Monday, April 14, 2014

Near and Farr - Friday 16th May 2014 in Bettyhill "......Using the extraordinary Portable Museum of Curiosity...."

Festival of Museums.
Very nice to see my portable museum  inspiring new work......

"Romp through time in this play based right here in Strathnaver! Using the extraordinary Portable Museum of Curiosity to explore the history of the local area, our local youngsters have been inspired to devise and stage their own play, using the mysterious, megalithic Farr Stone as a focal point for their story. This is a great, community event for all the family – come and see where a Highland Tardis would go!"

Click here to go to the Festival of Museums website.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sperm Whale tooth - concealed within Icelandic Mystery

I've just returned from an Icelandic Adventure. On the last day we visited a Viking Boat Museum -Vikingaheimar .
One object on display was this fragment of a Sperm Whale Tooth.
 "Sperm Whale tooth.  Ivory from a tooth like this was especially sought after for its whiteness, and would have been a valuable trade good.  This worked tooth however was found within the walls of the Vogur Hall.  Perhaps it was left there as a thanks to the gods for making an entire sperm whale wash ashore."

Inspired by the Melness Shoe, found councealed within the walls of a house and now in Strathnaver Museum, I'm on the look out for other concealed mysteries!
The funders for this research trip were Grundtvig and ARCH the partner in Iceland were Thingborg or 'The Wool House'.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sound Installation coming to Bettyhill very soon!

The sound installation has needed a timescale all of its own.  I have learned so much about working with Archives since I began this Strathnaver project.  Choosing the recordings took a long time.  In fact that only really came together after all my other creative work and research was complete.    And then I found the right title, in an article by Ian Grimble about Edie Mackay of Strathnaver:

Cainnt is Ceòl an Teallaich/Fireside Tales and Tunes

One of these handmade books sits in the installation box above the headphones.  As you read, the tapes lead you through a world of  drovers and cattle, clearance and emigration, fishing and survival.

There are 30 books.  Each is earmarked for one of the amazing people, from Sutherland to Edinburgh, who helped me to complete my Strathnaver Residency project. The fabulous activists, artists, scholars and friends who make everything possible.

The box is looking good and the technical challenges are almost resolved. The installation will be home in Bettyhill by the end of the month!

Friday, May 31, 2013

50 paper shoes to be 'concealed' in Estonia Next week!!

Issie MacPhail will be travelling to the Estonia next week with Archnetwork........... and is taking with her 50 of my paper shoes, to 'conceal'!!  A ladies shoe, made in the late 1800's, was donated to Strathnaver Museum. The shoe had been concealed, possibly for good luck or to ward off evil spirits, inside the walls of a house in the village of Melness.  It was  found, along with a dogskin buoy and whisky bottle. 
Have you found anything unusual concealed within the walls of your house?? We would like to know.  The Melness shoe, as it has become known, is now listed on the Directory of Concealed Shoes at Nothampton Museum. 
Is this tradition also shared with Estonia.........we may find out !

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Strathnaver Museum 2012/13 artist residency blog.: Lorraine Robson

Strathnaver Museum 2012/13 artist residency blog.: Lorraine Robson


A common theme emerging from the Strathnaver Museum Residency is one of discovery.

For me it all started with the Chealamy Beaker held in the museum collection. A Bronze Age Burial Beaker that was never intended to be ‘discovered’. It was buried in a cist, or grave, containing food or offerings for the deceased. It was only discovered by accident when workmen were digging ditches.

The artist who took care and skill to make the vessel would never imagine that in over 3000 years people from the future would marvel at their creation.

Joanne B Kaar’s inspiration came primarily from the Melness Shoe that had been hidden within a cottage wall. Again it was never the intention for it to be discovered. Subsequently its discovery and the discovery of other buried or hidden objects throughout history provide us with insight into past beliefs and superstitions once held.

Liz Myhill researched and observed the Strathnaver surrounding areas, taking inspiration from the people, dwelling, villages and the landscape. She made numerous sketches and photographs in producing her prints.

As well as her beautiful prints, Liz has left her own legacy in the form of a treasure hunt referred to as Geocashing. (Please refer to Liz Myhill blogs for more info) This legacy inviting interaction and discovery will continue long after the residency programme has ended.

While spending time at Bettyhill, Liz and I talked about the project, the possibilities and exchanged many ideas. We soon decided to collaborate on works incorporating both clay and print in the future but also to leave something behind - a little time capsule - to be discovered either next week, next year, next century or in 3000 years!

Our little something took the form of a small stoneware vessel, based on a cross between fishing floats and degrading air sac forms in washed up kelp I’d observed on loch shores.
Liz, Ronnie and I visited Lotte Globs croft and pottery at Loch Eriboll in August 2012. I left with a great sense of excitement and admiration for Lottes, vision for her croft and surroundings also her dedication and practice of leaving works in the landscape, often in very remote areas. They become part of the landscape and may never be found.

For artists to use the landscape as their ‘gallery’ is not a new idea. For Land Artists, take a look at the work of Andy Goldsworthy (less permanent) or Richard Long whose art is predominantly land based.

In keeping with the idea of discovery and the detective work often involved with archaeology, for example, I deliberately used the pinching method to produce the vessel – thus leaving my own finger prints and finger nail marks in the fired clay, hidden inside the vessel, like those I observed in Viking pots recently. Should the pot be discovered it is likely to be smashed to reveal the contents, and the finger prints left by the maker.

Initially we wanted to place our little ceramic and print offerings in the carved cup marks found in ‘Cup stones’ like the cup stone example displayed in Strathnaver Museum.

