back from Islay

Just returned from a wonderful week on the Hebridean island of Islay. We stayed in a delightful cottage at Kintra Farm, looking west over the sea – beautiful sunsets.

sunset from sgeir cottage

Islay is home to many beaches, from sand that stretches as far as the eye can see, to rugged coves where seals haul out onto the rocks, and pebbly strands with glass clear water. Home to deer, wild goats, rare pigs, alpaca, many colours of sheep and cows, rabbits galore and all sorts of sea and land birds, plus eight whisky distilleries – we visited the newest at Kilchoman, but came home with Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain – and a brewery.

On the textile trail, we visited the Islay Quilters, Elizabeth Sykes Batiks, and Tormisdale Croft Crafts, which doesn’t yet have a web site, but is full of luscious yarns and handdyed silks.

Highlights of the week were watching the seals sleep, swim and fight at Portnahaven, and encountering a beach sculpture of a woman gazing out to sea at Machir Bay. She fascinated me, I’m thinking about garments with nets and ropes and the colours of the rocks further along the bay.

seals at portnahaven
sea woman watching
sea woman
sea woman sketches
fringed rocks

exhibition report: Jo Budd – Beyond Surface

Yesterday I went to Farfield Mill to see the Jo Budd exhibition that’s showing there as part of the Women’s International Arts Festival. It was well displayed in a light airy room, walking in was like walking into a song of colour, a first impression of acid greens, rust, greys and shining yellows, sky shade blues, ochres and earth tones. Very visually stimulating. The work is an exploration of the colours and layers of landscape, seen through painted surfaces and layers and depths of translucent colour.

From the artist’s statement:

“A new studio in a new location, looking over river marshes, and a new dyeing technique using rust and water, have given me a fresh set of colours and marks to play with.”

“Focusing on surface but refocusing on the layers, in land, water and sky – these are the qualities which fascinate me.”

The work shown dates from 1998 – 2007, some glazed pieces and some hangings. Jo Budd collages and quilts dyed and painted fabrics, on a large scale. Lines of stitches create shadows and depths. Fabrics are sheers, cottons, silks, juxtaposed and layered to create wonderful plays of colour, light and atmosphere.

Corrugated Iron (1998) is a large piece maybe 8 foot by 6 foot. It’s pieced and layered appliqué, with the painted marks very evident, both paint and stitch expressing the lines of corrugation. There’s an image of this striking piece with an essay and some other examples of her work, on Celia Eddy’s QuiltStory web site.

Rust Series (2007). This is another large piece about 6ft square, one of a series of pieces using rust-dyeing. The effects create a dramatic texture. Lines of long yet fine stitching that define some areas. The colours are cool browns and greens, blues and greys, exploring shape and movement. Colours change subtly where the fabrics overlap.

Fields of Green (1999) – I think this was the piece I was most drawn to. Strong horizontal bands of greens, stitched and dyed, lustre of silk and flatness of cotton. A smaller piece,about 3ft by 4ft, but it drew the eye from the moment I entered the room with the intensity of the colours and the stitched textures.

All the work gives me a strong sense of celebration of the incredible beauty of landscape, and the expanses of land and sky that characterise a flat country. Driving home, I was seeing the colours of my own Cumbrian landscape, different though it is, in a new way. I found the exhibition very inspiring. I love the effects of paint and dye on fabric and the depths that build up. I love the intense and subtle colours Jo Budd creates. I especially like the intrinsic connection between the rusty marks and the subject material of her work.

I hope I’ll get to see this work again at the Festival of Quilts.