Scotland’s Story-Told in a Million Stitches Sam & Gavin Khan-McIntyre-Artwork Magazine

Artwork Magazine-link:http://www.artwork.co.uk/
Sam & Gavin Khan-McIntyre

SAM_0390Entering Cockenzie House in East Lothian not knowing what to expect from the Great Scottish Tapestry, brainchild of writer Alexander Mcall-Smith, I was struck by the vibrant colours, artistic effects, and textures. The delicate needlework suggests a painterly rendition which may easily be mistaken for brushstroke.

Beginning with the ice age, and telling the history of Scotland dating from 420 million years ago to the present through 160 events, it presents a comprehensive and beautiful survey of its history, culture and people. At an impressive 143 metres, it is the longest tapestry ever made.

Organisation has come from a team which includes the artist Andrew Crummy, the historian Alistair Moffat and the ‘stitch co-ordinator’ Dorie Wilkie.

The work was executed by a team of 1,000 talented stitchers, over two years. Smith said: “It has been stitched by volunteers as a gift to the nation” and that “this was the biggest community arts project ever to take place in Scotland”.

The work is a part of the stitchers as individuals as much as it is part of Scotland. In relation to representation of the multicultural life of the country, Smith said: “Everyone who lives in Scotland is an incomer. The land was without people at the time of the last ice age and we have represented many stages of settlement from that point until the reopening of the Scottish Parliament”.

He continued that all aspects of Scottish life and history are covered […] and it is very much a people’s history”. He added that requests made for additional panels in various areas are being considered.

Invigilating the exhibition was Joan Lesley, a retired schoolteacher, who said the artist created the main outlines as conceptual, not exact representations. The borders pictures were chosen by the stitchers themselves. Each panel had its own team, placed throughout the country, and Lesley discussed the panel she worked on, over a year in a team of ten called the Edinburgh Tenners. This piece is entitled: The Ice Melts, Scotland Emerges, The First Pioneers Come the Wildwood and its Fauna c8,500 BC.

This depicts the country over 10,000 years ago, showing hunter gatherers and animals such as the tusked Onyx, now extinct and also the polar bear. The barely there transparent depiction of the bear indicates how it was disappearing from Scotland at the time.

Stitching on linen fabric, in wool, with a little cotton and shiny thread for effects, the volunteers would each spend days at a time on it, over the course of the year. Leslie said they would often stitch through the night with fingers getting “raw and sore”. It could be difficult at nightime, due to “lighting getting bad”, but she said that during the stitching of the Bayeux tapestry from c11, they would have had to work by candlelight.

Over 400 hours of work went into each panel. Prior to starting, the volunteers spent weeks practising and perfecting and debating the techniques on sample linen. When it finally came to working on the panel itself, Lesley said “we were scared stiff”. The pressure to get it right was immense.

The participants had the freedom to contribute ideas, research and aspects of Scottish life. Lesley depicted a squirrel in her border section, as “we thought they might become extinct”.  Its fascinating fluffy tail Lesley said, was a stitch a girl on the team from Pakistan had taught her.

She said: “it was an exciting thing to be working on, and that after all the hard work when the panels were finally show together “it felt special”.

It is indeed special, for Smith said: “We hope the tapestry would last for hundreds of years, a great deal of research went into finding the right linen and wools that would stand the test of time. Much now depends on the conditions in which it is exhibited and the care it receives”.

The funding he said came from Charitable Trusts and individuals. This was used to cover materials, co-ordination and premises. The artist and small team of stitcher co-ordinators were paid. Additional funding is being sought for the next stage of touring, educational work, and a permanent home.

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Jim Brown, director of Cockenzie House, said: “I think it’s marvellous” He pointed out Sam the seagull who made history by stealing 20 packets of Doritos at an Aberdeen newsagent, which made headline news in 2007.

The tapestry will be at Cockenzie House until December 3, a permanent home is still being sought. A donation for entry is suggested at £3.50. Summerhall is to be believed next on the tour list and future dates are to be announced

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In search of more ‘curious tradionary facts’ about Hogg

Published in Artwork Sept 2013 issue: http://www.artwork.co.uk/
By Sam & Gavin Khan-McIntyre

rab 4 (2)

DEEP in the heart of the rural Scottish Borders lies the Ettrick Valley, an area with little internet or mobile connection. Over the summer the old primary school at the top of the valley has been playing host to the James Hogg Exhibition in its hall.

This seemed completely empty until the poet Robert Wilson suddenly appeared from the small office next to the front door with the words “I’m just finishing a poem.”

Looking casual in a T-shirt, he began to show me around. Although no visitors were present, Wilson said there had been a trickle every day. He pointed out that six people a day here is equivalent to a footfall of something like 600 in Edinburgh.

