The Isle of Skye is home to a vibrant creative community of artists, designers and makers, and we love to collaborate when we can. So we were delighted when we were invited to take part in a joint textile art and weaving exhibition at Aros, the cultural centre in Skye’s capital Portree.
All four of us taking part are very different, but share a passion for weaving and deep connection to the landscape around us. To celebrate the opening of the exhibition on 4 March, we asked those taking part to give us an insight into their working methods and inspiration.
Maggie Williams is a hand weaver who lives and works on a windswept croft at Ellishadder, on Skye’s stunning north-east coast. “I take my inspiration from my surroundings,” says Maggie. “The play of light on inky seas, the ever-changing weather, lichen encrusted rock, the delicate tapestry of wildflowers on machair, undulating lines of ancient lazy beds, or the stark beauty of the rugged landscape – all these influences can be found in my designs.”
Maggie weaves on a 16 shaft dobby loom using high quality natural fibres, predominantly merino and lambswool. She adds: “By using traditional time-honoured skills and craftsmanship, I aim to create timeless, heirloom quality pieces, produced in a sustainable and ethically responsible manner.” As well as weaving Maggie runs the Ellishadder Gallery and Tearoom, where you can find her work alongside that of other Skye artists and makers.
Chris Leighton started weaving almost by accident. “I began when I inherited a loom and some wool,” he explains. “I was drawn to tapestry weaving, and now use this method in all my work. I’ve taken ideas from Turkish rugs and kilims, and later from weaving I saw in Bulgaria which led me to new techniques.” He adds: “I’ve also been involved in a quilting group that meets regularly in Portree. That inspired me to interpret patchwork into weaving with additional embellishments and by adapting the warp.”
Chris weaves using a rigid heddle loom. ‘It’s versatile, easy to dress and portable,” he says. “It’s quite old and has become warped – no pun intended – but I’ve got quite used to it so I’ll be sticking with it for the foreseeable future.”
Caroline Dear is an artist who trained as an architect. Living in Skye since 1986, she has exhibited internationally and received numerous awards. “I like responding to particular landscapes and habitats, and make work which highlights our changing relationship with the natural world,” says Caroline. “I am interested in structures made using plants and traditional techniques. I use simple early techniques such as rope making and looping to create cloth like pieces. I am excited by the transformation of, say, grass, from thin small loose stems into a loose flexible structure with an individual character, strength and atmosphere.”
You can see a gallery of Caroline’s work and find out more on her website.
For us at Skye Weavers, the land and landscape are both a source of inspiration and raw material. From seashore to mountain top, the colours and textures of our surroundings all make their way into our designs. We’re particularly proud of our Skye Wool range, which is made entirely from wool from local farmers and crofters. Whether it’s throws or scarves, baby blankets or lengths of tweed, we hope that those who buy our woven products will take with them a tangible connection to our very special island.
We weave on a bicycle pedal-powered loom in a small weaving shed next to our old croft house. We use a double-width Bonas-Griffith rapier loom, similar to those used by Harris Tweed weavers but adapted by us to create a wider range of fabrics. Find out about the journey from sheep to tweed on our story page.
The exhibition continues until 29 March and is free to enter. To find out about many of the other artists and creatives on Skye visit the Art Skye website.