In the final of a three-year programme Bonhoga is celebrating craft and its role in Shetland's culture and economy. The first showcase was meant to open on Saturday 28 March, but due to the ongoing global pandemic, the first of three showcase exhibitions will be presented online (for now). A further two exhibitions - hopefully taking place in the summer - will feature more of Shetland's most popular and talented practitioners.
The first showcase features Drummie Bee, Red Houss, Jayne Kelly, Frances Wilson, Shetland Tekstiler and Julie Williamson Designs.
This remains a unique opportunity for visitors to engage with craft at a closer level, and discover what it is that inspire our local designers and makers to create their amazing pieces.
Julie Williamson Designs
Julie Williamson is a textile designer who lives and works from her home on the island of Whalsay, Shetland. Her main inspiration is the local culture, imagery, wildlife and folklore stories. Julie is fascinated with the decorating patterns of Toile-de-Jouy and Fair Isle knitting patterns, and combining this with personal memories and local stories, she recreates scenes and designs for digital and screen printed fabric.
Feelings of longing for home whilst studying for her degree at Galashiels Heriot-Watt School of Textiles in 2011, is where the inspiration for her collections first came from. She writes of her work, "as a way of coping I decided to try and incorporate home into my work, by drawing images that related to Shetland, such as Fair Isle patterns, Shetland ponies, birds and fishing. Through this sketching process I started to recall old stories or childhood memories relating to these images, which I then tried to capture within my designs. Each individual drawing is then transferred into computer design software to create a repeat pattern resembling scenes. I love creating designs with a narrative to which others can relate.
My new design (first image above) is 'Sunday Tuy awer at Granny n Da's'. This design is inspired by the Sunday evenings we spent awer aside da aald folk for wir tuy (tea), granny hed a whistling tyettle (teapot) apon da stove n she ay liked stewed tuy. Aald Da wid ay sit in but neest ta fire den com troo for his tuy when d ald clock chimed, I wid aften b made pancakes n Da wid always have da sayin 'pancakes and doodly'. I asked him wan day wit da 'doodly' wis n he laughed n said "am awer 100yrs ald n I duno tyeen' so ta dis day am still never fun oot wit da doodly wis?!"
Jayne was born and grew up in Lerwick. She graduated from Gray's School of Art in 1993 with a B.A. Honours in Craft and Design, and moving back to Shetland, now teaches Art and Design at the local high school. In her spare time, she creates beautiful contemporary jewellery in a range of styles.
The inspiration for her designs comes from the local environment as well as Shetland's cultural, ancient and modern history. Travel, and the design traditions and trends of other cultures also influence her work and these influences are evident through the texture, pattern, colour and form of her pieces. Throughout history, different cultures have used jewellery for many purposes and functions, and not just as decorative items to express the wearer's personality or style. Jewellery can have a symbolic meaning, a token of love, a symbol of status and power, a religious or ethnic symbol of identity, or a talisman to bring good fortune to the wearer.
Working mainly in Sterling Silver, she creates her unique pieces from sheet and wire, piercing shapes by hand, hammering or stamping to create texture before soldering. Some pieces are entirely made by hand, and one off, while others incorporate cast elements and are produced in small batches. Colour is added to some designs using enamels or gemstones. The designs often echo and reflect traditional or ancient forms and motifs, which she translates into her own contemporary style.
Local designer Elaine Ann Nicolson graduated with a BA in Contemporary textiles from Shetland College UHI. The designs in these collections for ShetlandMade form part of the course work created during her studies. They evolved from traditional openwork textiles hand knitted by her mother. Inspiration for the Hap Blanket design came from a hand knitted hap her mother made in 1987 on the Island of Whalsay. She used the same process to create her New Shell design, taken from a hand knitted lace scarf in the New Shell pattern, creating contemporary designs to preserve the connections with her knitting heritage.
