‘The Road to Lumsden’ has been selected for this year’s Society of Scottish Artists annual exhibition, I’m very pleased. It is a coiled and stitched piece made from more than 10 different plant species. I took it to Edinburgh last Sunday and when I unwrapped it from its tissue and bubblewrap, the fragrance from the plants was still strong. It’s a record of a journey.
It has been a summer of important journeys. Perthshire in August for my son James’s wedding to Catherine, Cumbria in September for my son Calum’s wedding to Gemma. My daughter Rose and her partner Ian were at both weddings too, it was wonderful to see them all together. Here’s a photo taken at Bendrigg Lodge on 24th September…
In between, I had a small expedition to the Scottish Sculpture Workshop in Lumsden, Aberdeenshire. I’ve wanted to go there ever since hearing about it at art college but I wasn’t sure my ‘soft’ sculpture would fit SSW’s interests. However, Rose sent me the open call for their Open Doors Weekend and I liked the look of the event – iron pourings and paperkilns, local walks with artists and community projects. SSW were enthusiastic about my suggestion for workshops using plant materials collected on my journey from Fife and I was scheduled in for the mornings of 27th and 28th August.
I stayed at my friend Leslie’s in Dundee on the Thursday night and collected some plants from her garden before driving to Lumsden on the Friday. The van floor was already covered in reedmace leaves from Fife and we added some iris, oregano, poppies and other mixed garden plants to the heap. All tested for strength and flexibility as usual.
I collected wild plants from four other places on the way to Lumsden: Clattering Bridge, Pronie Loch, The Cabrach and Rhynie. The plants included soft rushes, heather, moor grasses, blaeberry, sphagnum moss, broom and sycamore stalks. Polytrichum moss joined the collection after a visit to the Lumsden birch woods on Saturday, the forest floor was a thick moss carpet and I decided it could easily spare a handful of the wiry stalks.
I took a detour into Rhynie cemetery, remembering there are Pictish stones in a little shelter by the visitors’ car park. The gravestone angels are impressive too. I picked sycamore leaves for their red stalks from the graveyard trees.
Theo’s glass-knapping and reading group was thought-provoking and deliciously dangerous…
The Open Doors Weekend was very nicely structured and freeform at the same time. There was plenty of time to talk to other people about their work and see the exciting processes in the workshops. I watched red-hot ceramics being extracted from kilns, heard about international collaborations between Lumsden, Portugal and Brazil, joined in with artists’ walks, talked to local people about local stories, enthused with other artists about materials and processes and showed a lot of people how to make string.
Many thanks to Yvonne Billimore and the rest of the Scottish Sculpture Workshop team for a very good weekend.
I made ‘Road to Lumsden’ from the materials collected on 26th August. At the centre, Fife reedmace from the roadside at Letham Loch, spiralling out via Leslie’s garden in Dundee into the Grampians and Aberdeenshire. Rushes from The Cabrach finish the outside rim with the Lumsden woodland moss trapped in its layers.
The plant colours and scents will change with time but the materials will stay true to their places, in the order they were found.
The SSA Annual Exhibition is open from 31st Oct -24th Nov in the RSA Building, The Mound, Edinburgh.
See the SSA website for details: