Watch this space………