Unfortunately we could not find a suitable location. So taking the lead from Lotte and her “Floating Stones” we decided to set our offering adrift in one of the many lochs.

It will either, float around remaining in the water, sink or settle on shore where it will eventually be consumed by the silt layers and changing landscape.

The silk print is sealed in a rubber tube, with our web addresses for clues and contact, before being entombed in the sealled ceramic vessel.

It is hoped that even if the ceramic is smashed the print will be preserved within the tube.

Huge thanks go to Liz and Ronnie for braving the cold and ice to launch the vessel in the mystery location.



From Knitting to Netting - Strathnaver Museums's portable museum of curiosity.





BBC Alba to film at Strathnaver Museum tomorrow (Thursday 11th April).

Strathnaver Museums portable museum of curiosity.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Who let those sheep out (again)!

Aggie - trying out a few different hair styles......... ideas for a board game in the portable museum for Strathnaver............. baaaaaaaaaaaahh.....!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Line baskets

 Picture is of Strathnaver Museums line basket.

Extract below is from the Scottish Basket Makers Circle 'Woven Communites' website:

"......Line baskets were used by fishermen to keep lines, sometimes miles in length, with hooks attached to them which were baited ready for fishing. There was two types of line fishing, small line and great line and different styles of baskets were used for each. The baskets used also varied depending on the region in which they were made and used...."

Here's a link to the website to read more:

This is the label attached to the basket. It reads ' Donated by Hugh John Mackay, Ardnabruth, Portskerra.
I'm working on the image of a line basket for one of the side panels on the Strathnaver Museum Portable Museum of Curiosity . There are two line baskets in the museum, and I've chosen the better looking one, and it has a label attached with details of the donor. One thing leads to another........... as I was recently in touch with basketmaker Dawn Susan, from the Western Isles ( a purchased willow cuttings from her a few years ago), and then met her in St. Andrews at last year's Woven Communities Symposium - a fabulous event bringing experts from around the globe together for all aspects of a basket - from the type of plants used in different countries, ethnographic and anthropology experts, how baskets were used as well as basket makers investigating different making techniques. I was invited because of my research making the replica grass garments of Angus MacPhee.
Dawn was in touch as she is gathering information about baskets in Scotland, and has added info about a Caithness Heather Creel........ that's another research project..... you can read more by clicking here.
Baskets in Strathnaver Museum - if you have any info about these baskets, or have a basket at home, do contact Dawn, to help research on Scotland's Woven Communities.

Why Strathnaver Portable Museum of Curiosity is this shape......

".....The room is dominated by the massive pulpit erected in 1774, emblazoned with the initials of the Rev George Munro. It was here from the pulpit that David Mackenzie was obliged to read out the eviction notices in 1819 and more happily it was here that people from all over north Sutherland assembled in 1883 to testify before Lord Napier and his colleagues in a Parliamentary Commission. Their subsequent report was accepted by Parliament and led to substantial improvements in the conditions of crofters and other small tenants.........."

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

who let those sheep out??

A portable museum of curiosity for Strathnaver Museum.....
The fun part... when the lid is opened you hear a very noisy flock of sheep!
Click here for the link to a noisy flock of sheep, then mouse over the sound waves to see the arrow you click to listen!
 A great day out west today to meet with many of the museum volunteers.
Loads of ideas for the portable museum, and now we are starting to think about the details, so a return visit in 3 weeks time - and for now, the box is in Strathnaver museum, to help inspire .........

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Melvich Primary School

The object I chose to research from The Strathnaver Museum collection
as part of the Strathnaver Museum Residency programme funded by
Highland Leader 2007-2013 and the Heritage Lottery Fund is the Bronze
age Chealamy Beaker.

As part of my research into burial beakers I spoke with an archeologist and visited
Caithness Horizons, Thurso and the National Museum of Scotland,
Edinburgh to observe similar beaker examples discovered from all
over UK. 

It's interesting that most examples, regardless of origin
location share similar pattern. I found out that concentric horizontal
lines, a common feature, like the lines found round the collar of the
Chealamy Beaker were often made using twine wrapped round the pot
when the clay was soft.

Detail Chealamy Beaker

For this reason I decided to use string and clay with the Melvich PS
children to make texture drawings.
Working with composite class P1-P4 I presented a PowerPoint talk
explaining about pattern and texture. I demonstrated that drawings
could be made by placing a sheet of paper over something with a bumpy
texture the then rubbing over the paper with the side of a crayon.
Something they could do to capture the relief pattern and symbols
found on the Farr Stone in the grounds of the Strathnaver Museum.

texture workshop - February 2013

The children enjoyed rolling out slabs of clay, as if they were baking
biscuits, then they arranged string and twine into patterns on the
flat clay surface. Rolling pins were used to roll the string into the
clay. It was then peeled off the clay to reveal incised lines. We used
plastic strips round the designs to form a container to pour in
plaster. When the plaster set hard the result was white discs with the
pattern in relief.  These plaster discs could be used to create crayon
drawings like the rubbings we'd discussed.

Plaster discs

The remaining clay slabs, with the string indentations, were then cut
into discs, round clay tiles, and will be fired in a kiln before
returning them to the Strathnaver Museum for display.

Many thanks to all the staff and pupils for making me feel very welcome and thanks to Jim Johnston for making a special trip to take some photos for his newspaper article. His support is greatly appreciated.

19 February 2013

Article in John O Groat Journal, 22nd February 2013