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News from Shetland's Creative Scene - December 2013

by Abby -


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. 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…I've been reflecting and 'getting out there'

It's coming to the end of the year, a time of reflection and of celebration. Although to many, the winter can seem endless and summer is longed for - I cherish the short days - crafting at my kitchen table, Radio 4 crackling in the background and Mo the cat snoring on the chair! For me it's a go-slower time; a time to make plans for the forthcoming year and a time to meditate on what's gone before, and where better to have a ponder than a stroll in my back yard and the chance to record the changing seasons… As I ramble across the fields I watch sheep scatter, coal black crows circle over the tree plantation - where snarly-knarly trees pierce pink clouds carded by the wind; clouds that are reflected in the deep puddles that I wade through, sometimes jump into - hoping no one sees me at play! As the temperature drops - mud splattered and laughing I make my way back to my creaky old cottage, along the winding track, spurred on by that special time of day - cake 'o' clock! All the while recording my journey with camera or iPhone. Through the lens I become present, I notice the small things, things that might otherwise be ignored, taken for granted and lost in the busyness of my life…

This is the last Creative Scene newsletter of the year and I thought I would share stories of people who are inspired by Shetland's pristine landscape and channel this inspiration into their work. There's also a heart-warming story, involving a Burra Bear called Addie and a traveller visiting our shores. Put on the kettle, stoke the fire and read about the best gift you can give - an act of kindness…

Did you know: Richard Shucksmith , Brydon Thomason of Shetland Nature and Hugh Harrop of Shetland Wildlife offer photography holidays throughout the year?

A Burra Bear and the greatest gift - an act of kindness

Burra Bears love to travel. So much so that Wendy, their mum, gives each BB a unique Shetland name and a return to sender postcard is attached, so that they can tell her all about their adventures. Let me share a very special BB story sent in by Faveola Kett:

'It must have been fortune, because I saw Addie sitting on the table in the ferry shop (I was travelling back from Shetland to Aberdeen) and I fell in love with him right away. But I couldn't really afford him because I'm an 18-year-old girl backpacking through the UK…So I had to leave him there…'

Faveola kept thinking about the bear and whether she should spend the money… The next morning she was on the way to the shop, just before the ferry docked, to have a last glance at Addie and to decide whether she should buy him or not. Suddenly a man approached her and gave her a white bag, saying that he saw her the night before looking longingly at the bear…. She looked into the bag and there was Addie! However, the man had disappeared as quickly as he appeared. 'I was speechless and smiling all over my face at the same time'. Accompanied by Addie she went to find the kind man to say thank you. She eventually found him and they had a quick chat before they left the ferry. Faveola discovered that the kind stranger's name was Kevin and Addie was given a middle name - Kevin, of course! Addie went sightseeing in the UK with Faveola until mid-October. He then packed his suitcase and a spare Fair Isle jumper and flew to Germany to his new home near stunning Lake Konstanz. He loves the views and his new family, including the two other resident bears. PS Addie wishes Wendy and all his friends at Burra Bears 'Fröhliche Weihnachten' - he's enjoying his Bearlitz German language course very much.

Thank you Faveola for sharing your BB story.

Would you like to gift a Burra Bear? Make someone smile here.

Why don't you…?

Watch Shetland Wool Week 2013 video diary: join us for a yarntastic time in 2014!

Enrol on: a BA (Hons) Applied Music degree - a gathering of BA Music students, from across Scotland will meet at Mareel for a Gala Concert: Shetland - A Celebration November 30th at 7.30pm. Find out more here.

Contact writer and artist Raman Mundair: Based at Shetland Museum, Raman is seeking Shetland settlers - permanent or temporary - for interviews: or contact the Museum on 01595 741554.

Have Festive Fun and view a new exhibition: Bonhoga Gallery, Weisdale - from November indulge in retail therapy with a sledge full of Christmas gifts to choose from in the whimsical shop and Lower Gallery Craft Cabinet. From 16th November - 22nd December - view Paul Bloomer's exhibition: How Then Shall We Now Live? Late night shopping: 27th November & 4th December (until 8.30pm). Live jazz from Norman Willmore: December 4th.

Write a bard for the bog! Bards in the Bog celebrates the Year of Dialect 2014 and Living Lerwick's Winter Festival. Closing date: December 14th. Previous entries online - love Deep-fried Flip-flops!

Attend Book Week Scotland: a series of free events in Shetland from 25th November - 1st December.

Attend crafty workshops: with Aamos Designs - learn to weave a cushion (£50.00) or a scarf (90.00) with Emma.

Get vintage snap-happy at Shetland Museum: Purchase a beautiful black and white photograph from the Museum's online Photo Library. On your way there stop off for some retail therapy in the Heritage Shop and view the Yule Exhibition: Anne Bain and Mike Finnie (16th November-19th December) . Artists inspired by the light, landscape and older settlements in Shetland.

