Farlin artists & poets

– Roisin Connolly (Fife artist) and Gordon Dargie (Shetland poet)
Roisin Connolly has etched some of Gordon Dargie’s handwriting on a copper container sourced on Ebay and etched a silver brooch inspired by his poetry.

Roisin Connolly
Gordon’s work reminds me of the stories that families tell around the kitchen table for years to come, while holding a warm mug of tea close to you during a winter chill. I interpreted this idea initially by up cycling tableware. I used day to day objects and etched his handwriting into them as though the tableware absorbed the story. From this point I then progressed to make a form of jewellery reminiscent of these first ideas that the stories are engrained in the surroundings in which they are told. The words are engrained in the metal in the form of a brooch – the brooch being worn close to the heart because of fondness for the words.

Gordon Dargie
This project has been about sharing images and images are fundamental to us both. Roisin’s use of photography prompted the poem ‘An Introduction’ about a photograph of a grandfather I never met. Images of Roisin’s journeys prompted the poem ‘Fitting In’, again about my grandfather and also about a childhood journey of my own. Finally, and with a change of theme away from the past and down to the shore, the play of interiors and exteriors in Roisin’s jewellery prompted the haiku sequence ‘Still life with mussels’.

Molly Ginnelly (Fife artist) and Bruce Eunson (Shetland poet)
Molly Ginnelly is showing samples as well as finished work responding to Bruce Eunson’s visual poetry.

Molly Ginnelly
With a mutual fondness of natural environment and our surroundings, Bruce and I have worked together using “Fragments” of our conversations to further create inspirations and develop our work.
Thoughts of containment, preciousness of place and purpose have played an important role in our partnership. Using textiles and organic shapes to convey words and thoughts from Bruce’s poems: particularly descriptive portions of each has given a definite purpose to my work.

Bruce Eunson
To link Poetry and Craft, I first wanted to find common ground with Molly.

We had a shared interest not only in natural imagery such as trees and branches, skylines and shorelines, but also in more abstract ideas such as partners and togetherness, place and purpose.

In my poetry I thought a lot about the notion of “poetry on display” and pursued poetry that had a strong visual element.

I read Molly’s descriptions of various Craft pieces and felt that, like with descriptions of other Visual Arts, there were words and ways of saying things that naturally linked with Poetry.

Dianne King (Fife artist) and Christian Tait (Shetland poet)
Dianne King and Christian Tait have responded back and forth to each other’s work with Christian making a paper necklace.

Dianne King
I have previously used images from literature as starting points for my jewellery – eg. the Dreaming Stone neckpiece, to which Christian responded. For Farlin I noted down lines in Christian’s poems which generated strong images. We talked about the importance of memory, a sense of place, the cycles of life/ growth/ death. Stones were a central theme: as tellers of stories, keepers of memories.
We both liked patterns – of the sea, in the sand, threads of a history in knitting patterns – reinforced by my visit to Shetland last summer.
Christian’s card with a design from the St Ninian’s Isle Treasure led me to visit the originals in Edinburgh; drawing the patterns on these historic pieces, combined with photos of rock structures on Shetland, resulted in pieces directly linked to St Ninian’s Isle.
My response to C’s poem Spindrift was a silver/ 18k gold brooch based on a spiral. The spiral suggests the gathering wave, with the spindrift as gold dots on a hammered surface.
Farlin was a really successful project for us, giving us both new directions and sources of inspiration.

Dreaming Stone neckpiece
In Ben Okri’s novel, Astonishing the Gods, the architecture on a magical island is described as being made of “a stone that seemed in a permanent state of dreaming”. This made me think of the stone labradorite, a feldspar with shifting colours which suggest being underwater. To convey a soft dream-like sense of unexpected change, I alternated concave/ convex fish-like silver pieces, used two textures on the rubbed-back surface, and made the neckpiece asymmetrical but balanced. The catch is ‘hidden’ at the left-hand side.
I subsequently learned that labradorite was used as ships’ ballast and is frequently found on Shetland beaches.

Christian S Tait
Through conversation and looking at each other’s work, we identified areas of common interest – mainly stones (their formation, age, beauty, their alleged power to heal). Also the sea and seashore, and patterns, layers, colours, shapes found in the natural world.
I’ve written two poems, and have many ideas for more, so the project has done what I hoped it would for me.
My big surprise was to do with presentation – an idea which came right out of the blue, and combines my love of poetry with paper craft.

Dot Sim (Fife artist) and Laureen Johnson (Shetland poet)
Dot Sim and Laureen Johnson have made a combined work.

