10 November, 2015

Royal visit celebrates links between Scotland and New Zealand.

Last month I was invited to a meeting with Liz Knowles from the Dunedin City Council in regards to something top secret that I might be 'interested in'. My email reply stated that "I am a bit tied up at the moment but I do like secrets so, yes, I would like to meet up."  Thank goodness intrigue got the better of me as I found myself being invited to an UNESCO Dunedin City of Literature reception with HRH The Duchess of Cornwall. While Prince Charles and HRH Camilla were on tour in New Zealand they were interested in seeing cultural and conservation work. For the Dunedin visit Camilla specifically requested seeing work that had links with Scotland, hence I was invited to show The Westland project which was a collaboration between Joanne B Kaar and myself.

 While I am from Scottish descent, which accounted for many a tartan rug in our house, it is apt that my tangible connection began from about the age of ten through having a Scottish penfriend, Caroline Hay-Crawford, who now lives in Aberdeen. Prior to the event I let Joanne in ‘on the secret’ and she helped me prepare my conservation points. Joanne’s information provided context which helped our conversation flow. HRH Camilla's face lit up when I showed her pages from Joanne’s Log which referenced Caithness and said she would tell her husband she had seen the work due to his connection with the Society of Caithness Artists. I commented on the paper boats project and she said she knew Mary Ann’s Cottage. I felt she really connected with the project and was delighted to see the links between our countries. (Even though I told her I could not pronounce some of the Scottish places that The Westland had been exhibited in.)  She may well be trained in making people feel at ease but her presence was incredible and her voice sounded like honey! I felt like I had made a friend but unfortunately didn’t get a chance to request a weekend stay at the Captain’s House, Castle of Mey.

Chatting! Photo credit Sharron Bennet.

Our display table.

Also in attendance and presenting work was Phillippa Duffy from the University Book Shop showcasing a display of local literary gems alongside Dame Lynley Dodd, author and illustrator who happens to write HRH’s grandchildren’s favourite books. University of Otago Design for Technology student Ben Alder, had the PoeTICK project in action. This was such fun, he had modified two pay-and-display parking machines so that when you pressed a button a poem printed out. I got a fragment of one of my favourite poems by Hone Tuwhare which was also incidentally one of many wall dots which Liz Knowles had printed out to decorate the reception space.

A painting of William Young's discharge papers and yes, I had to sneak in a flour bag.

While meeting HRH The Duchess of Cornwall was obviously a career highlight there was the unexpected bonus of finding an appreciative audience amongst the other guests. This was an audience who had not seen the Log Books when they were exhibited in a gallery previously and included Professor Tony Ballantyne (whose research areas include colonial history and ships), Dr Donald Kerr from Rare Book Collections University Library, Lecturers from the Humanities Division and local writers. Here were people who appreciated aspects of history being celebrated and interwoven with the present. I was also pleased because in general artists’ books often go under the radar and in this instance the written content in the books and our source, Jonathon Moscrop’s Journal (1879) were also honoured.

After speeches HRH Camilla left the Otago University Council Chambers building to the sound of bagpipes and then guests were treated to an afternoon tea. You can find out more about UNESCO Dunedin City of Literature here:  http://www.cityofliterature.co.nz/

Noel Waite, Alan Rodderick, HRH Camilla, Liz Knowles (DCC)
and  Bernie Hawke, Arts and Culture Manager.
Photo credit Sharron Bennet.
Piper Liam

08 November, 2015

What started as a few sketches in a notebook at Mary-Ann’s Cottage in Dunnet, Caithness is now getting royal approval!!!

Click the link to read about New Zealand Artist, Lynn Taylor who met  Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall  to show her our Log books!


"The Westland"

In 1879, the 'Westland' set sail on its maiden voyage from Tail o' the Bank in Scotland, to Port Chalmers in New Zealand. Navigating through the filtered lens of 130 years artists Joanne B Kaar (Scotland) and Lynn Taylor (NewZealand) respond to the way of the Westland in creating parallel 84 day log books, prints and artefacts. Inspired by the sea-chest of crew member William Young and Jonathan Moscrop's onboard ship diary Kaar and Taylor have become like sailors, spinning sea stories of this passage through their daily log entries of fragmentary discoveries, narratives, weather observations, histories, memories,objects and images. They bring two sides of the story together, Kaar relating to William Young's family croft-house (Mary-Ann's cottage) in Dunnet, Caithness Scotland, where his sea-chest is to be found, and Taylor to Port Chalmers and the Otago Harbour surrounds, New Zealand, where the Westland first docked and the immigrants started their new lives.

