Wednesday, 31 August 2011


I re-visited one of the beaches that was particularly rich in beach-combing material last year. I remember that this one had all sorts of plastic and metal scattered around amongst the pebbles. Someone had collected a lot of it together and it sat in one place: a colourful heap of broken and discarded things and perhaps even more depressing because of being piled up together. I collected a bit more up to add to the pile or to take away and fiddle about with myself: one hand man made...

the other natural.

It gave me something to play with later on.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

world beach

My latest addition to the wonderful World Beach Project is here.

Monday, 29 August 2011

rust prints

Despite being upset by a few cows, the paper I had left at the old fishing station set up to make rust prints did end up with some good marks. Above is the one with a whole range of rusty nails and tools and below is the one with the long nails laid out in a row.

It was just an experiment really, nothing amazing, but it's good to know that something can develop over just a few days and left in a public place (although it isn't exactly heaving with people up on the west coast of Scotland!)

Sunday, 28 August 2011


I took a couple of my 'old fishing station' bundles back there towards the end of the week to unwrap them and see what results I would get from the experiments I'd set up. They had definitely developed over the few days they'd sat on the veranda, colour seeping through in various places. The top one of the bunch had just sea weed in it, wrapped in silk. It seemed right to return the seaweed to where I'd found it. The others I wanted to bring home to give them longer to develop.

I was intrigued to see what would have happene
d to my rust prints that I'd left in the hut. When I got there the one on the shelf was just as I'd left it with some nice marks transferred from the rusty bits and pieces onto my paper.

The cows had been into the hut over night (probably to get out of the rain the previous day) and crashed about a bit. They had left their mark in various places amongst the ropes and 'stuff' on the floor. They'd also knocked my other paper off the box I'd left it on. There were marks on it from the rusty nails but also the odd foot print!

I unwrapped the thread that was binding my bundle tight then unrolled the silk, shaking out the bits of weed that I'd wrapped up a few days earlier.

The different types of weed left different marks and colours,
some with quite distinct patterns from the veins and fronds.

As the silk unwound it flew in the breeze like a flag. I carried it to the edge of the water to rinse out the last bits of weed.

The silk dried quickly in the warm breeze and sunshine. I wet another small piece of wool felt and wrapped
it around a big limpet shell, binding with linen thread. This one was to go home with me, along with a jar of sea water with a few of the rusty nails I'd found for future use.

next installment

The bundles I made on the beach sat for a few days on the wooden veranda of the place I was staying.

Meanwhile, I wove a little and fiddled about with some of the things I'd collected.

I read, in Robert Macfarlane's The Wild Places, about why he collects things from the various places he visits.

My habit of gathering stones and other talismans was a family one. My parents were collectors. Shelves and window-sills in my house were covered in shells, pebbles, twists of driftwood from rivers and sea. For as long as I could remember, we had picked things up as we walked. Humdrum, everyday rites, practised by millions of people…. Now, though, collecting offered a way both to remember and to join up my wild places…. The objects seemed to hold my landscapes together, without binding them too tightly.

Of course, many people collect things when they walk, but perhaps we do this for different reasons? Do we do it to take a tangible thing from a place to aid our memory? Does it makes us feel we own something of that place? This must satisfy something within, to take a little piece of a place away. I wonder at these little items: a pebble, a shell, a feather. On this trip there seemed to be a theme of colour and form that developed in the things I chose to pick up.

I find satisfaction in laying the items out, arranging them in a way that shows them off in their simple beauty and allows me to see them, watch the
m, get to know them.

Then the mist came down and the distant hills disappeared. Sea and sky merged. Every so often a boat slipped passed and then a submarine emerged out of the gloom and drifted around ominously.

A wet day seemed right for a garden visit, dripping and steaming. At least the midges weren't too bad! As well as its celebrated walled kitchen garden, Inverewe has some lovely trees, including various eucalyptus and one had kindly dropped some multi-coloured leaves. These later got bundled up in paper and silk, were steamed and then added to the collection of curing bundles on the veranda.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


A couple of days after exploring the inside of the old fishing station I returned and started a few experiments. Having read in India Flint's Second Skin about the value of dipping fabric in seawater before other dyeing processes I popped a few bits and pieces into the waves and gave them a good soaking. Some were left to dry on the pebbles.

I gathered up bits of sea weed from the receding water and wrapped them in the wet silk.

I did the same for some salty wet wool felt.

I took a few rusty nails from inside the hut and added these to one of the seaweed bundles to see what difference it would make to the potential colours. This bit felt very scientific - some with and some without as a control!

I wrapped one piece of silk round variou
s rusty metal objects without any weed in there but with plenty of salty wetness! I then put some pieces of paper from my sketchbook into the waves to thoroughly wet them (this is the point when anyone else on the beach might have started to wonder what the hell I was doing, but these Scottish beaches are so un-crowded that the nearest people were probably totally oblivious to my odd potterings). I then placed my wet paper underneath some of the rusty stuff in the hut to see if I might get some interesting rust prints.

The paper seemed to start to dry pretty quic
kly with the breeze and the fact it was a fairly nice day so I poured a bit more sea water on to these little setups a few more times through the day to keep them damp for as long as possible.

I then left them to it with the intention of returning a few days later, taking my bundles with me to sit and develop with time. What might I find
when I returned? Would my paper be removed by a fisherman wondering what on earth people had been doing in his hut?

A few more beach treasures...

and this lovely little chap, later to be identified as a masked crab carapace. I'm always amazed how such a delicate thing like this can find its way from the waves onto the beach and remain intact.

There were various different sea urchins on this beach, including
a number of little sea potatoes (or heart urchins - sounds a bit more romantic!), the smallest of which was about the size of my thumb nail. That one was too fragile though, and as I went to pick it up it crumbled in my fingers.

Monday, 15 August 2011

the old fishing station

I've been kind of sitting on this one for a while, saving it up, trying to get my head around the experience of this place. I was staying on the north west coast of Scotland, an area I've been coming on holiday to all my life. This place is nestled well and truly in my soul.

This visit was a kind of working holiday - work in the mornings, beach in the afternoons - and all the time this ever-changing view of the sea and the distant hills of Skye and the northern outer Hebrides beyond.

There is a beach beyond the end of the road (where once I rode a horse as a child and the queen had a picnic with her yacht anchored out in the bay) that gets my vote as one of the most beautiful places in the world.

At the southern end of this beach sits the old fishing station. It
's just a hut, open to the elements; no door or glass in the windows. Inside it is piled full of stuff: ropes, buoys, wood, old tyres, tins, rusty this-that-and-the-other.

Some of this stuff is still used on occasion I guess but there is also a whole load of rubbish. Things are just left as if someone was to come back and use them but in the mean time they've gone rusty and are rotting in the salty air and the weather (there is a lot of weather here!). The local livestock obviously use the hut for shelter at times too - they've left their mark.

Inside, on the shelves, there are all sorts of things that are now rusted and of no use for their originally intended tasks.

Outside, more rubbish is strewn about, half reclaim
ed by the sand and rough grassland on the dunes.

Even the outside has a ramshackle collection of nails along its weather beaten boards. This place is/was all about utility and nothing to do with aesthetics but I was totally captivated by it and, throughout my stay, returned a number of times to explore its contents and the treasures of the beach it sits by.