Dot Sim
My designs are inspired by my rural Scottish environment- from changing landscapes, windswept beaches, and stormy seas, to the minutiae found in rock pools and the garden. “Drawing” with metal I create sculptural pieces capturing movement and quality of line. I choose to use precious metals – materials that stand the test of time, as I am interested in the role of jewellery as heirlooms that are handed down, providing intimate memories for future generations.
We have communicated both by email and telephone and Laureen was able to visit my studio and home for a day while she was on a trip to Scotland.
We started by swapping examples of our work – Laureen sent me a copy of her book “Treeds” and I sent her images of my work. This exchange was fodder for our telephone conversations which, being women of a similar age, have covered many topics- not just work. Through our dialogues I feel we have developed a friendship and understanding which was cemented by Laureen’s visit, when I was able to show her some of my working processes in my studio and take her on a walk on the beach where I find much of my inspiration.

Laureen Johnson
I have been learning and absorbing since the project started. In response to Dot’s lovely work, I ended up trying to write haiku for the first time. It seemed to suit. I’d like to try more, and also write about the raw materials and the process of working in gold.

Andy Jackson (Fife poet) and Amy Gair (Shetland artist)
Andy Jackson and Amy Gair exchanged woven rhythms in words and fibres. They then looked to Rashiecoats (a Scots version – extract below – of the Cinderella story) for joint inspiration.

Andy Jackson – Working on the Farlin project

This project was an intriguing one – as a poet, I had never previously worked so closely with someone operating in a different medium. The process was very ’21st century’ in that Amy and I collaborated digitally via email and Skype, exchanging materials, images and ideas. I was conscious from the start that Amy was at several disadvantages from me – she was in a transitional period of her life, moving away from the Shetlands for the first time to study in the Scottish Borders, leaving behind not just her home and family but also the source of her inspiration for the project. I hope that Amy has seen something of the creative processes underpinning the writing of poetry in the way that I have gained some insight into the process of textile design and production. Amy is a talented artist and designer, and I hope that she has learned something about collaboration and communication that will help in her career. I should also say that I have enjoyed the project immensely!

Amy Gair
Andy and I approached the project by swapping previous work with each other and from there we came up with new ideas to explore. Andy used words which were related to weaving and Shetland, as I was using weaving as my approach. We discussed the idea of tartan and although tartan is not necessarily from Shetland we thought that creating a ‘new’ tartan as a background for the words would be quite interesting as it would bring the two together. I explored possible woven structures and new ideas by wrapping yarn around the poem in different ways.

For the second part of our project, we approached it in a different way. Recently moving away from my home in Shetland, to continue my studies in textiles in Galashiels, I found that I really missed the sea, as it is a big part of everyday life being an Islander.

Andy and I spoke about tales and stories surrounding the sea and folklore in general. I came across a Scottish story Rashiecoats which I found so interesting. With this piece I wanted to evoke feelings of my home in Shetland, and the things I missed, like the sea. Through colour choice and woven structures I hope to have captured this in a contemporary way. At the same time, I wanted to relate to the Rashiecoats story and Andy’s words, which to the onlooker could evoke feelings and memories of places and people that remind us of home, just like hearing folktales do. The cape is woven from 100% Shetland wool.

There was once a king who had a bonny daughter who was called Rashie Coat. When Rashie Coat had grown up to be a young woman her father called her to see him and told her that it was about time that she got married, and that he had chosen a husband for her. Being a princess meant that she couldn’t marry for love, but had to marry a prince whose kingdom would be bound to her father’s own kingdom with bonds of kinship. When Rashie Coat was told that she was to be married to a stranger, and was shown a small portrait of him, she recoiled in horror. Not only was he rather ugly, but he had a bad reputation for being mean and cruel. She refused to marry him, but the king said that she had no say in the matter, and she went off weeping.
Rashie Coat slipped out of the castle and went to see the hen-wife, who it was said knew magic and was very wise. When she went into the small, tumbled-down cottage she told the hen-wife about her proposed marriage to a man that she did not love.
The hen-wife looked serious, thought for a while and then said,
‘Tell your father, the king, that you’ll only marry that man if you are given a coat that is made of beaten gold.’
So, Rashie Coat went back to the king and told him that she would only marry that man if she was given a coat that was made of beaten gold, and the king agreed. After a few days Rashie Coat was called to see the king, who gave her a coat made of beaten gold. It shone like the sun, but was so finely made that it moved like it was made of silk.
But still Rashie Coat didn’t want to marry the man that had been chosen for her.
Rashie Coat went back to the hen-wife and told her that the coat of beaten gold was now hanging in her wardrobe, but she still didn’t want to marry that horrible man. The old hen-wife thought for a while and said:
‘Tell your father, the king, that you’ll only marry that man if you are given a coat that is made from the feathers of all the birds of the air.’
So Rashie Coat went back to the king and told him that she would only marry that man if she was given a coat that was made from the feathers of all the birds of the air, and the king agreed. The king sent out his messengers with sacks of corn, which they poured onto the ground. Then, after blowing a fanfare on the horn, the royal messenger read out this proclamation.
‘Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye! Every bird of the air is ordered by the king to give one of their feathers in return for one grain of corn. One feather for one grain of corn.’
The air whirred with the sound of birds wings, as thousands and thousands of birds flew to the centre of the town and plucked out one of their feathers and placed it on the ground, then they picked up a grain of corn in their beaks and flew away. Soon there was a heap of feathers from every bird of the air and the court tailor was given the task of making them into a coat.
The king called Rashie Coat to see him and gave her the coat made from the feathers of every bird of the air. But still Rashie Coat didn’t want to marry the man that had been chosen for her.
Rashie Coat went back to the hen-wife and told her that the coat made from the feathers of all the birds of the air was hanging in her wardrobe, but she still didn’t want to marry that horrible man.
The hen-wife thought long and hard for a while, then said, ‘Tell your father, the king, that you’ll only marry that man if you are given a coat and a pair of slippers that is made out of woven rushes.’
So, once again Rashie Coat went to the king and told him that she would only marry that man if she was given a coat and slippers that was made from woven rushes, and the king agreed. He sent his servants to pull rushes, clean them, polish them and weave them into a fine coat and a pair of dainty little slippers. The king called Rashie Coat to see him and he gave her the coat and slippers made from rushes. But still Rashie Coat didn’t want to marry the man that had been chosen for her.
Rashie Coat went back to the hen-wife and told her that the coat and slippers made from the woven rushes were hanging in her wardrobe, but she still didn’t want to marry that horrible man.
The old hen-wife looked sadly at Rashie Coat and then shook her head, saying, ‘I’m sorry my dear, but I can’t help you any more.’