Hogg had lived a few metres from the school between 1770 and 1835, and was a major literary figure and farmer. Wilson feels he ought to be commemorated as part of Scots culture and history and is building on this aspect of the area.

As we chatted about Hogg – his unconventional love life, his debt problems and his extraordinary mask – visitors started appearing. As they cornered Wilson, I slipped away to examine the exhibits.

These included the sinister-looking mask moulded from his face, a spectacle case, a replica of his desk and dog, a first edition novel, and a beautiful sculpture based on a Hogg poem. The exhibition impressed Marlene Wyley from London, who commented that it was “very well curated.”

As the exhibition closed for the day, Wilson and I sat on the steps outside while the last of the visitors drifted away. It transpired that Wilson knows little about sheep but a lot about Hogg.

He had been totally immersed in Hogg’s writings during the first two weeks of the six week residency, which was due to last until the end of September. Funding, he told me, came from The Big Lottery Fund, the Leader programme and the Buccleuch Estate. Wilson is receiving a small salary.

Hogg was, said Wilson, the classic “lad o’ pairts” .”He was a kind of self-educated guy who had to struggle through poverty and he had an innate talent to do that.” For that, and for having written inScots, Wilson felt some identification with him.

Wilson discussed the importance of Hogg’s legacy and his own role fitting into this, he said: “Thehuman condition doesn’t change much. The same challenges face people as they did 200 years ago. “It’s a struggle for the local people to survive economically and it’s one of the challenges of isolation here. The valley depopulated because of people moving away for jobs, and that’s the same today as in Hogg’s time.”

This depopulation occurred he said, when local sheep farms were taken over by trees, by contractors and big companies, and the commercially run forestry ventures sucked the life out of the community: “They didn’t bring anything in, they were just interested in taking out.”

Influenced by his experiences, Wilson’s poems so far have been based on wildlife, topography and place names. He also aims to incorporate locals’ stories and their aspirations for the valley in ameaningful way.

Wardlaw Jackson, 58, a farmer in the Cross Keys pub farther down the valley, also talked about the forestry, and said that incomers to the area tended to be retirees. He said that the farmers, himselfincluded, had capitalised on the situation by selling land to the contractors at something like double its market value.

The contractors, he said, hadpromised jobs to the locals, but these had failed to materialise. Wilson admits to knowing nothing about sheep farming: “I’m not a shepherd, but I can appreciate the tough life that they have.” In fact, many farmers left the area as result of the difficult life.

The aim to revitalise Ettrick could result in drastic changes to its character and landscape. The danger is that this might cause loss of the uniqueness which so influences Wilson’s poetry and the very solitude which helps concentrate his mind in the writing of it.

SAM KHAN-MCINTYRE

Through the Lens with Haddington Camera Club.

By Sam & Gavin Khan-McIntyre

Commisioned East Lothian Courier

Haddington Camera club members showcase their talents in their annual exhibition at the John Gray Centre, coinciding with the organization’s 60th anniversary.

Taking place between 18 May and 12 June, the exhibition of 125 digital images incorporates a diverse range of work, from 41 of the club’s 60 strong membership. It takes place in the Temporary Exhibition Gallery, on the top floor of the venue.  The private viewing on the 17th of May  attracted members, along with their family and friends. People milled around admiring and discussing the photographs, uniformly hung and enhanced by silver frames.

Longstanding member 80 year-old Roy Myers  said: ‘I’ve been in the camera club since 1972 […] my mother had a camera in 1934’, which he learnt to use, and was developing film at the age of 7.  He continued that ‘in relation to computer technology I take a neutral view and I’m more into the art side of things’. He discussed a photo he had taken of a British Airways Concorde and talked about employing the rule of thirds to proportion the photo, as well as the use of light and shade. These he said are also techniques used in fine art.

The value of photography as art was also expressed in the club’s literature at the event, which stated that: ‘photography should be regarded as art; it is like viewing a painting or sculpture. It is the individual person whose attention is attracted and who interprets the image uniquely’.

The club’s website designer Lesley Clarke had two photos in the exhibition: one was called The ‘Writing on the Wall’ and was of an old- fashioned washbasin with a ‘no drinking water’ sign in a public bathroom in Sheffield. It conveyed the atmosphere of another era still present in parts of Sheffield.

James White who exhibited a photo called ‘Wells Cathedral said:I took the picture because it was a nice place and beautiful day.’ The photo was a picturesque scene of the cathedral and grounds, and included a woman with a child sitting under a tree.

Mike Shakespeare, the club treasurer explained how the club works:  ’we give advice, enjoy it, and if you want to learn something come forward and ask.. We look forward to new members and some of the good photographs made. People can learn more about computers, art and the technical side.’He mentioned some of its activities:‘We have photography expeditions, last year these were to Lindisfarne and country houses and gardens. We set a completion on the visits.’

