Here are more photos of Tess’s lovely textile work inspired by Maspie Den, a place in Falkland Estate she visits often. It is a little valley carved into the north side of the Lomond Hills, sheltered and wooded with lots of damp-loving plants – a miniature tropical rainforest, but colder! Tess captures its atmosphere beautifully.
There is a huge tree in the Falkland Estate Arboretum, not far from the Monkey Puzzle tree near the Maspie Burn. I thought it was a Giant Redwood, one of those soft-barked punchable mega-trees from California. After the strong winds that brought down all the Monkey Puzzle leaves earlier this year, I found some green branches under the big tree, just enough to use for my tree project.
Today I decided to check which Redwood the branches came from, knowing there’s more than one species. It turns out to be something else altogether, probably a Japanese Red Cedar, Cryptomeria japonica. It is related to the Giant Redwood Sequoiadendron giganteum but comes from the other side of the Pacific Ocean, yes, from Japan. There it is called Sugi and is highly-prized for its timber and precious ancient specimens. It can grow up to 70 metres (230 feet) tall and to a trunk diameter of 4 metres (13ft).
I laid the twigs and leaves out to dry in the studio after collecting them. From the left: Hemlock(?), Lime, Monkey Puzzle leaves, Sugi, and one little twig from a neighbouring tree, possibly a Redwood. The Hemlock twigs (if that’s what they were) went brittle very quicky and ended up in the compost bin. The Sugi branches stayed flexible with a bit of soaking and made a very fragrant pair of baskets.
Time to start a new project. I’m taking part in North Fife Open Studios this year, doing a ‘mini-residency’ at the Centre for Stewardship Falkland over the weekend of 29th April to 1st May. I’ve decided to create a new piece of work for the event, a multiple, composed of stitched baskets and pods; two for each species of tree I find on Falkland Estate between now and the end of April.
I’ll name the work for the number of species I find. I’m hoping for more than ’28 Trees’. That’s the number I came up with while trying to get to sleep one night after Christmas. I started with native species – oak, birch, alder, elm – and worked my way through to the exotics: horse chestnut, Norway spruce, redwood, sycamore. Some of these are old favourites, for example the birches and willows, I love working with them. They are very flexible, have interesting bark colours and sweet scents. Some trees will be more challenging, like the horse chestnut with its sturdy branches and sticky leaf-buds.
I’ll post progress reports on this blog. There is a self-imposed set of rules: baskets/pods to be roughly similar size and shape, same black thread to be used throughout, one handful of twigs to be used for each tree species: one larger basket/pod to be made first, one small one to be made from the remaining twigs. More about the reasons for that in a later post.
First two completed last week: oak. I think this is English oak, Quercus robur. That would fit with it growing in a hedge round an arable field in lowland Fife. I’m happy to be corrected on any of these twig identifications though!
I’m teaching stitched baskets this Saturday – and if you’re too old for this workshop, sign up for the next one on 19th March! See http://www.centreforstewardship.org.uk