A trip report, karbunkels and more goings-on …

14 Feb 2011 in Crafts Blog, Highland, Visual Arts & Crafts

In this post I will relate about my recent trip down to the Scottish Central Belt – and some progress in the “karbunkel” department (please note the “k”s – this is on purpose: such my “boils” reference the Germanic and the Medieval). This one might take you a little longer to read …

Witchy branch fingers at Carbeth

Witchy branch fingers at Carbeth

The big trip seemed doomed that Saturday morning in early January – with snowfall and ice on the ground in Caithness. And indeed, per text message one of the meetings I was heading for had to be cancelled. This meeting was to be for a theatre project, which is scheduled to happen this summer. But it was hopefully one meeting of many to come…

The main reason for the journey, however, was the opportunity to take part in a workshop offered by the Cultural Enterprise Office in Glasgow called “Next Steps” – development advice for creative businesses trading three years or more. That workshop was scheduled to take place on Monday afternoon, the 10th January 2011 –and in order to make most out of the trip South, I had organised to still my creative thirst over the span of a few days.

A Carbeth hut and yet another gnarly tree

One of the Carbeth Huts (and yet another gnarly tree)

The first station now was to be the home of the environmental artist Ruth Macdougall. Ruth had just come back from a study trip to Uganda, where she had teamed up with a local artist to collaborate on simple boat building for the community at Lake Victoria. Ruth had built a coracle and is currently working on a curach – both ancient forms of boats, which were used to travel over water and over land (carried and used as shelter). Ruth also introduced me to the Carbeth Hutters Community, her artistic history with them – and the gnarly, old, slightly ragged and enchanting landscape she and the hutters live in. The image above was taken there: twigs and branches like witches’ fingers and hairy lichen (you have read about that stuff  before here – inspiring!). From Ruth, I also received a short course in filming (using her professional camera to film a quick “interview” and watch her editing it with professional software – am learning all the time!).

On Monday morning then Ruth and I headed into Glasgow on different missions, but she had a chance for a quick hello to Deirdre – they knew each other through a residency. Deirdre Nelson had kindly agreed to be my mentor within the Hi-Arts “Making Progress” project. Now, Deirdre is a very enthusiastic and inspiring person – and it was such a treat to have her look at images of my work and listen to her comments and suggestions. I filled two pages with notes and ideas to research, alsolots of h elpful and inspiring links (which have set things in motion …).

From her it was only a few steps to a friendly welcome at the workshop. Carol Sinclair led the class. I had met her and – as it turned out – the lady sitting to my right, Melanie (an architect) before at North Lands Creative Glass in Caithness. To my left sat Caroline Dear, partner artist of “Making Progress”. I found the way each of us three sitting there had dealt with the preparation exercise of “mapping” our activities, quite remarkable and unique. It had taken me more time, than I thought it would, but through the workshop it was a bit of an “eye-opener” to myself. I seem to always have a guilty conscience of not doing enough, but boy, do I do a LOT! And don’t want to give up anything (apart from cleaning the constantly dusty studio/showroom, which I obviously cannot give up). Alas, through the workshop I managed to identify a few things, which need to be changed or remedied. And without this session it would have been much harder for me to take the necessary step back in order to see those. I also found listening to other participants’ situations, problems and thought processes extremely interesting and helpful.

After the workshop I had the opportunity to get to know Caroline better – I love her almost ethereal work. And how good, that we had the chance for a one-to-one to find out, that – although our work is so different – we really are on the same wavelength. We both then went for a bite to eat with Deirdre – and I left them to talk about Caroline’s work (Deirdre is also her mentor), while I headed on to Edinburgh.

Through driving rain I made my way to glass artist Carrie Fertig’s studio. Carrie reported about her huge yearly trade fair trip to the US and glass residencies, projects and exhibitions, which she is currently involved in or planning for – some busy and talented lady, she is! Carrie also pointed me to a camera workshop near her house, where I could have my recently damaged camera looked at. Not having this essential tool working properly had started to worry me greatly. Next morning I handed them my camera for investigation – and found out that I need a new one. Thankfully the dithering had come to an end! (and I have a new one by now…)

The road back up to the Highlands was flanked by much snow on the roadside and bathed in sunlight – I arrived in Inverness for a loosely scheduled meeting with the kind Sian Jamieson to talk about – for me – pressing audience development (i.e. facebook) issues. Great, that she was able to fit me in on my way North. She managed to clear up many questions I had – and suggested some things, which I am now using for my research (notably “alerts” – great things, those are!)

Arriving back at my home in Caithness, I managed to throw out the luggage, dump paper and equipment in the boot and got to Wick and life drawing just in time…

Some trip, that was – full of experiences, enlightenment (if I may call it that), catching up, networking and new impressions!

Ah, but now! Let’s talk about these karbunkel things! Let me set the scene: It is dark outside, the wind is howling around the wee cottage and the rain is lashing against my windows. I am warm and in good spirits. Typical. That is actually, what a lot of my work is about – the bad and ugly made into the good and beautiful. If it still has some of the uncanny in it – great! A healthy dose of humour usually does not hurt, either.

Big Smokey    Glass KarbunkleGlass   Amber KarbunkelClear Glass   Karbunkel So these “big” and small objects came into being during a hot glass master class at North Lands. They came from a drawing exercise, which was looking at negative space. I am terribly interested in cavities – especially cavities at archaeological sites, normally hidden away from our sight. But I have also always been interested in scourges and diseases blighting our very existence as human beings. The karbunkels are an amalgamation of those ideas. And again, I tried to make the uncanny into something beautiful. They are only objects just now, but will become body adornment in due course. Below are ideas from my sketchbook:

sketchbook designs design  drawings for blown glass jewellery

Oh, and one of these karbunkels has already made it into my weird world as a real, wearable object: Intro the Lichen Slug Ring (a family member of the Lichen/Fungi Rings, the firstborn of which has not been photographed yet). The beastly creature is made from textured Sterling Silver and dark Blown Glass.

Hand made ring in silver and blown glass

Lichen Slug Ring, February 2011