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August 2013 - News from Shetland's Creative Scene



I'm Abby, author of Postcards from Shetland, and I'm very excited to welcome you to my new monthly Shetland's creative scene newsletter. Please accept this as an invitation to meet artists, at home and abroad, inspired by Shetland's heritage and environment (and plenty of handy tips and insider information too!)

At my kitchen table…

Every month you will find me at my kitchen table crafting. July was spent making paper from plants gathered in my garden and finished sheets were hung out to dry on my washing line! I decorated the paper with moss and lichen taken from my ancient willow trees. Several sheets have been gifted to my father-in-law - a great letter writer. A unique present and a beautiful medium to print photos on!

Why don't you: join award-winning photographer Dr Richard Shucksmith on a photo tour. There are several to choose from, including Wild Lands of Shetland Photo Tour - a superb way to discover and capture Shetland's true wilderness.

A handy work of art and vintage ♥

Shetland is vintage heaven and a trip to Aald Skule Recycling Unit, Aith is a must (Tuesday 2pm-4pm, Thursday 7pm-9pm and Sunday 2.30pm-4.30pm). All proceeds are donated to local charities and groups - it's a retail therapy win-win! After a tip-off from a friend who knew I was looking for glove boards - I managed to scoot on over and purchase several 'brods'. The glove boards are now displayed in the hall - alongside an umbrella. A handy work of art?!

Did you know: Jumper, sock and glove stretching boards were all used in the Shetland home? The garments stretched would either have been made for the family's own use or as part of a small-scale cottage industry.

Thrift gift: Don't miss visiting Jamieson's of Shetland - the only spinning mill in Shetland and a family owned business (now 5th generation). The building looks non-descript, but don't be fooled! Step inside and begin a magical woolly self-guided tour (it's free!) This is one of my favourite places to take visitors and they can see pure Shetland fleece being made into the finest yarns. People love the shop too - and especially the bargain bin!

Signing up for a workshop and how to clean a grubby painting!

I've recently signed up (via Bonhoga Gallery, Weisdale) for an enameling workshop with acclaimed artist Sheila McDonald - view her stunning work here. It's wonderful to hear that Sheila and her partner, Rod Kelly - one of the UK's leading silversmiths, have relocated to Shetland. I've also been busy cleaning my beloved, but very grubby, painting of Camilla the cow - with white bread!

Top tip: Get a slice of bread (doughy white stuff works best) and gently rub over the painting. The bread absorbs the grime. Use a new slice for the final once over. Camilla the cow is sparkling once again!

Unique gift: My favourite show has to be the 'Mirrie Dancers' (Northern Lights). I watch them from my kitchen door, cup of tea hand. What a light spectacular and I have a front row seat! Designer Sophie Whitehead has captured the colours beautifully in a range of jewelry (prices from £38.50) available from Shetland Jewellery.

Shetland artist of the month: Donna Smith Designs

I have long been a fan of textile designer Donna Smith's work. She's a busy lady with a young son and a thriving accessory business. I first came across Donna after spying her 100% wool felt creations at the Shetland Christmas Craft Fair (a must visit for cool hunters). I soon ordered several brightly coloured flower brooches in zesty colour combinations and received them wrapped in sky-blue dotty paper. Gorgeous! It's no surprise that Not On The High Street is stocking her items - the quality is always exceptional and her designs beautifully crafted. I've been in touch with Donna to find out what she's up to:

What's happening with your business at the moment? "I have just developed a range of laser cut wool felt products (brooches, keyrings, hangings) based on Shetland culture and traditions…they will be available very soon."

Why did you choose to sell via Not On The High Street? "…it's a well established website that does a lot of marketing and sells quality products. I find it suits my needs perfectly. I can work when it suits me, it is very easy to use, orders can be easily organised, and I can shut shop if I am away or my time is limited."

Advice to budding felt artists? "My advice to anyone working in felt is to never feel restricted, as felt can be used for a huge number of applications from jewellery to clothes to furniture and much more."