Extract from Rashiecoats as retold by Tom Muir on the Scotland’s Stories website (www.educationscotland.gov.uk/scotlandsstories/)

Paula Jennings (Fife poet) and Helen Robertson (Shetland artist)
Paula Jennings wrote ‘Knitted from Frost’, after Helen Robertson sent her a pair of handknitted silver wire earings as a gift.

Paula Jennings
It’s about a willingness to be open to someone else’s ideas and curious about her concerns and processes. This sharing with Helen has been a great experience in loosening up and allowing creative responses to develop. Then it seems that the words/shapes/patterns evolve to honour each other’s work.

Helen Robertson
I enjoyed connecting with Paula by email. After reading her poem ‘Seabird, what has death left in your belly?’ I created this skeleton or ‘crang’ of a dead bird. As a commentary on life, death and the economy I decided that death had left a Monopoly dog in her belly. Paula’s poem was inspired by a Dali painting ‘Oiseau’. I like that she responded to his painting and then I in turn responded to her poem.

Joan Lennon (Fife poet) and Sarah Riley (Shetland artist)

Sarah Riley has experimented with latex and resin to make work responding to Joan Lennon’s poems on the theme of hands. Drawings of seaweed evoke nerve endings in hands and people and their environment then links together. Sarah has also translated Joan’s poems into the Burra dialect and printed them onto latex . Recorded readings by Joan and Sarah of both versions are available to listen to in the exhibition.

“It’s all about ideas that bounce and ricochet … A poem about old hands leads to the coloured latex hands of mother and child. A poem about fingers finds its way into fronds of seaweed. A poem about the hands of herring girls becomes a poem about herring which will be expressed by … look and see!”
Joan Lennon and Sarah Riley

Shetland words:
peerie – small
drooie-lines – seaweed
treeds – threads
dee – you
dags – fingerless gloves
farlin – a shared container of herrings for gutters to use

Maureen Sangster (Fife poet) and Diane Garrick (Shetland poet)
Diane Garrick’s knitted throw poem and embroidered felted and laced ‘dags’ are inspired by the lives of the women in Maureen Sangster’s poems about a team of herring gutters: ‘The Three of Us’, ‘Betty’s Poem’, ‘Jeanna’s Poem’ and ‘Ann’s Poem’.

Maureen Sangster
I feel that my exchanges via various modes of communication with Diane in Shetland from my base in Kirkcaldy resulted in my desire to create poems about the value of the exchange of friendship amongst gutting lasses living far from home. Distance has been bridged in this project: distance historical and geographical. It has been a pleasure to participate in Farlin.

Diane Garrick
Conversations with Maureen through e-mail and skype provided words and ideas that twisted and flowed to provide textile pieces that reflected a journey of ideas.
The hard work and basic living conditions of the gutting lasses was often eased by the merriment and gaiety of friendships formed and evenings of singing and dancing. This dualistic lifestyle is reflected in the textile pieces that started as practical felted dags and a simple ornamental container, and slowly became fanciful flights of imagination and the ‘skins’ of mermaids.