Artists Interview

Isolation is the experience of being separated from others, either physically or emotionally.  Through our posts, we hope our small contribution of sharing our working practice allows us to  strengthen the sense of community. Hopefully the insights of our artists, will inspire you to continue creating or even maybe even start. This week we  bring you another revealing interview from member Sheila Mortlake.

Sheila Mortlock 

Are the ideas/themes for this project ongoing or are they new ?
During the beautiful summer of 2018 whenever I was out in the local countryside I spent time as I walked observing those areas at the edges of fields that mark the boundary between the cultivated and uncultivated, edge lands. However, it was a holiday that year to a much loved and area of enormous personal significance in the North West Highlands of Scotland that the idea for my project crystallised when I became aware of the boundary markers that set out the divisions between individual crofts. First visited as a child many years ago, the area at the time of our earliest holidays was predominantly Gaelic speaking; a community of crofts, small arable holdings that relied on sheep and fishing. The historical element of this project was important from the start as I investigated the issues surrounding the Crofting Acts of 1886 and 1919 when many of these boundaries were created. This body of work was inspired by the place, imbued with many happy memories of long ago and hopefully reflects something of the culture and heritage of a remote part of Scotland.

What is your favourite part of the creative process?
Had I not gone to art college I would have studied history. It is an interest that finds its way into all my work and so the early stages of any new project are always filled with days of investigation and reading, visiting and observing, an immersive process that will inform the textile work that evolves. I feel that a depth of knowledge of the subject is a critical part of my work’s development. For this project, after our 2018 holiday I visited the Highland Archive Centre in Inverness and had access to documents relating to the specific area around the time of the 1886 Crofting Act which for the first time gave security of tenure to the tenants. However, I also looked back at old photographs taken by my father in the 60s and 70s to back up my sketchbook work and the photographs I had taken to develop ideas. However the landscape in all its colours and textures were also important inspirations including the range of seaweed colours, grasses, rusty corrugated iron sheds and the rocks, the fabric of the landscape.  As I have worked into the textiles for this body of work I have drawn on techniques and design developments that explore the mark making possibilities in the subject and it has been important to retain the freedom of the marks achieved on paper, interpreting them on fabric and in stitch while exploring the fragility of fabric as a metaphor for the fragility of that way of life, the heritage of the crofts.

Boundary watercolour drawing

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