Friday, 25 October 2013

The Great Tapestry of Scotland

After my labours finishing the quilt I rewarded myself today with an artist's date trip out. In contrast to yesterday the day was grey and wet but no matter as I spend it mainly indoors immersed in the colourful history of Scotland. The Great Tapestry of Scotland was on display in Cockenzie House, seen above. This house itself is part of Scottish history, dating from the 17th Century and starting life as a Jacobean mansion. So it was a great chance to see it from the inside and I enjoyed having lunch in the resident coffeeshop.
The Great Tapestry of Scotland began as an idea by the Scottish writer Alexander McCall Smith who was inspired by the Prestonpans Tapestry which in turn was based on the Bayeux Tapestry. Ironically none of these are tapestries (i.e. weavings) but they are all embroideries. All the 160 or so panels of the Great Tapestry of Scotland were designed by the Scottish artist (resident of Cockenzie) Andrew Crummy and the work was executed by embroiderers (mainly women) from the length and breath of Scotland. Each panel was made by either an existing group or one that was formed specially for this purpose. As you can imagine I can't show you all the panels so what you're getting is a random selection from the ones that for one reason or another attracted my attention. No excuses for the fact that many of the ones I've selected feature women. Men feature overly large in history and I'm always trying to rectify that situation!

Above the very first panel showing the emergence of Scotland from the sea.
I
Those of you familiar with the history of Scotland are aware that it is steeped in battle and bloodshed for many different reasons, quite a lot of them religious! Above a detail from the invasion by the Vikings.
 
 Queen Margaret of Scotland
 The effect of the Black Death on the Scottish population in the 14th Century.
Rosslyn Chapel's Apprentice Column 
The chapel is quite near us and I have paid many visits there, so I just wanted to included it for that reason but also because the column is a master work of stitching. 
And I couldn't exclude the Border Rievers conflicts as they took place in the Scottish Borders where I live. I also loved the beautiful portrayal of the horses.
Witches were burned enthousiastically in Scotland and this panel shows one of the first of these tragic events which killed mostly women.
Scots are world travellers. Not only have they emigrated far and wide over the centuries but many of them were involved in the British East India Company. This was one of my favourites among the panels because of its colourful nature and the wide variety of embroidery stitches used. It was hanging in quite a dark room and use of flash wasn't allowed. I've cleaned it up digitally as best I could but to appreciate this one fully you need to see it in person. The exhibition will be on in Cockenzie House till the 8th December and is open from 10 - 4 every day including Sundays (last admission 3pm). Admission is free but a voluntary contribution of £3.50 is appreciated.
After my recent visit to the Museum of Scotland the paisley pattern was still fresh in my mind and here it is again on one of the panels.
James Clerk Maxwell is one of Scotlands most respected scientists.
For that reason alone I would have included him but the stitching on this one was particularly fine too.
The above panel commemorates a tragic disaster at see when the yacht Iolaire sunk just off Stornoway. It was on it's way to bring home men from the islands returning from the First World War. Imagine dying when you have survived a horrific war and are within sight of home. Maritime disasters have an extra poignancy when you're married to a sailor.
 Fair Isle knitting
 Tenement living
 The ceaseless sea from which Scotland rose and which surrounds her to this day.
In 1999 after many centuries Scotland regained it's own Parliament. A matter of great pride for all Scots and one that was presented beautifully here where the nation was sewn back together. I love the imagery and the beautiful stitches.
 Here you can admire that in a bit more detail.
The Scottish Saltire

There was so much to see that it was virtually impossible to take it all it. After a bit your attention can't help but wane but hopefully this Great Tapestry will continue to travel around Scotland and maybe even further afield and this won't be my last visit to see it. A book is on the cards which will show each and every panel with the helpful information (written by Alistair Moffat) that accompanies each panel during the exhibition which gallops you through the intricacies of Scottish history and life. Just now there is a book available already that described the whole process of the making of the tapestry. 

If you're anywhere near or even if you're not, this is so worth a visit. You mustn't miss it!

2 comments:

Linda said...

What amazing tapestries -WOW!!!! I love that you took a stand for the women :). My faves are the first one at the top, the peacock one and the thistle one , although they are all gorgeous!

Terri said...

OH and I thought I was speechless about your newest post! lol! This post too is just stunning! I am so lucky that you go to so many interesting places. Yay! I get to go along vicariously. lol! I really appreciate you taking all this time to share the photos. Each one is a beauty. I love all the embroidery work. Gorgeous! I also appreciate that you took a more feminine view of the exhibit.
Hugs,
Terri

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