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News from Shetland's Creative Scene - March 2014

by Abby -

Hi, I'm Abby, author of Postcards from Shetland, and I'm very excited to welcome you to my 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!)

When I moved into our Shetland cottage, back in 2009, I had no idea that having a home and a sense of place would eventually inspire an all-consuming passion for creative activities. People often ask me, 'where are you from?' and in all honesty, I have no idea! I've been on the move since I was very young and have lived in many houses and many countries, but I've never found a home - you know, the sort of place that you can hunker down in, look forward to returning to and fill with life's memorabilia (lots of clutter!) And I never tire of rambling in my back yard - always overwhelmed by the mesmerizing elemental landscape. Before I relocated to Shetland I lived out of a suitcase, ready to move on when routine set in, and now here I am - decorating, hanging pictures, furnishing the cottage with vintage Shetland finds (see August's Creative Scene newsletter for thrifty shopping ideas), using my home as a creative canvas, in addition to trying a plethora of arts and crafts at my kitchen table. How life has changed over the last five years… I recall an evening spent with a Maori family in New Zealand - they asked me, 'where are your roots, the place you belong to?' And I just couldn't think of anywhere, adrift, until I was washed ashore here. It doesn't mean my travels abroad have come to an end; I doubt very much that my wanderlust will ever be satiated. However, I now know where my home is and most importantly, where my heart belongs…

Enter: Shetland Open 2014 at Bonhoga. Theme: home. This refers to the name 'Bonhoga', or 'my spiritual home' in celebration of the gallery's 20th anniversary this year. Closing date: 9 th April 2014.

Join the creative community : spring is the time of new beginnings and if you're thinking of relocating - pop over to Move Shetland or, if you're looking for a creative break - get in touch with Jackie at PS HQ and she'll answer all your queries. Don't forget to visit Promote Shetland's Arts and Crafts page, too!

Why don't you….?

Book a Textile Journey: A 4-day exploration of the islands and the chance to meet the people who are involved in the flourishing Shetland textile industry. (Textile Journeys 2014: May 15th-18th, August 14th-17th, October 16th-19th)

Follow the Craft Trail: Don't feel you have to buy anything - no hard sell in Shetland, just a warm welcome.

Listen to: Catriona McKay and Olov Johansson on Scottish harp and Swedish nyckelharpa (Mareel, 23rd March): Did you know: the nyckelharpa (a keyed fiddle) is an old Swedish instrument, which was once used as a weapon in medieval times?

Crag hop into the creative zone with Climb Shetland: rock meditation - guaranteed to get the creative juices flowing!

Watch Shetland - BBC One, March 11th at 9.00pm: three two-part episodes (starting with Raven Black) - based on the award-winning series of books written by Ann Cleeves - one time Fair Isle resident.

Get filming and submit a piece of moving image artwork to the Ebb Tide Project: calling all Shetland based filmmakers - take part in the cultural programme surrounding the Commonwealth Games and get your work seen by thousands of people!

Be one step ahead of the fashion crowd - Tartan Poppy Satchel (£150.00) by Aamos Designs. Tartan is bang on-trend for Autumn/Winter 2014, as showcased at New York Fashion Week. Be unique - buy handmade in Shetland.

Get crafting - 'Paper Folding for Book Artists' with artist and self-confessed islomaniac Rachel Hazell Venue: Bressay Lighthouse Dates: 25th-28th April 2014 Price: £350.00.

Enter the annual Young Shetland Writer competition: Run by Shetland Library. Theme: Shetland. Closing date 27th June 2014

Attend 'Fragments' at Da Gadderie, Shetland Museum (on until 16th March 2014):
two local artists Gemma Balfour (contemporary typewriter artist) and Vivian Ross-Smith (read an interview with Vivian in November's Creative Scene newsletter) explore Shetland's complex and varied geology. I caught up with Vivian the other day to find out what she's been up to and ask her about 'Fragment II'.

…recently I have just been enjoying working away in the studio preparing for the show at Da Gadderie. It's been so nice to follow the whole process of making and exhibiting work at home in Shetland. Back in November I was awarded the Shetland Arts: Visual Art and Craft Award to fund the body of work you saw in Da Gadderie, so that was excellent. To have Shetland Arts support me has been really encouraging and meant I could concentrate on getting a good supply of materials together and really have fun in the studio!