Listen to: harpist Kirsty North plays the Clarsach (traditional Scottish harp). Heavenly sounds can be found here. Don't miss musician and songwriter Joe Watt's superb 'old school rock 'n' roll thrashing to dubby drum-and-base thumping' music on Soundcloud, under the pseudonym Shetland Phony. Love Gravitate. A full-length album, Microphony, is out soon.

Visit The Shetland Gallery, Yell, and celebrate the festive season: Saturday 7th and 14th December, Sunday 8th and 15th December - yummy 'oh go on then, I'll just have one more' mince pies and mulled wine from 11am - 5pm.

Book tickets for Bill Wells and the National Jazz Trio of Scotland: music, food and a bop! Saturday 14th December, Mareel at 7.00pm

Celebrate a new year with Newton Faulkner: Brilliant night of music - 31st January 7.30pm at Mareel

Meet Shetland resident Nat Hall - "Poet, pirate, visual artist & day-dreamer par excellence"

Poetry book: From Shore to Shoormal/D'un rivage à l'autre is a collaboration between New Brunswick poet, Donna Allard and Norman born, Shetland based poet and visual artist, Nat Hall, and was recently launched at the annual book festival - Wordplay 2013. I asked Nat about this long distance collaboration and how it evolved: 'Met Donna Allard by accident - initially thru' Social network. We clicked and she asked me to co-edit the Canadian Poetry Association's mag, Poemata. Our collaboration culminated with assembling the book at the time she stood down as the CPA's President. We both wished to aim at a dual readership (English & French) and I added the Shetland element, as a "mark of home territory". The book is a unique product. Joe Blades, owner of Broken Jaw Press, embraced the project and published it. He then came to Wordplay 2013 at Shetland Arts' invitation to help me launch it, as publisher, & Canadian voice (at Donna's request).'

Nat is a member of the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics, a Shetland Guide, author of a fascinating blog nordicblackbird 'looking at the world from the tip of an island' and a member of Westside Writers (and much, much more!) I asked her to tell me about the writers' group: 'Westside Writers meet every third Friday of each month at the Whiteness-Weisdale Hall, 1930 start, with tea, cakes and smiles. The group's first anthology, Wirds fae da Westside , was also launched at Wordplay 2013. It's a very friendly & highly creative group.'

In addition to all of the above Nat is busy with many other projects, including: 'two other manuscripts in the pipeline, one in French, Le coeur caché, and destined to Montreal, the other, Northern Roost, in English, destined to be published in Scotland. The latter is "made in Shetland".'

Nat has kindly agreed to share a poem From Shore to Shoormal and an image of her favourite area - St Ninian's Isle: '…the place where I actually found that message in a bottle fae Canada some 7-8 years ago... It kinda triggered that book somehow, even though my co-author, Donna, lives in New Brunswick! It sparked it all off…'

Thanks Nat for contributing to the CS newsletter and I hope to see you in the New Year for a catch-up!


There, there,
don't hold your tears.
It's in your eyes that big blue dream,
like suspended on each ripple—
holding hostage that small lighthouse,
a safe haven west on our side
where the sun slides
through silk & salt.
I taste the sea.
We moor our souls on that lone beach,
walk through tall grass,
those fields of jade—
me next to you,
sit on the edge of a headland
watching the world,
tomorrow fade
into the mist of that moment.
We share the food of our own thoughts,
a glass of love, sweet slice of life,
Atlantic sky—
we seek treasures in-between stones …
For all I know, the watermark of all your smiles
printed onto the horizon.
It's in our eyes that big blue dream,
I still feel it back on mainland—
it tastes like salt there
on my lips.
For all you know,
I'm still drinking the Atlantic
like a long shot of

Handy tip: From Shore to Shoormal is available to purchase online from Broken Jaw Press. You can listen to Nat read some of her poems here.

Did you know: Shoormal is a 'highwater mark on beach; the water's edge'? Find out more about Shetland dialect at Shetland ForWirds.

Inspired by Shetland: artist Chris Rigby paints on location and shares his diary

There are many local artists, who 'get out there' during all seasons and record Shetland's ever-changing landscape, including artists Peter Davis, Paul Bloomer and Diane Garrick- pop over to their websites and be inspired. There are also many visiting artists who interpret Shetland's pristine natural heritage creatively, including Linda Newington - artist and originator of the original 'In the Loop' knitting conferences and keynote speaker at this year's ' In the Loop' 3.5 International Textile Festival). Linda Newington's vibrant paintings, based on her sketches made during her rambles across Shetland at varying times of the year '..the weather and walking conditions have differed and had a direct impact on these paintings', were created over two years and showcased in the exhibition Quiet Beauty in Hampshire and in Bonhoga Gallery. Her painting - Light Pools at South Ham is breathtaking. Artist, Chris Rigby also visited our shores during the summer and based himself, for a month, in Scalloway at The Booth - an artists' living work/space (what views!) He explored Shetland's wilderness, 'painting on location helps you connect with your subject…Your experiences all feed into the work', and kept a diary of his creative adventures - the highlights and the challenges - those feisty Great skuas get a mention! Chris showcased his oil and watercolour landscapes in a solo exhibition: '30 Days of Light', which was exhibited in Da Gadderie, Shetland Museum and Archives in 2012. You can read extracts of his fascinating online diary here, published in 'Artists and Illustrators Magazine'. The following is an extract from Chris' Shetland diary:

