Exploring the In-Between Nature of Ideas & Materials

Duality between landscapes and the in-between nature of their ideas connected artist Louise Barrington and jeweller Kiersten Holden-Ada during their residency in Halifax, Nova Scotia last year.

This blog is part of a series by the Scottish makers participating in a programme of residencies with makers in Mexico, Thailand and Canada as part of the AAS international exchange project to create new work on the themes of identity and sustainability for an exhibition, Meet Make Collaborate.

I am an artist from Orkney. My creative practice explores time and space using textiles and sculpture. The themes of identity, sustainability and collaboration explored within the SHIFT: Matters residency resonated with my studio practice. Identity, as the landscape of Orkney is central to my work. Sustainability, as I explore the duality of my studio and the landscape. Inspired by walking, gathering natural materials to dye fabrics and observing the environment to create structures inspired by the principles of Ikebana compositions, and more importantly how the landscape is being impacted through climate change. Finally collaborating, as being remote has its challenges and the opportunity to have discussions with others artists/maker will produce alternative observations I have not yet identified, as well as an exciting prospect of developing future links with a creative community and individuals.

I was very excited for my research trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia and to meet my collaborator. I had no expectations of how the trip would go. I went really open and I wasn’t disappointed. We met the friendly Canadian makers and Nova Scotia College of Art & Design (NSCAD) staff who all have a diverse range of skills and interests. My collaborator is Kiersten Holden-Ada founder of Fervour Own Jewellery whose work centring themes are embodiment, experimentation and the blurring of binaries, and utilises combinations of differing materials and positive/negative space to speak to conditions of liminality.

I was delighted to see a small part of the landscape of Nova Scotia as Kiersten (above left) took me on a trail along the coast. We also took another trip with others to visit a small flax mill near a pretty town called Wolfville. Luck was on our side as the weather was beautiful. It was autumn and the colours of the trees was really something special, and I do mean that coming from Orkney where there are hardly any trees!

I was delighted to see my last name all over Halifax! With one of the main streets in downtown Halifax called Barrington Street. I did research the origins of why is was called Barrington, although disappointed to learn that it may have been a misspelling! I never see my name anywhere in the UK so took a lot of photos to show my family.

Over the residency we discussed ideas, interests and found a common ground where we both felt we could move our own creative practices forward. In-between-ness is a shared interest that within both our practices we explore, we are moving this forward using the environment we work in to inform the work. Gathering sounds and moving images from both Orkney and Halifax that interweave sound and everyday ephemeral moments, maximising the use of light, colour and shadows.

Since getting back to Scotland I have carried on with my individual work, thinking about in-between-ness using space and tension where the work will be a balance between textiles, sculpture and installation. Combining natural dyed textiles and two steel structures I have welded myself. Both of our individual works will have a strong connection to the natural environment and both are using materials from the landscape within our final works. I have sent materials of stones and sands from Orkney to Halifax for Kiersten and will receive back plants, flower from Halifax to dye with. The duality between the landscape and our studios plays an important role in illustrating the in-between nature of our research, ideas and concept of our creative practice.

There have been a few stumbling blocks with Covid-19 but overall we have been able to keep in contact since so much has changed in the last few months being online either on Zoom, WhatsApp or the many other platforms is the new normal, but old fashioned post and emailing as worked as well. I have found the whole experience really rewarding and immensely beneficial to my creative practice. Conversations with Kiersten have given a completely different perspective on viewing landscapes, and it’s exciting to explore the possibilities and have an exchange of ideas.

I would recommend an opportunity like this to anyone wanting to explore their creative practice. For me being remote on an island can have challenges in talking about my work or ideas, so to not only meet other makers from across Scotland there was the opportunity to go further afield. I feel over the months that have followed the residency we have built a small community which I’m delighted to be part of. I’m really looking forward to seeing all the works finished from all involved in the project, and sharing this with everyone.

Image: Coast of Nova Scotia

Read about the experiences of other Scottish makers taking part in Meet Make Collaborate – ceramicist Susan O’Byrne, weaver Cally Booker, textile maker Fiona Hall, basketmaker Sarah Paramor and textile designer Kate Davies.

The Meet Make Collaborate exhibition is part of an international project by Applied Arts Scotland SCIO in partnership with the British Council Crafting Futures programme including the British Council Mexico and British Council Thailand, the British Council ScotlandHigh Life HighlandMuseums Galleries Scotland and Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and funded by Creative ScotlandEdinburgh College of Art and Highlands and Islands Enterprise

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