Spirit of Creativity

Textile & Quilt Art in Orkney

My father loved - really loved - islands. He took us on camping holidays to all the islands we could get to: The Channel Islands and The Isles of Scilly among others. I first came to Orkney in 1966 and experienced warm-hearted people, wonderful landscapes and a thriving art and craft scene. It was love at first sight and I was determined to live here!

46 years later, having lived in a variety of interesting and exciting places: Sweden, Norway, Botswana, Tanzania and most recently, Peru, I revisited Orkney and Shetland. I spent a winter in Shetland and after several visits to Orkney was convinced my earlier dreams of living here would be a wise decision! I think the slower pace of life leaves more room for the really important things.

Living in different countries awakened what has become a life-long passion for ethnic and traditional textiles. In Scandinavia, the local costumes with their intricate handmade details soon had me studying their origins and the techniques used. A move to Botswana as Volunteers in the Norwegian Development Assistance Programme meant I was employed teaching sewing skills to young women who had been forced to leave school early due to pregnancy. They needed to find work other than prostitution to support their children and teaching them was rewarding and fun.…New textile horizons were there to fascinate me along with other joys of living in Africa (not least, visiting the Okavango Delta, shopping in busy markets and seeing wildlife in its natural environment)

After a short period in the UK, I decided to return to Africa, this time to Tanzania where side-by-side with teaching in an International School, I found myself running a small textile printing workshop in the little town of Moshi at the foot of Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain!

A whole new textile history, techniques and traditions opened up for me to study and enjoy there! An initial contract of two years eventually stretched to over six years! What a privilege!

Since settling in Orkney (as settled as I’ll ever be!) I pursue two main activities; firstly, I’m enjoying developing my textile art in my studio. Quilt Art and felting are the two areas I mostly work in.

Secondly, I share the unique experience with others of learning techniques from local artists and craftspeople by leading Textile Tours to both Peru and Sweden. In Peru this includes backstrap weaving, embroidery and Peruvian knitting. In Sweden, traditional embroidery, weaving and ceramics. Language barriers are not a problem when working with practical skills and much laughter is had along the way and lovely memories made!

I hope to spend many productive and happy years here. I’ve been welcomed by Orcadians and incomers alike; the range of facilities is excellent and the arts and craft scene combines traditional knitting and weaving with opportunities to learn new skills and find new markets.

My most recent work has been inspired by the wonderful changing colours of the landscapes here and the Orkney wildlife, sometimes with a hint of Peruvian or African vibrance!

My future plans include leading a separate tour to Peru, visiting sacred sites and learning about the Andean Spiritual Heritage. Textile tours to Orkney and Shetland for Scandinavians are also in the pipeline, and lastly, I would like to stage an exhibition. I now have a body of work representing my various travels; (a retrospective of my pastel landscapes and quilt art from the last couple of decades). It would be wonderful to be able to share some stories of my nomadic life with a wider public instead of having them shut away in suitcases!)

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