Its time to handover the Helmsdale tablecloth.  I had an exciting day this week battling with winds in a photoshoot with Eoin Carey. Inspired by his recent project Washing Lines , we headed up a hill with the tablecloth and washing line posts and battled a little with wind and rain. Despite this Eoin got some great results which place the Map tablecloth  and Inventory of Making t-towels in the environment.  

This weekend celebrates the finale of Creative Place and Serendipitous North residencies with Timespan Museum and Arts Centre in Helmsdale. I will hand over the tablecloth to the community and allow it to develop a life of its own , being adapted and changed over time. A set of T-towels printed with an Inventory of Making have been completed and will be for sale in Timespans shop. 

There is so much to update as its been a busy time recently but the first bit of news is that I have been collaborating with Hanna Tuulikki on costumes for Sing Sign which will be an installation and performance in Edinburgh Arts Festival 2015.
Inspired by a map of Edinburgh, Hannas graphic drawing of the Royal Mile has been digitally printed onto Tyvek to form a scroll down the front of the costume.  In addition exagerated Tyvek collars decorate felt Baroque inspired coats and flashes of gold and lace can be seen in  pleats and cuffs.

SING SIGN: a close duet is a vocal and gestural suite devised for the historic ‘closes’ of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. In these confined medieval spaces two performers present a playful Baroque scenario. Their face-to-face encounter is also relayed in a film installation, at Gladstone’s Land.

Composed and choreographed in response to a street-map dating from 1765, the street layout provides a visual score. The music takes the form of a wordless hocket (a musical device where the melody is split between two voices), divided between the singers in accordance with the closes, as they branch off from the arterial high street. T­he choreography spells out street names, in a back-and-forth progression, weaving together British Sign Language, mimetic hand gesture, and exaggerated body language.

Reflecting on the nature of dialogue and bringing together the seemingly opposed forms of singing and signing, Tuulikki explores the diverse, non-sensical ways in which we experience the city, immersed in sensory data, and mediated by the language(s) we have access to.

SING/SIGN is performed by Daniel Padden and Hanna Tuulikki, and developed with Deirdre Nelson (costume), Karen Forbes (British Sign Language choreography), Daniel Warren (film), Pete Smith (sound), Robin Gillanders (photography)

photo shoot with Robin Gillanders

m a p MAKING

Serendipitous North residency at Timespan Museum and arts centre

‘in my view, what continues to distinguish the crafts, to make them highly visible , is the care with which they have been made , the fact that they have been made by one human being for another , the individual take , the use of materials and the thoughtfulness of their design: design with attitude. And yes, the patient mastery of technique until it becomes second nature. The crafts have become a wide range of possibilities, a spectrum and the more inclusive and varied and versatile the better’
Christopher Frayling.  The power of Making. V& A Publishing and Crafts Council . Edited by Daniel Charney 

Rather than focusing solely on craft as a studio practice , I am more interested in Making in everyday lives and in exploring the often hidden making that goes on, those activities which are often not considered creative or artistic.  The m a p MAKING project celebrates all types of making and mending in Helmsdale and explores places of making from  armchairs to  kitchen tables, sheds and crofts. I have been spotting ‘making’ in the village and documenting objects made through photography. This provides a beautiful visual resource of the making activity of the village.  In addition an Inventory of making has been created which lists making I have discovered over my time here. This will highlight just how much creative activity goes on in the village and provides an entertaining read listing everything from loom bands to jam to 3D printed sheep!  Word of each discovery is also put out there in the making world through twitter @map_MAKING. This links Helsmdale to the wider Making community.

“All of us can make. It is one of the strongest of human impulses and one of the most significant means of human expression. To some, making is the fountain that releases creative ideas; to others, making is about participating in society as well as defining personal identity. To most of those who make, though, it is likely that they do not think of it as creative activity. It is their way of making a living- an absolute necessity. The power of making, from the height of luxurious freedom to the depth of deprivation, is that it is something that people do.
While for some people making is critical for survival , for others it is a way of learning . And maybe also a way of defying conventions, enjoying life or solving its problems. Making serves other needs too. It allows people to care for loved ones, worship, mourn, celebrate or demonstrate. It is a way of exercising free will.
Though intentions and conditions vary, all makers participate in the unique human experience that comes from being completely engrossed in creative activity. Being ‘in the zone’ is felt by a four- year- old as much as by a seasoned master”
Daniel Charney The power of Making. V& A Publishing and Crafts Council . Edited by Daniel Charney 

Woodies and Knitwits
Over time I have been discovering all the fixing and making which goes on modestly behind closed doors. Spending time with established Making groups such as the Helmsdale Woodlanders and the Knitwits knitting group also  have been inspiring.  The ‘Woodies’ are ‘a group of highly motivated and, it has to be said, eccentric volunteers learning the arts of traditional woodland management and greenwood skills, meeting on a regular basis and having a laugh as well as doing some hard graft’. The knitwits are a knitting club who meet each Tuesday to work on both individual and communal projects also. Some of the group are also working on the Diaspora Tapestry  which links with other stitchers worldwide. There is much more to be discovered and my time on the residency is short but hopefully the project will provide a snapshot of how Helmsdale and many other villages are often undiscovered creative places.

