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A Hammer, Smiling & Craft: Voices of Makers #11

While questioning the meaning of craft and where she goes from here artist Lar MacGregor finds a strength in making which sustains her creativity.

Our Voices of Makers blog is a space to share experiences, information and ideas to support and inspire each other, and is part of our Rethinking our Rhythms programme. Please tell us your stories and thoughts – get in touch via instagramtwitter or online form.


It’s a misty morning as I step into my day. Looking out across the glen the world looks as it did; the birds are still calling to each other, there is a smell of spring in the air and hope rises in my chest. Each breath I take, leads to a sense of purpose and focus that has been distinctly lacking in recent months. Oh, I began my journey with lockdown 2020, with my usual optimism and the sunshine has prevailed…mostly. But there are days. Days when my breath freezes in my lungs and motivation escapes me. Then I hear it: a distant voice calling to me in broad Geordie…’Howay noo love, y cannit let this get y doon, man’…my Dad, still helping me after his passing.

So, up I get. I breathe in a slow steady breath and I place one foot in front of another as we always did, and I march myself to the workshop.

My workshop: a novelty made from recycled pallets, ‘skipped’ wood and rescued bits and bobs that complete me. An ethic that I explore in Closing the Loop with Applied Arts Scotland. Closing the Loop is a new maker-led research group, exploring gaps in current materials, knowledge and the application of sustainability tools and practices in the studio. It is run in partnership with Creative Informatics, and being involved, gives me focus, direction and support.

Distractedly, I reach for my hammer; feel its weight and grain in my hand and I move towards my creativity with my Dad at my side.

Workshop, hammers, forging block, leaf, joy.

Strike 1
Recognising in someone else, the pain, frustration and fear that you are feeling, is a singularly difficult thing to face and yet there we stand united in grief and loss. But we are standing.

Strike 2
Covid-19. The architect responsible for loss of income, loss of connection to family, friends, self. But we are still making.

Strike 3
With each fall of my hammer the tension eases and I begin to feel the copper respond to my touch. I remember the smiling faces from the many Zoom sessions. I feel the laughter on the edge of reasoning, beckoning me to return the smile. Yes, we are still smiling.

Victorian Lace detail. HDPE – found and gifted take away carrier bags. A journey through all that is Covid-19: restrictions, freedoms, safety.

The question that I ask myself daily, is where do I go from here? I straddle the worlds of making and contemporary art. My love of crafting within my art practice almost unhinged me whilst I studied, with (Shhh, say the word quietly) ‘craft’, being a contentious word in some circles.

Craft is a curious word. I think I understand it, but do I? Craft is a verb, an action. Craft is malleable and wild and undefinable. Craft is rich in traditions and heritage, and it denotes skill and speaks of romance, high tea on a sweeping lawn and marquees full of chatter, ego and wealth. Craft is also full of love, adventure and truth. It provides me with therapy and mindful engagement and it provides me with a voice, when art institutions decry the very nature of the art form as ‘less than’. But still, we craft.

In a 1903 letter to his protégé (the 19-year-old cadet and budding poet Franz Xaver Kappus), German poet and novelist, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote:

‘I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.’

‘Leaf Litter’ consists of around 1,500 forged, copper leaves. This placement amongst the grasses helped me to visualize the finished work which will be exhibited in the small gallery at the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, sometime in July.

So, when the topographic features of my landscapes disappear into the mist, I reach out for the smile that was given freely not so long ago, in the Applied Arts Scotland monthly coffee mornings. I remember that I craft, I make, I sculpt and I am enduring Covid-19 and all the missing and the loss and the frustration, with as much grace as I can muster. The grace that comes from reaching out to other makers, artists, family and friends and recognising in them that everything is possible and within reach. Tomorrow, will be a better day.

Top image: Listening – a sound mirror, dog daisy day. Lar MacGregor


Read the experiences of other makers: Voices of Makers #1: Carol Sinclair, Voices of Makers #2: Fiona Thompson, Janet Hughes & Kathryn Williamson, Voices of Makers #3: Jo Garner, Voices of Makers #4 :James Donald, Voices of Makers #5: Clare Waddle of Yellow Broom, Voices of Makers #6: Lorna Brown, Voices of Makers #7 & #10: Claire Heminsley, Voices of Makers #8: Olive Pearson and Voices of Makers #9: Ann Marie Shillito.

We are inviting makers & Members to get in touch via instagramtwitter or email about how you are rethinking your rhythms, whether working patterns, things you are doing, or information and tips to share.

We have also created an online page where you can talk about your experiences and share what matters to you.  We give you the option to be anonymous or to provide your name and you can also let us know if we can share it with other makers in our new ‘Voices of Makers’ blogs.  We can’t answer specific questions but if we can offer any suggestions about something we will try and do so.

#RethinkingourRhythms

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