I've never admitted to being a festive spirit in the build up to Christmas, shamefully I'll hold my hands up for being a Scrooge. However, being away from home so close to Christmas is like watching queues of excited people waiting to board their plane for their summer holidays...from the arrivals department.
I was surrounded by families and children anticipating Father Christmas' arrival in his little wooden grotto. It was lovely, don't get me wrong, but I just couldn't shift that deep green eyed monster lurking in my gut.
I wanted to be home!
So, instead of moping I took to exploring! I had a few recommendations from the locals and other artists resident here to go and visit The Barony A Frame in Auchinleck, a five mile walk from the estate up into the forests. I had seen its distant silhouette from The Adam Bridge not too long ago so I took it upon myself to make the journey, taking preference to the woodland walk rather than the road.
Now for those who do not know me, my navigational skills are far from a Satnav's, I'm rather a SatNOT. I don't try to be bad at orienteering, I just am bad.
Five miles, several photographs, a few snapchats, one fall, two pairs of muddy trainers and an hour later I've made it!
I can't say the photos really do it any justice, this A frame is huge! Built in 1954, this is the last remaining A frame in the country used for Scottish mining. All other mine buildings were demolished with the closing of the pit, but East Ayrshire council were able to hold on to this historic monument to withhold the memories of the mining industry. Similar to many of the restorations within Dumfries House, The Barony A frame was in much need of a face lift, and was fully restored by 2007 with newly built landscaping.
There was something quite eerie being here alone. Having just been pumped with adrenaline, excitement and relief of arriving here safely, I had this overwhelming sense of hollowness. I began thinking about those miners who worked days and nights through the mines with no sunlight, little oxygen and far worse navigation than I was worried about, often getting lost or trapped underground with little hope of getting home.
It was a wake up call I think. Visiting such a powerful and meaningful place, it put minor trivial things into perspective. As I turned to head back I found a beautiful sentiment to those who had lost their lives. A bare tree wrapped in Christmas tinsel and baubles.
Of course on my way back I got lost, and with the panic of it gradually getting dark I found myself knee deep in the muddy forest floor desperately trying to navigate myself back. Typically my phone was losing battery, I had little signal and no GPS (why aren't compasses cool to carry around?!) So I turned back in refuge of the A Frame and with the safety of knowing I have the road to guide me home.
Seeing the road back to the estate was nothing short of euphoria.
It gave me so much comfort in knowing I had (after two hours) made it back safe, it felt like I was home. I realise I didn't climb Mount Everest or swim the English channel but what this journey had done was change my perspective of my stay at Dumfries House. This was home- away from home. It was shelter, warmth, and safety.
Returning back to my studio I began thinking of the ideas of home, warmth, safety and security within aspect of my work, how I could implement these feelings and ideas into the formal and contextual meanings of my work. I started painting again, this time on canvas!
I began layering different colour and tones and came across the ideas of Tartan. A Scottish hertitage design often found in homes or used for comfort in scarves, blankets, coats etc. I began stencilling areas of the canvas to build up the criss-cross linear styles of Tartan but using a neutral tonal colour palette to reflect the natural woodland landscape.
But this idea of 'home' was an enclosed warm sense of security, something that a wall based painting could not transcribe. So I turned to some old recycled bits of Perspex I had lugged up to Scotland with me and formed my four walls and shelter.
All I needed then was the natural day light to provide my painting sculpture with warmth. The frosted perspex refracts the light giving the illusion it is lit from the inside.
Comfort, safety, shelter, home!
- Update! Derbyshire now has it's own tartan
Scottish couple Fiona and Leslie Trotter moved to Derbyshire in 2012 and brought with them their passion of Scottish culture and garment design. Similar to my influences within nature, they took inspiration from the countryside landscapes to conjure up the colours, tones and design for a unique pattern of Tartan.
It was interesting to see the correlation of a Derbyshire born artist in Scotland and Scottish born designers in Derbyshire were tailoring their own influences of designs to form such an iconic patterned design. Although, both very different, I couldn't help but pick up the similarities of blues and pinks in vertical and horizontal lines, something that Fiona described depicts as:
Hues which symbolise Derbyshire's famous 'Blue John' (or Derbyshire Spar) as well as the deep purple of the heather, which covers the high peaks during the summer months.
See more below!