Putting Helmsdale on the m a p

council estates

Exploring maps in the archive I came across a map from 1907 which had been adjusted (in biro pen ) to add later buildings to the town.  I began to think of how villages grow and change over time and that maps only provide a static moment in time.  I developed ideas around a community map tablecloth which could remain in the village long after my residency and could be adjusted or added to through stitch. This would provide a map which would evolve through time and making and something useful for a very active community.
I worked on the map digitally and this was printed at Centre for Advanced Textiles at Glasgow School of Art.  Julia Jappy the local tailoress finished the edges beautifully to make a tablecloth. The tablecloth has been to Thyme and Plaice café, the community centre and P7 at the local school have even added a few herring and salmon to the waters of Helsmdale.

drawing on map

Have a look at the Inventory of MAKING in Helmsdale 

I basket
2 pairs of adults knitted slippers
2 spoons
2 walking sticks one short one long
Knitted socks
Knitted hats
1 jar of wild garlic and walnut pesto
Rowan jelly
Loom bands
Papermache deer heads
Rowan  wedding platters
Noble Fir 3 legged stool
I white crochet blanket
4 3d printed sheep
Steak pies
Greenwood compost toilet  in progress
70 delegate badges
I pair of curtains
Crabapple and blackcurrant jam
I cardboard prototype Viking helmet
3d printed Venus de Milo
3d printed Lief Errickson
3D printed Japanese theatre mask
3 Victoria sponges
1 powerpoint on Monastic North
Elderlower wine
Childs socks
1 knitted hotwater bottle cover in progress
3D printed gold sheep
Pulled pork
Model remote car
Fishing flies
Box for archival tissue paper
I cardigan

I will be heading to Timespan Museum and Arts Centre soon to be craftsperson  in residence on their Serendipitious North Residencies. I hope to map Making in the village through uncovering often unseen creativity there. 
"Made possible by Helmsdale’s success at the  Creative Place Awards 2014,Serendipitous North is a creative mapping project and residency programme that celebrates the creativity and vibrancy of Helmsdale and its community, and inspires others with the unique culture of our small village in the far north of Scotland. From Summer 2014 – Spring 2015, Serendiptous North has been investigating six creative artforms: writing, music, dancing, sculpture, painting, and craft. An established creative practitioner from within each field will be invited to work in Helmsdale over a period of 6 weeks. They will find and map the creative activity existing that already exists in Helmsdale related to their artform, making visible the often unseen and unrecognised creativity of Helmsdale’s inhabitants and celebrating the vibrancy of our community in the far north of Scotland. Inspired by the unique culture of our village, each resident will then create a new work that draws on all that they discover.
Each residency will include a programme of events, activities and workshops open to all. These are an opportunity to share creative talent, meet others who have similar interests and learn new skills from established creative practicioners." 

The Kildas
3rd February - 1 March. Glad Cafe Glasgow 
A modern day pilgrimage in search of St Kilda
*Saint :  informal: a very kind, or patient person
The two names of the island group Hirte and St Kilda, have aroused discussion and controversy for over 200 years and much studying of maps and books can be done to investigate their origins. There are many myths surrounding the origins of the name St Kilda but one fact is clear. There is no ‘Saint’ Kilda.
On a modern day pilgrimage in search of ‘Saint’ Kilda, Deirdre travelled to the St Kildas of Scotland, Australia and New Zealand.  The resulting works reward and celebrate ‘saints’ met along the way.
Silver Coins from Scotland, Australia and New Zealand have been repurposed into medals.  These are combined with wool from each St Kilda region (from Soay and merino sheep) and Kildas sand embedded in bio resin. The project and making link both past and present, north and south and the people who inhabit the Kildas.
The Kildas was part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme. The Cultural Programme is a partnership between the Glasgow 2014 Organising Committee, Glasgow Life and Creative Scotland
Thank you to all ‘saints’ for their stories, inspiration and hospitality, Hazel Raee for spinning the Kildas wool and The School of Jewellery for expert jewellery tuition.