Clarke explained what motivated her to join: ‘I’ve always taken photos and I like it from a social point of view.’  She added that 40 people go each week, and after the talks, there is time for a cup of tea and a chat. She said all sorts of people attend the weekly meetings, ranging in age of 15 to 80-year-olds, a mixture of men and women.

The exhibition takes place every year at St Mary’s Parish Church in Haddington. However this year the club’s anniversary and the recent opening of the John Gray centre in 2012 lead to the change of venue.

Exhibition opening times are Monday-Friday 10-5, Saturday 10-4 and Sunday 1-4.

Club meetings are held between the months of September-April in the Poldrate Arts Centre.

These take place on Tuesdays at 7.30

More information can be found at:

 http://www.haddingtoncameraclub.org.uk/

Festival Nation-Sam & Gavin Khan-McIntyre-Buzz Magazine-Edinburgh Napier

Story originally published in Buzz Magazine, Summer 2012

Orkney Folk Festival 2011.28/5/11Tom O'BrienTHE INTIMATE, calm atmosphere of small music festivals have made them increasingly popular withScottish audiences. They offer a relaxed alternative to the ever-more commercial world of larger festivals. Buzz has identifed this season’s most promising lesser-known musical extravaganzas.

The Orkney Folk Festival

 Held 31st May to 3rd June on  Stromness, this far Northern festival is celebrating its thirtieth year .with thirty artists performing over four days, There is an intimate and friendly atmosphere. where visitors can also make music with the artists. Festival organiser, Craig Corse, says: “There are pub music sessions in an informal atmosphere which are free to attend, musicians rub shoulders with the artists. This is the folk attitude, of experimentation and communal essence.”The music is described as “a mixture of traditional and more daring kinds of styles, because new audiences want to see something different.” The ages of audience members are widely varied, but the festival is particularly popular with fifteen – thirty year olds.

Tickets are sold per event for under £15 from the Folk Festival office on 0185 685 1331. Stromnesshas a hotel, hostel, and campsite accommodation, but space and tickets are limited, so book your trip early!

Mendelssohn on Mull

This chamber music festival, held from 1st to 7th July on the Isle of Mull, offers relaxing classical music. The musicians are young, ranging from teenagers to those in their late twenties. This festival is great for students, as amazingly, it’s free. Jane Nicholson, PR for the festival, says: “The idea behind it is to take these musicians out of solitary life and put them in a beautiful setting. It’s an inspiration and a complete change, which infuences the music. The standard is absolutely top notch.”She adds that, “The audience is of all ages, and includes families with young children.”While there are events across the Isle, it’s best to stay in Tobermory, where there are plenty of bed and breakfasts, a youth hostel and camping. This port town is easy to reach via the bus or ferry service from Oban.

Millport Country and Western Festival

Set in the picturesque town of Cumbrae on the Isle of Millport, this three-day event is filled with bands and line dancing. Some big names are playing this year, from 31st August to 2nd September, including Kickin’ Country, Carson City and Southern Boulevard. Tickets are £124 and available from David Urquhart travel at 0845 330 3747. Cumbrae is best reached by car. The trip includes a thirty minute ferry crossing. Hotel accommodation is easily available.

Electric Frog

A more contemporary option, this Glasgow electronic festival is celebrating its third year from April 7th to 8th. The organisers describe their line-up as ‘iconic,’ last year’s event included exclusive appearances from Francois Kevorkian and Kode 9. Local DJs from Glasgow’s club community perform alongside emerging talent. The festival is held outdoors, with food and bar vendors contributing to the party atmosphere. This year’s festival will be held at The People’s Palace and Winter Gardens, in central Glasgow. Tickets are available from Ticket Scotland at 0131 220 3234 or0141 204 5151 and are priced at £25/day or £50/weekend.

Edinburgh Jazz and blues Festival

Held from 20th to 29th July, this 33-year old festival is an Edinburgh staple. Spread across various venues, this event showcases new talent, aiming to support Scottish musicians, while also featuring numerous international artists. The programme showcases a musical range from fusion to free jazz. Tickets are sold per event, and are available from the box office at 01314675200. Accommodation is tough to find, so book in advance!

THE INTIMATE, calm atmosphere of small music festivals have made them increasingly popular withScottish audiences. They offer a relaxed alternative to the ever-more commercial world of larger festivals. Buzz has identifed this season’s most promising lesser-known musical extravaganzas.