About her work she writes, "I wanted these textiles to form a strong link to my heritage and to move traditional knitting patterns forward to create new but unique and contemporary styles. I feel at ease when being creative with fibres, yarn holds a nostalgic thread for me, and I enjoy working in abstract form. Wool is an easy medium to work with and has numerous great properties".
The collections exhibited (above) are Hap Blanket, and New Shell Lace, a range offering a contemporary interpretation of the traditional 'Shell' lace pattern. The essential criteria for the collections is that they be luxurious and soft. The tactile element being equally as important as the pattern design. This is achieved by careful selection of the fibres, which are knitted on a fine 12 gauge knitting machine. The textiles are knitted in Shetland using 100% merino wool, and a merino wool and silk mix, and the colours in this collection focus on the sea and winter weather.
Sophie Manson is a contemporary knitwear designer based in Lerwick, Shetland. Following her studies in Contemporary Textiles at Shetland College UHI, she decided to pursue her passion for design and machine knitting and established her business, Drummie-Bee in 2017.
Drummie-Bee aims to create bold, colourful knitted accessories, which appeal to all. Sophie gains inspiration from the beauty of the landscape and nature surrounding her in Shetland, and uses this as a basis for her designs. She is drawn, in particular, to the bright colours evident in everyday life, such as, a colourful fishing boat within a grey, stormy sea, or eye-catching flowers in a field of earthy green grass. The detailed shapes and forms observed around her are then simplified to create repetitive patterns, which are sympathetic and complimentary to Shetland's environment, flora and fauna.
All Drummie-Bee products are knitted on a domestic knitting machine using the finest yarns. A supersoft Scottish lambswool is used in many designs, which gives the pieces a cosy, comfortable feel. The current product range includes snoods, scarves, headbands, hats, cushions and hot water bottle covers.
Frances Wilson graduated as a painter from Grays School of Art, Aberdeen. During her time as teacher of Art and Design she discovered the versatile medium of clay and has been hooked ever since. Frances currently works from a studio at home on the isle of Unst.
She is a highly skilled maker and a member of the Scottish Potters Association. She has studied ceramics for many years, attending many courses and workshops over a long career. This allowed her to learn from the best of British and international potters, to then share and explore this knowledge through her own teaching. Frances regularly exhibits her work and is frequent exhibitor with the now famous Pittenweem Arts Festival.
Frances is well known for her fine lace work in ceramic. The design of her collection came as the result of a project with Shetland College textile dept, from which Frances was able to realise a dream of vitrifying lace into porcelain using samples of the very finest of Unst's famous traditional lace knitting. Now years on, she has perfected the technique and creates beautiful fine ceramics that also pays homage to generations of fine lace knitters.
All her pieces are handmade with Porcelain paper clay, which is rolled out almost wafer-thin, enabling fascinating possibilities of light and translucency, and flowing and folding movement. The hand knitted lace is dipped in a solution of paper clay slip, with strengthening additives, and then attached to the vessel. The kiln has to be fired extremely slowly at the start to carefully burn out the lace and avoid distortion, with a final 'soak' at 1240/60 degrees celsius.
Mike Finnie worked as an architect in Shetland for 25 years before building his studio, Red Houss on East Burra. He paints in watercolour and produces linoprints as well as designs contemporary jewellery and sculptural pieces. His work is inspired by Shetland and will often incorporate locally found objects and materials, including sea urchin shell, soapstone, beach pottery and sea glass. Occasionally other exotic items find their way into the jewellery, such as broken 17c Iznik tiles from Turkey, 19c Qajar ceramic from Iran, and other fragments of old pottery, and these found objects are often re-shaped to create more formal jewellery shapes. All pieces are made from sterling silver and copper, and Mike has developed a range of hand made silver jewellery, which is acid etched with locally designed Fair Isle patterns, which is a slow and meticulous process.
The pieces (above) introduce a new range of contemporary jewellery and kinetic sculptures using silver and copper, some etched with Fair Isle patterns and some with beaten textures.