 t.       @thekildas

I recently was involved in the Small is Beautiful pecha kutcha at the Whisky Bond in Glasgow . It was an interesting evening of fast and furious presentations on the topic Practice, Money, Art and I chose to speak about money and the projects I have created which have generated money or related to money or exchange in some way

On 20th November at the Glad cafe I will be sharing The Kildas project as a work in progress talk . I will introduce 'saints' met on my travels and share the working processes involved in making crafted medals for each 'saint'. I have been working with coins from each area ( Scotland, New Zealand and Australia) 

Guest artists include Hanna Tuulikki, Alasdair Roberts and Judith Williams so it promises to be an interesting evening of craft word and song. 
photo by jeni reid

In August 2013 as part of Spincycle Skye with Sampler Culture Clash, a group of unusual suspects gathered to perform at Skye Bike Fest.   The sonic laboratory explored circular and periodic motion and all things that rotate, repeat, occillate and spin. As lead artist on the Spin project with Atlas Arts and with previous knowledge and admiration for previous projects with Sampler Culture Clash,  I developed ideas around a programme of events for the year long Spincycle programme.  Atlas arts invited David Littler and Jason Singh from Sampler Culture Clash to spend a week long residency on Skye working with spinners , weavers, knitters, singers, musicians and cyclists from the island to create a new performance 'Spincycle - A sonic journey into the world of spin'. Spincycle was a journey around the island; of circular and periodic motion; of revolutions and reels; cycles and occilations and rotations; a meeting of cultures and people connected through textiles and sound. The project supported by Creative Scotland.

Spincycle brought together David Littler, Jason Singh,  Skye Weavers,Hector Macinnes, singer Anne Martin  for a performance at Skye Bike Fest.  I joined the talented group and read a sock knitting pattern on stage during the performance. We were delighted with the outcome and determined to do it again! This year with support from Arts Council England, David Littler  made this happen as part of his Yan Van Tethera project in partnership with the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS).

"The project featured: An exhibition of new work by artists Freddie Robins, Shane Waltener, Prick Your Finger, Stewart Easton and the McGrath Makers Group delved deep into the EFDSS's archive; 
The project culminated in a live performance from sonic arts collective sampler-cultureclash as they unite Gaelic song with spinners, weavers and knitters, and traditional and electronic musicians in an exploration of things that spin."

As the finale to Yan Van Tethera project Spincycle took to the stage again with fantastic additions to the group, on bodhran and song Aimee Leonard,  on knitting machine Rachel Matthews, clogging by Laurel Swift and digital shenanigins with multi disciplinary artist Adam John WilliamsI was particularily excited to have the opportunity to be part of it all again but also use wearable technology in the form of a sensor glove as I read the sock knitting pattern.  Adam had partnered with  RS Components putting together a wearable musical instrument for Jason Singh to work with at Music Tech Fest. Have a look at Adam here in a great wee film.   

As a music lover, it was a real priveledge to be in rehearsals with such a talented bunch and watch in awe at the way they improvise and jam together.  Laurel Swift arrived on day 2 and began clogging and before long Aimee and Jason accompanied on Bodhran and beatboxing creating beautiful call and responses and united sound. Sampler culture clash are genius at bringing together diverse practices in both textiles and music and I am really proud to have been part of such an exciting venture fusing tradition and technology, hand and machine, gaelic song, clogging, beats and voice. 

Count me in on the next venture Mr David Litter of Sampler Culture Clash! 

photograph by Daniel Warren

Its been a busy summer getting costume ready for Away with the Birds. The performance was a great success and the singers stayed dry and warm in wool and neoprene!  Many thanks to Annalisa Simonella and Christie Alexander for their expert help in making ten costumes. The performance was filmed so there will be further news of where to see it again very soon! 

Jenny Brownrigg has written and indepth review of Away with the Birds  

'The costumes are a key element of production linking ancient belief in nature to the spiritual. The colour red in Celtic culture is associated with the otherworld. The redshank is the bird who sings to the soul on its departure to the next. Nelson references red in the singers’ legs and the pleated insert on the back of the tunics. The designer cleverly combines contemporary with historical fabric in the singers’ costumes. Local Canna wool made by islander Julie McCabe is used in the tunics, whilst hi-tech red neoprene creates the legs of the garment which allows the singers to move in the water. The hoods of the woolen shrugs, somewhat monastic in nature, are based on 1930s’ patterns of fishermen hoods, providing a protection against the elements. The hood is a key part of the outfit. When drawn up over the singer’s head it aids the visual transition of human turning into bird. The detail of the reveal is key too, with knitted white inserts in the sleeves under the arms, detailed with a ‘v’ pattern,  mimicking a skein of birds in flight. Tuulikki mentions in a studio visit that she enjoys the wordplay of ‘skein’, meaning a skein of wool or birds. At the back of the charcoal grey tunics, an inserted red pleat accentuates choreographed movement'


Since returning from the KILDAS I have been busy with other projects but at last have time to dedicate to creating a body of work for the KILDAS.  I have so many lovely recordings, images and many stories to tell of the many ‘saints’ I met along the way. I am beginning to wade through them all and find a way of bringing it together for an exhibition.

