Timespan's Artist in Residence programme is supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Eurpoean Community Highland Leader 2007-2013 Programme

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Snowbound - Lunar Eclipse at Winter Solstice

I am awake at 6.00 and listening to the news. I don't have to get up yet, I can stay cosy for a while. Then I hear the newsreader say that today's total Lunar Eclipse of the Full Moon at 7.40 am will be the first one to occur at the Winter Solstice for about 400 years. I have to get up . . .now. How did I not know about this? It wasn't on the news yesterday or if it was I missed it. I don't have my camera so I will paint draw, I have been watching the moon with regard to this residency at Helmsdale for almost 18 months now and I need to use colour because the more I watch the more colours I see. The colours flicker and change almost constantly - I know this is in response to the tiny movements that the eye makes and identifying the shifts is fascinating. So- not having the camera is good. It means the image in my memory will not be static. By the time I'm sorted at 6.30 and looking out of the upstairs window to the North-West the eclipse has started - a faint blurring at the left hand side of this huge full moon which has been so bright for the last few days. It's brilliance reflected back by the thick blanket of white snow and ice all around. I listen to the radio while I watch and hear Dr David Whitehouse talk about the moon - the solstice will be 15 hours after the eclipse he says and adds that when the Earth's shadow passes across the moon's face then some people will see it as red. This is because only light waves can bend around the earth reach the moon and they are primarily red. The moon reaches the horizon of the hill behind me so I do not see the Earth's red shadow moving away again. I go downstairs and I make my porridge - happy that I did not miss this moon.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Artist (Not Quite) in Residence

Although not quite in residence, I've been in Lybster for a 6 week mixed-media residency at North Lands Creative Glass and couldn't resist a few Helmsdale visits and even an undercover test project with Rocio Jungenfeld, about more of which later. Helmsdale is in my heart, in both a romantic and a Twin Peaks kind of a way. I shot a lot of film and thought you may like to see three images from my Double Exposure project with Emily Workman - a single roll of positive transparency slide film is exposed by each of us in different countries. These were shot in Caithness and in South Wales; we hope to exhibit them next year sometime. I'll be back in January so see you all very soon and have a wonderful Christmas!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Field Studies Review

Review of Field Studies exhibition written by Giles Sutherland - art critic for The Times - is available now on the Northings site. 'Part of Roberts success therefore must centre on her ability to encourage those who have deemed themselves ‘uncreative’ or ‘not artists’ to create work with depth, meaning and integrity.'

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

One of the final parts of the Field Studies project was to do a visit to the Pier Arts Centre, Stomness, an opportunity to compare and contrast. What a visit this was! 22 people got up at the crack of dawn to take the ferry and be part of a fascinating insight into the Pier Arts. We had people from the Board, the Arts and Heritage Committees, the Staff, the Knitting Group and Volunteers. It was a thought provoking trip, at the end of what has been a thought provoking project.
But of course it has to be fun, so the ferry trip home had a Field Studies Quiz! Here is one of the joint winners beavering away.....

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

baffie is now OPEN!

Just thought I'd pop back for a visit to tell you that the online shop I spoke about when I was doing my residency in Timespan is now OPEN! sells unique gifts for domestic bliss.
Also included is the lovely wee coffee table book published by Timespan, which describes what it would have been like to live in a croft house near Helmsdale in the 1800s as well as a bit about my artworks made for 'Close-Knit' and the people I worked with on the project. To find out more please click here.
I'm so excited by my new venture, hope it tickles you too!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

I had to smile when I saw this photo taken at the Preview of the Field Studies exhibition, who would have thought that a small, cardboard box would create such interest! The youngest contributor was a 20 month old, and the oldest 99 years old. There are 97 boxes to look through, which by my (rough) calculations is 0.8% of the population of Sutherland. A stunning result for what has been a stunning project. I'll post more images of the exhibition soon, including my pencil wall drawings. We're now preparing to take Timespan on mass for a developmental day to The Pier Arts Centre in Stromness. Fingers crossed for a calm crossing.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

I have so fallen in love with this part of the world that I even went and viewed a house! This notice was pinned to one of the doors; for me, the sentiment is spot on. We are just about to start installation of the Field Studies exhibition, which means me doing lots of drawing on the walls, and I know its going to be as the notice says, so lots of coffee will be needed. Also, this whole project has been about developing Timespan's relationship with Contemporary Art, and again, I think the notice says it all. As participants bring back the most amazing boxes filled with creativity, what we can be sure of is that this exploration of Contemporary Art is certainly worth doing.