27th June - Return to Muckle Roe

The weather brightened up and I couldn't resist the urge to return to Muckle Roe. Got down to some painting around 3pm, carrying on with a composition I started yesterday before getting rained off. After a few hours I decided it was time to call it a day and move on. I packed my stuff away but then decided there was a bit of red on that cliff that I just had to get into my painting. I should have walked away at this point and I could have had a nice relaxing evening in the van. Instead, I deluded myself that I could paint this red cliff in a few minutes.

A couple of hours later and the painting had gotten away from me. Out of control. It felt like the crowd had all gone home ages ago. Eventually I abandoned it, went back to the van and drove to Eshaness where I intended sleeping the night. After some food and still feeling agitated with the way things had gone earlier, I went for a walk to Calder's Geo - a coastal erosion north of the lighthouse. By 11.30pm, I was peering into the darkness and could just make out vague forms and the broken line of surf as the lapping waves broke on the boulder beach. I start sketching and before I knew it I'd made the decision to paint through the night.

Did you know: a world famous wildlife sound recordist ran a unique course in Shetland this year? BAFTA award-winning Chris Watson has worked on a variety of TV series including BBC's Springwatch and David Attenborough's Life of Birds series. Chris led a course, as part of the annual Shetland Nature Festival (5th-11th July 2014), and participants learnt about theory and practice of wildlife sound recording. I watched a fascinating video of his work. He had me hooked at ' every sea has an individual sound…' I want hydrophones (underwater microphones) for Christmas!

One to watch: Juliette Labourne - BA (Hons) Contemporary Textiles student, Shetland College

Juliette Labourne completed a Foundation course at Lincoln College of Art and Design before arriving in Shetland in 2009 to enrol on the BA (Hons) Contemporary Textiles course. After completing the Foundation course in Lincoln she researched a number of College and Universities on the mainland but opted for Shetland College, 'the community feel of Shetland College, the availability of equipment of tutors, the hands on experience and wealth of support to be gain here made it feel the best place to be.' Juliette's third year project was inspired by the climate, light and landscape of Shetland and the many walks taken during the winter and spring - recording what she saw in drawings and photos to produce a visual study. She chose to produce a series of woven panels, which she described as being like a 'set of postcards' of her walks, 'there's so much negativity around winter and darkness, so it was nice to find something positive in it.'

Which walks in Shetland really inspired you

The nature of my project meant that I repeatedly walked three chosen routes around Lerwick earlier this year during the winter and spring. One route included going to the Sands of Sound where, whether in partial or complete darkness, I found the experience of the wild natural seascape with the busy and ordered town of Lerwick unique and inspiring. On this route I meandered around the south end of the town, walking along the busy South Road with Clickimin Broch in the background, through the many houses around Sandveien and the more open fields beyond the Sea Road. The variety of different environments whether residential, commercial or farmland experienced in such a short space really appealed. Variety and contrasts between the man-made and natural I found a unique aspect of the town and wanted to try and capture. When surrounded by so much nature and wild beauty in country areas it might be easy to overlook the great variety of interesting things to discover on your doorstep. Despite the general extreme aspects of geography and climate here, there is also great subtlety, which is the lasting memory of my walks along this route. Amidst the darkness of the winter I found this more pronounced in light where walking around town and being externally cold you could also feel the warm heart of this place, in the lights of houses or passing cars which strangely looked just as special and beautiful as moon and starlight above.

I noticed you reference Linda Newington in your sketches - how did her work influence you?

In the course of the project I researched and looked at a lot of different artists including William Blake, Käthe Kollwitz, Edgar Degas but also Linda Newington for the expressive ways in which they worked. Looking at their work inspired ideas into how to technically draw or paint what I saw around me on the walks but also how to incorporate how I felt, making sometimes unrealistic marks but very descriptive impressions. It was also interesting to look at the differences in work between what was created in a studio space, developing a piece of art reflectively, and what could be created outdoors whilst being in the place and moment (some of Linda's landscapes were painted like this). I went to see some of Linda's sketches whilst they were on display at Bonhoga art gallery…

Happy Christmas and see you back here in 2014!

Best wishes

Abby and the PS team

Made in Shetland Christmas gift ideas can be found in the December issue of Visit Shetland newsletter. Enjoy!

Posted in: Creative Scene

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