I have been considering appropriate materials to use for the creation of ‘awards’/ ‘medals’ and working with both found objects and wool from the three St Kildas. With the expert help to Alison Macleod and Marianne Anderson of the School Of Jewellery in Glasgow I have been experimenting with silver from coins from New Zealand, Scotland and Australia. The coins not only link each Kilda but in exploring and questioning ideas of the history of currency and commonwealth.  The silver from each coin has been reused and new works are begin created with each ‘saint’ in mind.
It is exciting to learn new techniques and begin to combine textiles with new materials and ways of transforming silver coins into new works.

A work in progress evening will be held at THE GLAD CAFÉ in Glasgow the evening of 20th November. 

Very soon I will be heading to Isle of Skye to exhibit knitted work as a result of the project Lùb | Loop  with Atlas arts  2013/14. A series of hand knitted socks will be on display at Skye Agriculture Show alongside the best of Skyes agriculture.  
A knitted map of Skye accompanies the socks. Knit in local, hand spun Cheviot wool, the map references the introduction of Cheviot sheep on Skye. 

'People called 1792 Bliadhna nan Caorach - The Year of the Sheep - not because it marked the start of the Clearances, but because this was the year when the great white sheep, the Cheviot, was widely introduced throughout the Highlands. Its large size, its hardiness and  tolerance of Highland conditions, and its production of great quantities of high-quality wool and meat meant that volume sheep-farming suddenly became immensely more profitable, and the death-knell was sounded for the traditional way of life for tens of thousands of people across the Highlands and Islands.

photo by Alex Boyd

I am currently developing new costume with the singer Hanna Tuulikki for Away with the Birds . The singers will be performing in water so it will present a few exciting challenges. The Robe like costume for previous performances were inspired by sea birds such as the Oystercatcher and incorporated ideas of bird display through flashes of colour reminiscent of kilt pleats. You can experience a taster HERE of the project.  We have also just launched a kickstarter appeal so if you would like to get involved have a look HERE

'Hanna Tuulikki’s Air falbh leis na h-eòin is a body of work exploring the mimesis of birds in Gaelic song. On the 29th and 30th of August it becomes a sited performance on the Isle of Canna. The following month it will migrate to Tramway in Glasgow, with performances on the 19th and 20th September.

The Kildas
In March I travelled to St Kilda in New Zealand and Melbourne as part of a Commonwealth 20 for 14 project with Creative Scotland. You can follow progress of the project HERE

Her main areas of interest are the people of present day St Kildas. There is no ‘Saint’ Kilda (It is said that a Dutch cartographer wrongly named the Scottish Island). Deirdre would like to celebrate contemporary ‘Saint’ Kildans and create a series of crafted awards which celebrate people/‘saints’ she meets along the way. The project links both past and present, north and south and the people who inhabit the Kildas. It is hoped the project will present contemporary insight into St Kildas rather than the often over romanticised view of the Scottish island. 
'More than 4,000 people visited St Kilda Scotland last year – a fourfold increase in ten years – including passengers from 20 cruise ships.”The challenge is keeping that intangible quality that everyone gets when they go there. Its the sense of place, the atmosphere”, says Susan Bain, the NTS Western Isles officer. Scotland.  She adds: “Perhaps it has come to symbolise all the evacuations from islands, but St Kilda is dominated by the evacuation and I think its a shame it’s what it is known for: the time it was struggling and failed. For thousands of years it thrived and people were successful, yet its history is dominated by its last gasp.” via  The Scotsman

LÙB | LOOP maps the Isle of Skye through socks and celebrating stock clubs, 
crofting, spinning and the use of local wool. Exhibition continues until the 25th of March at Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre. Portree. Skye. 

You can follow the project on the  LÙB | LOOP blog here 

I am delighted to be part of the ceramic New Beginnings at Nantgarw China Works in Wales 1st March - 27th April.  Plates made as part of Artist Object Project in 2010 will become part of this exhibition exploring the realms of the domestic, figurative and sculptural.