 The Orkney Folk Festival

 Held 31st May to 3rd June on  Stromness, this far Northern festival is celebrating its thirtieth year .with thirty artists performing over four days, There is an intimate and friendly atmosphere. where visitors can also make music with the artists. Festival organiser, Craig Corse, says: “There are pub music sessions in an informal atmosphere which are free to attend, musicians rub shoulders with the artists. This is the folk attitude, of experimentation and communal essence.”The music is described as “a mixture of traditional and more daring kinds of styles, because new audiences want to see something different.” The ages of audience members are widely varied, but the festival is particularly popular with fifteen – thirty year olds.

Tickets are sold per event for under £15 from the Folk Festival office on 0185 685 1331. Stromnesshas a hotel, hostel, and campsite accommodation, but space and tickets are limited, so book your trip early!

Mendelssohn on Mull

This chamber music festival, held from 1st to 7th July on the Isle of Mull, offers relaxing classical music. The musicians are young, ranging from teenagers to those in their late twenties. This festival is great for students, as amazingly, it’s free. Jane Nicholson, PR for the festival, says: “The idea behind it is to take these musicians out of solitary life and put them in a beautiful setting. It’s an inspiration and a complete change, which infuences the music. The standard is absolutely top notch.”She adds that, “The audience is of all ages, and includes families with young children.”While there are events across the Isle, it’s best to stay in Tobermory, where there are plenty of bed and breakfasts, a youth hostel and camping. This port town is easy to reach via the bus or ferry service from Oban.

Millport Country and Western Festival

Set in the picturesque town of Cumbrae on the Isle of Millport, this three-day event is filled with bands and line dancing. Some big names are playing this year, from 31st August to 2nd September, including Kickin’ Country, Carson City and Southern Boulevard. Tickets are £124 and available from David Urquhart travel at 0845 330 3747. Cumbrae is best reached by car. The trip includes a thirty minute ferry crossing. Hotel accommodation is easily available.

Electric Frog

A more contemporary option, this Glasgow electronic festival is celebrating its third year from April 7th to 8th. The organisers describe their line-up as ‘iconic,’ last year’s event included exclusive appearances from Francois Kevorkian and Kode 9. Local DJs from Glasgow’s club community perform alongside emerging talent. The festival is held outdoors, with food and bar vendors contributing to the party atmosphere. This year’s festival will be held at The People’s Palace and Winter Gardens, in central Glasgow. Tickets are available from Ticket Scotland at 0131 220 3234 or0141 204 5151 and are priced at £25/day or £50/weekend.

Edinburgh Jazz and blues Festival

Held from 20th to 29th July, this 33-year old festival is an Edinburgh staple. Spread across various venues, this event showcases new talent, aiming to support Scottish musicians, while also featuring numerous international artists. The programme showcases a musical range from fusion to free jazz. Tickets are sold per event, and are available from the box office at 01314675200. Accommodation is tough to find, so book in advance!

Enjoy an Innovative Market in Edinburgh

Story originally published in Buzz Magazine on 18th April 2012 (Link)

Sam Khan-McIntyre reports on the upcoming design market in Edinburgh. A trendy “maker’s” market showcasing local talent in textiles, jewellery, prints and confectionery is being organised for Saturday 28th April. The venue is St Columba’s-by-the-Castle in Edinburgh.

The innovative design market is organised by Edinburgh Art School graduate Amelia Smith and Edinburgh University student Katie Reid. Katie told me Amelia “realised there was a gap in the market to showcase local design”. Katie’s reason for getting involved is because “[Amelia and I] are really good friends. She asked if I wanted to help out”.

Their approach is a new take on the usual traditional markets; Reid says there are lots of vintage fairs and craft fairs, but what they’re doing is more upmarket. The aim of the market, she continues, is that “it’s an area for local design and local artists, and bringing their money back in the community and showcasing their work”. She adds they want to “build a connection with arts students and locals in the design community” so there is a mixture of established artists and students. “It’s something a bit different”. The three main points Reid says they want to promote is local makers, new design, and to provide opportunities for students.

The market is held both in the morning and afternoon. Good reasons to visit are that there is something for everyone, with prices starting from £2 for handmade marshmallows from The Marshmallows Company. Flavours range from beer to key lime pie. Expensive jewellery is also sold, as well as prints and low-priced cards from the artists. And if that’s not enough, there’s also delicious food to sample, and— to top it all off—entry is free.

One example of an artist is Alice Kettle, who makes Ray lamps (laser-cut plastic lamps). She is a first year student in Product Design at Edinburgh College of Art. Another is Made by Magpies; a group of design students who work in textiles and print. You can check their Facebook page.

Artists hear about the market through the mailing list, connections from other markets, the Facebook page, and word of mouth. Applications for the current market are now closed but keep an eye for future markets. These will depend on the success of this; since the Christmas equivalent was successful, Reid is “really positive” about the April market. Both Reid and Smith have certainly revitalised the perception of an ordinary market with an excellent idea that is sure to take off.

Images Source: The Market organizers, clic