Monday, 11 October 2010

So now we are at the stage that I call 'deliciously terrifying'! Will the participants bring their boxes back in time for the exhibition? I'm delighted to say that they are. Here I am in Skerray, where we had a stunning day with people delivering their boxes, collecting boxes, talking boxes and drinking tea whilst exploring boxes. We're outside, what is in my humble opinion, the bestest little Post Office and shop in the world. This day was the day the Field Studies project really came to fruition. Loved it!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

We have been working at a very special place - Kinbrace Primary School - where the staff and pupils have embraced the Field Studies project. This is a great poster describing our first visit. The children are really excited about visiting Timespan to see their boxes as part of the exhibition. We are now at the stage of seeing just how many of the boxes that we have given out are going to make their way back......!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Exciting times! My Field Trip box is the inspiration for a major part of the Field Studies project. The idea is that participants have their own Field Trip box, to fill how they like. These will then be shown in the exhibition, displaying a creative geology of Northern Scotland. Members of the Timespan organisation - the Board, Committee members, staff and volunteers - and various communities that we have been working with, are seen collecting their boxes.

Friday, 24 September 2010

So just as Peach went out 'in the field', I did. Recording by drawing, notes and collecting stones. All the work then came together in this little field trip box I made. It then became my proposal for my project, 'Field Studies'. It consists of 20 pages, which include research and how I want to conduct the project. This little box has now been shown to many people and has prompted lots of great discussions - amazing what a bit of cardboard and masking tape can do.

Monday, 20 September 2010

The trip to this hotel in Assynt just had to be done. Through my research the geologists Peach and Horne had become very important to me, particularly Peach who worked in a very similar manner to an artist. There is a very famous photo of them sitting outside this hotel, whilst doing their ground breaking research of the area.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Journeying is central to my practice, making maps of those travels, and I avivdly collect old maps and travel guides. In Blacks 1910 Guide Book of Scotland it has tips for 'Autobilism' i.e. driving cars, and advises "that it is when touring in the extreme north that the necessity chiefly exists for timing ones supplies." As the photo shows, 100 years later the situation is very similar. In journeying around 'the extreme north' it has taken me time to adjust to this 'timing', it is one of the things that makes here so very special.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

You may have noticed that all my images have rocks in them, and that is where my research has taken me, to what is under our feet, the geologists Peach and Horne have been my inspiration. As was this, what was being exposed on a dig on Orkney - fasincating what is below us, hidden, but influencing that lie of the land.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

As Jean shows me it's all about understanding the lie of the land, knowing how to 'read' the stones. To me a pile of rocks, but actually they signify something far more important. It's all a case of knowing what you 'see' - very similar to contemporary art. Rocks keep cropping up in my research....

Saturday, 11 September 2010

I have been exploring the stunning, if slightly windy, landscape of Sutherland; and enjoying the delights of Lottie Glob's work.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Revue by Giles Sutherland

'[Close-Knit] is a credibly fresh attempt to read a series of deeply felt historical events and circumstances from a new perspective with new materials. It succeeds both as art and as a form of social cohesion.'

Please read the whole revue here.

Close-Knit Exhibition in a nutshell

Here is a wee image of all of the works in my exhibition Close-Knit. It runs until October 10th so please go and see the works in the flesh if you can.

If you'd like to know more about each piece, please click on the link below the image for more photos and information.

see more...

I would love to hear your comments?

I'm also making a wee book which will be available from the end of the month. It contains lots of lovely images and snippets of information gathered during this residency, about the lifestyle of crofters in the Highlands in the 1800s. I'm coming back to Timespan on 24th September to launch the book and talk a bit more about my experience in Helmsdale, please come?

I'll keep you posted about three other venues in the Highlands I'll also be visiting to run 'learn to knit' workshops and talk about the book.