'Fragment II' - preserved fish skin and glass wax, featured in the exhibition, caught my eye, tell me more: Concerning Fragments II, I have always loved fish skin and really enjoyed drawing and painting from the skins when my brother and his friends would return from fishing trips with the most amazing species, such as ballan wrasse and skate. I started to preserve the skins and use them as a material themselves. I enjoy the natural, subtle colour differences within the skins along with the different textures depending on the varying species. I stitch and construct them in a way that refers to the cliff faces, where rock meets water….

Take a virtual tour of Vivian's work here and find out more about Gemma in next month's newsletter…..

Gig dates for your diary

Get festival crazy at Shetland Folk Festival (1st-4th May 2014) - the party starts on the Northlink ferry (30th April)! Must read: Travelling Savage - Keith's inside scoop (including top tips) of his time spent enjoying this legendary festival.

Channel your inner Zelda or Scott from 29th May-1st June 2014 at the Shetland Jazz Festival: jazz meets 1920s literature is this year's roaring theme.

On June 5th enjoy innovative Scottish group Mr McFall's Chamber at Mareel. The ensemble likes to mix it up and play a range of music including tango, jazz, progressive rock and contemporary classical and has been described by the Scotsman as the "the jewel in the Scottish musical crown". Don't go home yet! Good friends Barbara Dickson and Rab Noakes are visiting Shetland: 8th June 2014 Venue: Mareel, and hot on their heels - The Yves Lambert Trio will showcase vibrant Quebecois folk music (11th June).

Award-winning Shetland fiddler Jenna Reid will return home to perform a special concert on 28th June and, with her sister - fellow fiddler Bethany, will curate the world renowned Shetland Fiddle Frenzy (3rd-10th August) - workshops and events celebrating the Shetland fiddle tradition and a wow-factor closing concert featuring Catriona MacDonald - considered to be one of the world's leading traditional fiddle players. Phew!

Ooooh don't let me forget - July 15th Eddi Reader - known for her work with Fairground Attraction, recipient of three BRIT awards and still amazing audiences with her Perfect vocals - will play Mareel. See you there!

Did you know: current music courses delivered in Mareel, in partnership with Shetland College, range from a secondary school level Vocational Pathways course in Sound Engineering through to a BA (Hons) in Applied Music. Learn more here.

Real Shetland Yarns: Fair Isle Yokes by Hazel Tindall

Congratulations Hazel on becoming this year's guest Patron of the prestigious annual Shetland Wool Week 2014 (4th-12th October). A renowned Shetland knitter who knitted her first cardigan over 50 years ago and grew up surrounded by knitters - 'one of my earliest memories is being sent outside to check if I could see my grandmother making her way down the hillside - by that time she would have been about 80, carrying a kishie of peat on her back and knitting as she walked …' Hazel has kindly agreed to let me share Fair Isle Yokes - a winning story published in Real Shetland Yarns - a collection of woolly tales and memories from the people of Shetland about their own connections with wool, sheep and textiles in general. The stories were submitted as part of a competition to celebrate Shetland Wool Week 2011:

Fair Isle yokes were knitted in their thousands from mid 1960s to early 1970s. Knitting yokes provided me with pocket money throughout my secondary school days, and while I was at college in Aberdeen. I forget who paid the postage back and fore but the value of the work must have been worth the expense.

For a few years from about 1965, when I was in lodgings while attending school, it was my job to take the yokes to John Tulloch (Shetland Products) Ltd premises in Gilbertson Road. These were carefully checked to ensure highest quality, payment made in cash, and the next lot of bodies were handed over. I then met Dad, if he was working in Lerwick, and he took the payment and bodies home for the next lot of cuffs to be grafted on, yokes knitted, and necks grafted on too. I knitted a yoke most weekends, and sometimes through the week.

Knitting yokes was a useful way to learn so much about Fair Isle knitting, especially how to blend colours. At first we could use any colours and patterns we wanted but eventually fashion took charge and knitters were given colours and patterns to knit - I hated that.

There were stories about businesses weighing the yarn they sent out and weighing again when it was returned, just to make sure none of the finishers has stolen yarn!

I could write so much more about yokes, it probably couldn't fit into 30,000 words, never mind the 300 the competition demands!

Real Shetland Yarns (£15.00): available to purchase from the online Shetland Heritage shop. Visit Hazel's website and read her fascinating biography (and purchase her knitting patterns) here

Did you know: 'Hentilagets' - a Shetland dialect word - refers to the wool that moults from the sheep and can be found on the ground, which used to be gathered by hand and turned into yarns, cloths and knitwear? Want to hear how to pronounce the word? Click here.

See you soon!

Posted in: Creative Scene

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