Click here to read the original diaries of Jonathan Moscrop:


Our log books are in collections at Caithness Horizons and in New Zealand.

09 April, 2012

The Westland - Captain Thomas Wood

Thanks to Jim Atkins from Colorado for making contact with this photo of the Captain of the Westland ship, Capt. Thomas Wood
Jim writes:
"....Thomas Wood, Master of the Westland was also, prior to that, Master of the Woodlark – another Shaw Savill vessel, married my great-great-great-great aunt Mary Margaret Atkins in Auckland NZ on 21 June 1873. Mary Margaret had only weeks before arrived in Auckland aboard the Woodlark with her family from Selkirk Scotland. Her parents consented to the marriage only upon the promise that she would live with Wood’s parents upon their return to Montrose until she reached the age of majority (she was only 17 when they married).

Any information you may have on Wood, or additional leads to him and his family, would be greatly appreciated...."

This blog has helped connect a few long lost relations, and now I've connected relations of the Westlands crew in touch with relations of the captain!!

31 March, 2012

Peat Papers - accepted for juried exhibition in Germany

".....we received 232 applications from 23 countries for our announcement “Paper Global”.
The jury selected 78 participants. It is our great pleasure to inform you that the jury has accepted your application...."

 19th of May until 16th of September 2012

Peat paper jacket (adult size) and 5 peat paper books were accepted.

22 November, 2011

Surprise Visit

Had two lovely visitors today - Jan and Rob from the Morven Gallery. Here's Jan and I outside my workshop in Portobello with a piece of your work Joanne!

21 July, 2011

"This is art with a purpose and it is rare.." Last chance to see.....'Westland' exhibition on now in Ullapool at An Talla Solais ends 31st July.

This exhibition has been on tour since 2009 when it opened in Caithness Horizons with a parallel exhibition at the Anchorage Art Gallery in New Zealand the same month. Now in Ullapool, this is the last venue.  This is what Mandy Haggith had to say about it:

"...I particularly enjoyed the layer upon layer of history and response in Joanne and Lynn’s work. A story from the ship unravels through a string horse and five bottles of whisky. Three aprons (one to protect a dress, the next to protect the first apron, and a third, made out of sacking, to protect the other two) emerge from Lynn’s log book and are given physical form by Joanne. Seeing such an integrated body of work it is incredible to discover that the two artists have never actually met..."  Click here to read her review in full.

I'll give the last few words to George Gunn  "This is art with a purpose and it is rare.."   an extract from his review, to read it in full click here.


22 May, 2011

Grimsay - Westland is very much at home in Kallin old school on the Western Isles this week

Our exhibition 'The Westland' has now been touring since Sept 2009. 
This week I have been working in the Western Isles with the Horse and Bamboo Theatre company on the development of their new production about Angus McPhee Weaver of grass - lots of pictures on their blog about what we were up to! http://www.angusmcphee.blogspot.com/

It was also a chance of me to catch up with our exhibition as it opened at Kallin community centre, an old wooden school, in Grimsay.  This was the first time I'd seen our work since it was in Stornoway museum over a year ago........so I was expecting anything...........

What a fantastic surprise.  Our exhibition looked very much at home here - was this the perfect venue? 
 It looked like it had always been here, and just dusted down for the public to see this week.  This is all thanks to Mary Norton and her friends who worked with Norman MacLeod and Taigh Chearsabhagh art centre (where the Westland last docked) and Caitriona McCuish from the Western Isles Museums department based in Benbecula (the Westland has also docked here!).

The Westland is in Kallin for one week only.
I was very impressed, as this tiny room had to also function as the venue for Grimsay Fun Day - the weather has been terrible all week - so stalls moved indoors and the pipe band played just outside under whatever cover they could find. My photos were taken 30 minutes before it opened to the public, the room was soon packed out - I had a captive audience for my short intro to the exhibition!! 

We were on a ferry back to the mainland a few hours later, but that evening, the peat fire was lit and the exhibition room became the venue for the ceilidh.

Is it possible to fit any more into one room??!

'The Westland' will next dock at An Talla Solais in Ullapool opening on Friday 8th July.

Click here to read what playwright and poet, George Gunn thought of the exhibition when it first opened in Caithness.