Close-Knit Exhibition work 5

The Old Chanty

The knitted bedpan is designed in the style of one that would have been used by an old or sick man who had taken to his bed. A little worse for wear and bearing the scars of its life, not functioning quite as well as it once would have, but still loved and cared for.

Jean Sargent gets it!

Close-Knit Exhibition work 4

One Perfectly Good Bucket

I found this bucket in one of the croft ruins in Wester Helmsdale. It had no bottom on it and a big hole in the side. The crofters were (and still are) extremely resourceful and frugal, and would mend what they could before replacing it. This bucket would have been a vital piece of equipment, so I mended it by weaving it a new bottom and wrapping the hole at the side with string. It's now a perfectly good bucket again...for everything except liquid!...and is valued once more, transformed from the rejected to the treasured.

If you'd like to see what this bucket looked like when I found it and how the work was created, please read this earlier blog.

Close-Knit Exhibition work 3

For Your Own Good

I made this work with the help of some children from the local primary children and the knitting group, who meet weekly in Timespan.

The knitted installation is inspired by Badbea, a deserted clearance village 6 miles up the road from Helmsdale. Though Badbea is a dramatically stunning spot, it is windswept, rocky and desperately near an extremely high cliff edge. It is said that the families were so nervous their children would accidentally fall of the cliff, they tethered them to posts and rocks while they were out playing.

According to the 1841 Census, when Badbea was at its busiest, there were 21 children under 10yrs living there and so we have knitted 21 bootees and 3 large boulders, which aim to tell this story.

For Your Own Good was created by myself and:


Emilee Mae Simpson

Findlay Adams

Imogen Roberts

Isobel Kelly

Maddy Cowie

Megan Booth

Thalia Adams

Knitting Group

Alison Oliver

Anne Sinclair

Betty Kelly

Gerry Wood

Ina D.S. Macpherson

Jean Sargent

Joan Murray

Linda Letton

Lisa MacDonald

Lorna Jappy

Muriel Emey

Penny Woodley

Ros Hulme

Ruth Mackay

Sandra Jennison

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Passing the baton!

Well it's more of a geological hammer than a baton!

But just as Julia goes, I arrive, and we share the delights of the Games together.

Julia's exhibition is stunning and very powerful, I urge you to come and see it.

So, I'm now at what I call that deliciously terrifying stage of a project. Done the research, got the ideas, put forward the proposal - now I just have to do it.

And the hammer? Ah come back for the next blog, and all will be revealed.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Close-Knit Exhibition work 2

Foxglove Croft

Made collaboratively with Lorna Jappy

This spoof Estate Agent’s window display is accompanied by a document, which aims to sell the idea of living in a croft in Badbea, a deserted clearance village 6 miles up the road, whilst, at the same time, describing what it might have been like to live in one of the most challenging clearance sites during the 1800s.

The document will be included in a publication to complement this exhibition, available from 24th September 2010 from Timespan's shop or my online gift shop

Close-Knit Exhibition work 1

Keep The Fires Burning

Made collaboratively with Christine Cowie

The two gable ends, pictured in the light-boxes, were both found in Wester Helmsdale and are brilliant examples of the skill and creativity of the crofters. Virtually nothing remains of these crofts except for these vitally important fireplaces. But with these, we can imagine a glimpse of what it would have been like to live in these homes. The hearth was the focus of indoor family life, around which the whole family would spend their evenings. The crofters would never have let the fire go out. For this work I installed warming flowers and smoky grasses, in order to recreate that focus point and create a ‘memorial’ for the heart of these homes. The space in which these works are housed is the same dimension as a croft (3/4 size).

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Edwyn Collins, the 2010 Chieftain at the Helmsdale Highland Games

The day after my opening was The Helmsdale Highland Games. Myself, my husband, Colin Usher, and dog Becca had a brilliant day watching the antics.

It was a moving procession, with Edwyn Collins walking all the way up to the games from right outside my front door on Dunrobin Street.

The other highlight for me had to be the tug of war, with local lads heaving with all their might whilst still managing to hang on to a can of tennent's and smoke a fag!