(post by Kay)
Today I road tested a new gadget acquired especially for this project. A digital microscope to look at plant structures in closer detail. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how easy it could be. Technological genius means that I am now in possession – for a very small outlay – of a simple digital instrument that acts like a camera and takes highly magnified images through the computer.
I am so glad I decided to try this technique in Shetland. Yesterday, when we were at the museum, I had a look at the display about local flora, which confirmed that Shetland has a much smaller variety of plant life than the rest of the British Isles due to its remoteness. So I need to look down at the microscopic world at my feet.
My aim for this project is to create panels of ceramic relief composed of multiple pieces depicting botanical motifs. This is a development of the Botanical Structures I developed during a residency in Denmark in 2014, which was exhibited in Brighton in the Regency Townhouse and in Fantastic Tales at The Ceramic House, and subsequently at European Ceramic Context in Bornholm, Denmark. It is also the first body of work I have created solely for the purposes of exhibition, i.e. not for a commissioner, in 20 years of working professionally as a public artist. It was such a revelation and a privilege to have the time to create something for myself, without constraints relating to time, budget or a commissioner’s foibles. The results confirmed that I need to continue to develop my own work, and this will be the second series of this type of work that for now I will call “Shetland Botanicals” (working title).
I picked a few samples of flowers and plants in Vementry where we went walking yesterday and this morning successfully captured images of them using the microscope. In order to use it, the flora really do need to be tiny!
Today developed into a fairly spectacular sunny afternoon and we decided to make the most of it and take the boat across to Bressay to get to Noss.
Noss is an RSPB reserve and is one of Shetland’s main seabird nesting sites. It has the most spectacular cliffs that are home to 45,000 guillemots, 7000 pairs of gannets and several thousand fulmars, kittiwakes and puffins. Luckily I have been there during nesting season, which is quite something – aurally, visually and you need to have a head for heights! However, we arrived at the crossing, where you wave across to the other side hoping the ferryman will see you and come and get you. Unfortunately today there were a few disappointed people scattered around and no boat coming – the red flag meant the sea was too rough to cross. We contented ourselves with climbing up to the disused coastguard lookout post on a high conspicuous hill with fantastic views of Noss, Bressay and the mainland, where Joseph settled into the ruins to make recordings of the wind reverberating through the crumbling stones….