11 April, 2011

Port Chalmers Rowing Club Fundraising Auction

Nice work - have just heard that one of your copies of 'Maiden Voyage' from the Westland project sold for $120 NZ at the Port Chalmers Rowing Club Fundraising Auction!  Must have been a popular item. Thank you.

19 March, 2011

Taigh Chearsabhagh Art Centre and Museum

The 'Westland' has docked in Lochmaddy for a while and is now being exhibited in Taigh Chearsabhabh museum and art centre  Lochmaddy..........

Me in lochmaddy a  few years ago........ wearing my favouite Shetland handknit hat.......lost somewhere in the open seas!

13 March, 2011

Westland seminar in Dunedin, New Zealand

The Logbook: Historical Journeying between Scotland and New Zealand
Location: P152 Lecture Theatre @ Dunedin School of Art
Time: ‎12:00PM Thursday, March 17th

It seems the Westland is still afloat in New Zealand too!  I will be talking about our project this Thursday in the Masters Seminar Programme.  Joanne and I had some wonderful outcomes from this project so I want to share some of our processes, how the blog was essential for communication and how fun it was building up our research network etc. 

26 January, 2011

Joanne's Westland log book to be exhibited at VAS in the Royal Scottish Academy

Visual Arts Scotland  juried exhibition ".....The Annual Exhibition, held in the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh continues to show a diverse cross section of the best in Scottish art in a nationally esteemed venue...."

My Westland Log book has been selected !! 
Over 800 applicants with only 303 selected.

Sat 5th February – Thurs 3rd March
 Royal Scottish Academy - Upper Galleries,
The Mound,
Monday – Saturday 10am – 5pm, Sunday 12pm – 5pm

08 January, 2011

The "Westland" on now in the Western Isles - Benbecula

On Now

Museum nan Eilean, Sgoil Lionacleit, Benbecula, Western Isles.

November 2010 - Early 2011.

Photos from the exhibition taken by Ashley Ferrier for Stornoway museum.

It was in Museum nan Eilean in Stornoway from the 23rd June - 30th September 2010
Francis Street, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis.

09 December, 2010

Bakers - Botanists - Whalers

Click here to go to my current research blog.

About this blog: One area of interest is Robert Dick, Baker & Botanist of Thurso, Caithness (1811-1866). His pressed herbarium is now stored in Caithness Horizons. Dunnet Head was one of his favourite places to walk and collect plants. One plant of interest is the Magellan Daisy/Ragwort (senecio Smithii DC), it grows near my house. A native flower of Chile & Argentina it is thought to have been brought to Caithness by whalers.

Follow me as I research these bakers, botanists and whalers ....... and start to explore seaweeds from the local shoreline and plants growing in my own field........for making string, basket making, papermaking - experimenting .........inspired by history.........

16 June, 2010

love boats - the paper kind!

Click on the image to read all about how our paper boat fundraiser brought Marlis and Peter to Mary-Ann's Cottage. Newspaper article is from the Caithness Courier 16th June.

09 June, 2010

10 days left - Westland exhibition at Morven gallery in Western Isles.

The Westland exhibition is on at the Morven gallery in the Western Isles until Saturday 19th June..........only 10 days left to see it here!  I'll be taking it down the next day and moving it to the next venue..........news soon ..........!

31 May, 2010

Mary-Ann's cottage is Now open for the 2010 Season. 7 Days a week 2pm - 4.30pm

30th May peat experience day - a collaboration with Mary-Ann's cottage  and Castletown Heritage Centre at Castlehill. Volunteers dig more peat, stack it and bring  back the dry peats which were dug on the 1st May. First load arrives at Mary-Ann's Cottage and we start to build a peat stack. About 10 more load to be delivered over the next few weeks. 

27 May, 2010


Thanks Joanne for the postcard showing me how gorgeous the Western Isles are. I can imagine myself walking round those hills!

21 May, 2010

Peat Experience Day 30th May!!

30th May event: The moorland walk is now fully subscribed. Those wishing to take part in the hands on peat bank work are advised that this event is likely to be very popular so early registration is recommended. For more inof and to book your place visit:   http://www.castletownheritage.co.uk/

Peats were dug a few weeks ago by volunteers who signed up with Castletown Heritage Centre to learn traditional skills. The result will be a new peat stack for Mary-Ann's cottage, a living history museum - the peat fire in the living room is lit during the summer season for visitors to get the full experience. I walked to the peat bank to check if they were drying. Getting crispy on one side. Volunteers will gather again on the 30th May to stack more, and load a trailor full. So I can't claim to have done all this work!!