Works in Progress

For my artist in residency I had a very definite plan on what I would create. It was big and bold and very ambitious. All the characteristics I want in a new creative project.  But when I arrived at the Booth,  this plan had to be set aside for a multitude of reasons.

I have just completed a body of work for the Sea States exhibition in Italy, one that was very intensive, both physically and emotionally. At the time of making my project proposal for my residency, I had no idea how involved I would get in the creation of that work, and how much it would take out of me. The creation of a single piece of felt as an installation that viewers could walk into, is just not possible for me energetically right now. The size of the work space and environmental factors like strong winds are obstacles that can be overcome with some changes to the layout work and creative problem solving, but these do require a huge amount of physical and mental effort.  

I’ve also been reminded that for outdoor installations, it is necessary to spend time immediately in the physical environment, soaking it in, and then develop the work to respond to that space. The important elements become very clear through quiet observation, which just can’t happen until you are present.

The features that are most prevalent for me are the lines of the land. Lines of colour demarcating different plants. Lines of erosion. The lines made in the grasses by the wind, and the lines channeled into the earth by the flow of water. Here these patterns feel so similar to the maplines and Polynesian stick maps I referenced in the Sea States work. It’s so interesting to see and feel this progression of an underlying theme. The undercurrents.

I was planning on working all in white wool, and that will still be predominant, but I find myself more drawn right now to the deep dark natural wool colours of the shetland wool.  

The shetland wool is so soft, and immediately warm in my hands. The natural black wool reminds me of the peat beds that are everywhere. As I lay out the layers of natural wool,  and add the archaeological line patterns in prefelts made in the shetland wools or merino in traditional shetland fair isle colours,  I feel like I am building up layers of history and connection, and then adding the veil of time with a covering of more wool or organic cotton. The lines are revealed just a little through cutting lines patterns  into the surface layers and then through the felting.

The line patterns left in the archaeological sites, through the time periods, the bronze age, iron age and norse settlement periods, are so unique and resonant. The bronze and iron age patterns are very familiar, and feel like a deepening and enriching of the patterns I embedded in some of my earlier illuminated work. The norse structures have left similar patterns to the lines in the land.

It all feels very whole and complete, and very different from where I had planned on going.  If I were to forge ahead with my original plan, the work would just be a construction, but lacking the personal depth I need for it to hold.

The last feature that has been a major influence is boat construction. Through my windows and doors, my main view across the harbour is Moore’s Boatyard.   Everyday the work on the boats progresses a little more. A slow but consistent changing of the view in each day.

These wooden boats have beautiful lines of patterning. 

The boats suspending in the Boat Hall at the Shetland Museum create a feeling of swimming with whales. The white boat looks almost illuminated, which led into one of the pieces I am now working on.

It is a bit of a struggle to let go of my original concepts and still feel like I am progressing with my work here and using my time here to best advantage.

It’s become very much an information/ inspiration gathering/conceptual development residency, with the new pieces as samples and leanings into what will become. I hope to return next year to fulfill the installation aspect. 

By exploring and allowing these major themes to play out in my designs, the work feels right.




  1. Carol April 27, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    I find it heartwarming to read your progress on your residency. I have done 2 residencies and with each one I have gone with a set idea of what I wanted to accomplish – perhaps influenced by the notion that I had to make the most of the precious time I had been given to devote myself solely to my work. Each time, my original ideas have been blown to the wind and I have found myself doing something that was unplanned and very influenced by where I am. I’m thinking your experiences along with mine are lessons I need to be mindful of. Thank you for your post. I felt compelled to respond!

  2. Duckshedfelt April 27, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    I so wanted to come but wrong year. How lovely to be able to get wisps of your work via the blog. Thank you.

  3. Deb April 27, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    Thank you for being so open and honest with your experiences. I find reading about your process very inspirational as I am just beginning my own explorations. Looking forward to finished photos!

  4. Phyllis Gropp April 24, 2017 at 7:28 pm

    From Viking lineage myself, I love the boat you are making. Some of the decor on the side remind me of petroglyphs, rock carved pictures found on walls and caves. Please show us the finished work when you can.
    Will be following this eagerly.

  5. Anna April 24, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    It’s really generous of you to share these insights…and helpful to understand the work that follows…