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Shetland College Project 2021

Hello everyone, every year we work together with students at the Shetland College on the Contemporary Textiles and Fine Art courses on a project inspired by Jamieson & Smith and our yarns (in particular our worsted spun ranges) and ask them to create a piece of work in response. This past year has been a bit more tricky but we were still able to go ahead with the project and last week I (Ella) headed to the college to see the (as always, amazing) results:

Alana McGuiness used tapestry weaving for her piece of work:

This tapestry piece is based on a croft house on Bressay that has fascinated me for some time. I had been looking at the history behind Jamieson and Smith, and in particular their connection to the crofters and the strong traditional links between Shetlanders, the sheep and the heritage crafts. In the end I found what better could represent such history than a croft. Still surrounded by and sheltering Shetland sheep to this day, these ruins still play a part. The modern crofts are still the silent partners of Jamison & Smith. They rely on the crofters to produce the wool and the crofters rely on them to purchase the fleece.

I also intended to celebrate the Shetland wool, as Jamieson & Smith had done, in championing what was previously an at-risk heritage breed. I wanted to highlight the natural colours, textures and properties behind the wool. I used a mixture of J&S wool, roving, some handspun and some raw wool from a local croft. I wanted viewers to be able to see and feel the differences in the wool dependant on how it is processed and therefore its suitability for a variety of uses. I used a simple frame as my loom and a handspun warp to create a contemporary textile using traditional and simple techniques.

Hetty Mahon used weaving for her piece:

‘Based on the yarn shop and inspired by the shelves of coloured yarn which promise such potential!

I decided to combine elements of proposals 2 and 3 and create a woven piece in a grid pattern reflecting the wool shop shelves with the sheep colours incorporated or superimposed onto it.

A final decision was taken to use a combination of J and S heritage shades of dark fawn and light grey as the weft on snaa white warp. The combining of the weft yarns gave an attractive mottled appearance which worked better than the individual shades.

Two twill patterns were selected to be alternated between grid squares

Final piece: grid pattern woven in different twills in Jamieson and Smith Heritage yarns. Examples of the different colours of Shetland sheep created from natural wool roving.

Richard Mains weaving was inspired by the wool stalls:

‘My final proposal was inspired by the overwhelming presence of wool in the warehouse. Considering that even when the warehouse was empty there would still be tufts of raw wool sticking to the wire mesh enclosures which had housed the wool prior to collection.

I decided to focus my work on diamond mesh patterns with tufts of roving woven in at random intervals to simulate that aesthetic from a design perspective by having tidy pieces of roving hanging down instead of ragged pieces.’

Susan Pearsons work combined our Heritage Yarns and Combed Tops with sculpture.

‘The wrapping felt poignant; with connotations of protection. I thought of gutter’s hands, of wrapped footwear, wrapping shawls and swaddling babies.

I used second-hand pieces of knitting, and 8 undyed Shetland Heritage yarns and mixed undyed wool roving to wrap around the abstract figures.

For the faces, I made moulds and cast them with plaster of paris. The faces seemed too white with the natural yarn, so I painted them but did not add detail because that detracted from the main body of the piece.

The pallet used as a plinth is a nod to the more industrialside of the business. A reminder of the work that goes into the products.’

We also had a video animation piece by Clair Davenport which you can see above.

‘I wanted to respond to the fact that Shetland sheep neared extinction in the seventies and were thus crossed. But I also wanted to create something imaginative and fictional.

I started to note down plot points and here and there designed props. I tried to make lots of separate parts that could be joined with a pin to ensure movement. I made scenic backgrounds using splashes of ink and drawing. Some of these were also joined with pins to ensure their movement, like the sea. I gathered materials from the hillside, such as this heather that had been uprooted.

There were snags along the way. How do I create standing and moving props without somebody’s assistance? I can’t feasibly crop hands out of hundreds of pictures? I tried to make heads that would observe the sheep, like totems, out of plaster and paper eyelids and eyes but unfortunately the DIY plaster I bought was too brittle. I wanted the protagonist to go on a long journey. This was probably the best prop, using screws as legs. I studied legs in motion and after a few drawings was able to create a credible movement.

I enjoyed looking at how I could weave the sheep in and out of the landscape, cutting its body into parts as it went behind a tree. The Magic Egg. The egg came about fairly accidentally as I wondered how I could make a contracting and expanding structure out of paper either as an egg or a time machine.

I was pleased with my egg and its mechanism – short and longer tears and clips on each segment to help it contract and expand – but in future it would be better to use a textile and thread or something more durable. I enjoyed searching free sound.org for suitable clips. Using fade ins and outs on premiere pro helped temper the sound effects from frame to frame. Using templates I made heads and bodies and joined them with a double-ended pin. I would like to expand on character making next year with more movable parts that are joined by clips or pins. Plasticine for gestures and expressions can be very messy and tear the paper.

I was very pleased with the rain and its simplicity – long vertical cuts in the paper letting the strip slide up and down at will.’

So for another year that’s our work with the students of the Shetland College, we really enjoy supporting them and every year we are so impressed with the quality of work – and this year for the project to have still been able to go ahead is quite remarkable so we are extra pleased!

Happy knitting 🙂

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Susan #

    All very inventive but my favourite is the sculpture of the women. Brilliant.

    July 1, 2021
  2. Heather Gordon #

    Wow,some amazing work.I am an area delegate for Creative Fibre nz at the moment so really appreciate the use of natural fibres.I also found cousins when we visited the Shetlands 2 yrs ago,so do fell a connection.Hopefully well get back sometime.

    July 1, 2021

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