Future creative plans? "I have lately taken up knitting (a little bit obsessed some might say) and have become extremely interested in Fair Isle knitting and patterns as well as Shetland lace patterns. You will see Fair Isle patterns in my new laser cut felt. I am currently working on and thinking about new products using Shetland lace and Fair Isle and Shetland wool, so watch this space! I think you will see more knitted products from me in the future."

Access the online shop via Donna's website and don't miss her superb blog on your way to felt-fab heaven:

Shetland College student focus: Eleanor Hynd

I always look forward to viewing the end of year artwork from students studying at Shetland College UHI. While I was perusing student portfolios I met Eleanor Hynd…Eleanor had a varied career, prior to becoming a full-time student, including making children's wooden puzzles and running a restaurant. She decided that once her children had gone to University she would return to education. Eleanor enrolled on the National Certificate in Art and Design course (one year), followed by the BA (Hons) in Contemporary Textiles course (4 years). In June Eleanor showcased her work at The Textile Museum Böd of Gremista, Lerwick. She drew on aspects of local history to inspire her project and wanted to tell a story through weaving - finding inspiration from the Böd (built in 1780) itself and researching its history as a herring curing station. She conducted visual studies of shoals of fish and developed a textile sculpture for outside the building . "My hope for the piece was that the sun would shine on the reflective yarns and appear to move as people walked past them, and give the feeling of herring swimming. The Böd is now used as a textile working museum and I chose the particular materials to connect the industrial use of the building's life to the textile use, incorporating contemporary reflective yarns as well as traditional Shetland yarns."

What have you enjoyed most about being at Shetland College and is there anything that makes this college unique? " I think the uniqueness of Shetland College is the small classes, which allows students to get to know each other and our tutors very well. We moved to Shetland so that I could take part in this course here, I never considered another course anywhere else…"

Find out more about the NC in Art and Design and the (BA) Hons in Contemporary Textiles here.

Why don't you…?

Go potty! Attend a family workshop (15th August) at Shetland Museum and make and decorate clay pots, using ancient techniques. Find out more here, and don't miss the free textile tours and demonstrations too!

Watch a vintage-magic music video: this is a gem of a story, set on the island of Yell, from musical duo Claire and Frances of Blyde Lasses. Click here to view Rough Diamond.

View Royal designs: visit Shetland Textile Museum Böd of Gremista, Lerwick and enjoy an excellent exhibition: From The Croft to The Palace - exploring the link between Shetland knitters and Royalty. Cecil Tait, of Paparwark Furniture and a member of The Guild of Master Craftsmen, designed and made the stunning display cabinets.

Enjoy a good yarn: Shetland Wool Week is happening from 7th-13th October. Workshops, exhibitions and much more!

Get your arty fix: visit Shetland Museum and Archives and view Ruth Brownlee: Exploring Shetland's Dramatic Seas and Coastline (on until 18th August). All artwork is for sale.

Wear Fair Isle knitwear: commission a Fair Isle keepsake and heirloom from Fair Isle resident and knit-fantastic Mati Ventrillon. Prices range from £40.00 for a hat to £310 for a sweater. Read an online interview with Mati here. If you're in London - visit the Mad for Tea Exhibition at Fortnum and Mason - Mati has a collection of her Fair Isle tea cosies displayed (until 25th August).

Next month's newsletter will include an interview with artist Alex Malcolmson - we had a lovely cup of tea in Havly Café, Lerwick, and a good ol' chinwag!

See you soon!


An elephant with a monkey on its back has travelled from Shetland to Edinburgh!

Congratulations Charlotte Hutchison! The pupil from Whalsay School has won the regional heat of a competition to design a poster for this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Charlotte's poster featured an elephant with a monkey on its back about to be sprayed by the trunk! This quirky, fun poster will be displayed at the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh until 26th August. Find out more here.

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