A few years ago I had the chance to visit the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Our beautiful cottage overlooking the bay was stocked with a variety of books. I stumbled upon "An Island Odissey", a beautifully illustrated book describing many of the Scottish islands and their histories. I inevitably spent a long time researching the area and, ever since I have wanted some of my work to reflect my love for those beautiful places and my general obsession with the sea landscape of the North Atlantic.
One of the islands that has captured my imagination, also beautifully described in Madeleine Bunting's "Love of country", is Staffa. Well-known for its fascinating Final's Cave, Staffa has been the destination for a lot of poets, artists and writers over the ages.
I have not had the fortune to visit, but I have spent months pouring over tales of the voyage by Banks and Thomas Pennant, Walter Scott, Felix Mendelssohn, J.M.W. Turner and John Keats. Their accounts have been fascinating.
Fingal's Cave. Photo from from 1900 from Unknown.
In 1810, Sir Walter Scott traveled to the Hebrides. He wanted to undertake a trip and was invited by the Laird of Staffa
He was accompanied by part of his family (and his dog Wallace ), and by several friends. He did not keep a journal but wrote letters to his friend Joanna Baillie, Scottish poet and playwright. The two were friends and supported each other’s work.
In a letter to Joanna he wrote in 19 July 1810 from Ulva House:
"I cannot, my dear Miss Baillie, resist the temptation of writing to you from scenes which you have rendered classical as well as immortal. We, which in the present case means my wife, my eldest girl, and myself, are thus far in fortunate accomplishment of a pilgrimage to the Hebrides. The day before yesterday we passed the Lady's Rock, in the Sound of Mull, so near that I could almost have touched it.
This is, you know, the Rock of your Family Legend. The boat, by my desire, went as near as prudence permitted ; and I wished to have picked a relic from it, were it but a cockle shell, or a mussel, to have sent to you ; but a spring tide was running with such force and velocity as to make the thing impossible.
Yesterday we visited Staffa and lona: The former is one of the most extraordinary places I ever beheld. It exceeded, in my mind, every description I had heard of it; or rather the appearance of the cavern, composed entirely of basaltic pillars as high as the roof of a cathedral, and running deep into the rock , eternally swept by a deep and swelling sea, and paved as it were with ruddy marble, baffles all description. You can walk along the broken pillars, with some difficulty, and in some places with a little danger, as far as the farthest extremity."
Inspired by Staffa, I created a few mugs, cups and plates inspired by the seas. I used slip to draw brushstrokes inspired by the rough seas that accompany the journey to the island. The small and delicate flower and plant designs - either drawn or carved - depict what I imagine the plant life to look like in spring, when the birds return. Imagine drinking your coffee while approaching a spectacular island.
The collection will be released on Sunday November 20th.