The Isle of Lewis, Scotland

On a remote beach on the Isle of Lewis why bother with words, or order, or classification, for there is no chaos here.

One beach, different times of the day. It could render even the most wordy person speechless.

The Sea Turns Mauve

The Sea Turns Mauve

Inky Tide

Inky Tide

Violet Edge

Violet Edge

Luminous Aqua at Dusk

Luminous Aqua at Dusk

A Rain Cloud Passes

A Rain Cloud Passes

A Fresh Wind

A Fresh Wind

This is for Michele who was telling me the winter landscape inspires her to paint more than the summer one – but then added, “unless I am in the Outer Hebrides”

Hunt, Gather, Design

Design shows are important events in the calendar and the big ones are very often held in London. When attending these shows I am often asked how designers keep current and in touch while living and working four hundred miles north of The Big Smoke. 

Well, walk this way…

We have a collection of secret weapons up here in Scotland. Weapons that fuse together and do the majority of the work for us; our landscape, our light and our space. Without exception, every single design I have produced has stemmed from a walk outdoors. Not necessarily a traverse across rugged moor or a walk on one of our many wild beaches, even the most mundane of walks will produce results. It’s simply a case of looking rather than just seeing. I hunt for shapes, gather what I see and turn them into designs.

Shapes in the city

I shall demonstrate the power of the landscape with the help of the bute fabrics collection. A quick flick through the binder and I come across several fabrics that appear to be a direct abstraction from nature. Intentional or subliminal, the designers are clearly demonstrating a raw and visceral connection to the environment.

Pitted sand and ‘Iona’, fine worsted marl

The fabric of our landscape is literally weaving itself into the very heart of designs emerging from Scotland.

Protruding rock veins and ‘Kilmory’ cloth

Natural materials but a man made wall – look how its structure emerges as an architectural weave.

Stone wall and ‘Braemar’ cloth

Busy docks have long been one of my richest sources of inspiration. I can’t help but notice a similarity of colour and form in my dockland montage with that of bute’s special yarn effect cloth, ‘Skye’. A clean, contemporary cloth that I am keen to specify.

Docklands montage and ‘Skye’ cloth

Blue panels of Hebridean water are reproduced in the interior of this room – the positioning of the ‘Turnberry’ throw on the sandy coloured  felt wool chair looks pleasing because it is a direct translation of a natural landscape. In other words, it  gains an instant authenticity.

Panels of blue sea and Bute’s ‘Turnberry’ throw

Look at the dark Lewisian Gneiss sharply contrasting with the adjacent white sand – a powerful combination. The organic form of the white DSR Eames Chair  is heightened by the dark grey back drop. Our design instincts are influenced by the natural world yet again.

A colour combination in nature emerges in an interior

A detail from an artist’s oil painting and a set of colours and shapes I see at the harbour.

Colours from a harbour and detail from an unrelated oil painting.

So no matter where we live, I am certain we are all deeply affected by the space around us. I am quite sure a primal force exists within us that connects us to the land and appears consciously and unconsciously time after time in the products we are designing.  Nature is the touchstone for truthful design and is one of the many good reasons designers continue to live and work  successfully in Scotland.

And it’s not just the landscape that inspires us, don’t forget about the local flora and fauna. After curing this locally caught salmon in beetroot and vodka, I was spell bound by the colour palette that lay on my kitchen work top.

But I will leave you with a montage of textures and patterns I collected from a recent walk. Textures I plan to work on to produce some new work – not a difficult task when surround by this…

natural textures and patterns

Finding Focus in the Botanic Gardens

You know the feeling when you sit down to work  with task list in front of you and for some reason or other you just can’t find your groove? It happens to us all once in a while, doesn’t it?

I have to admit when it happens to me, there is little point in even trying. I firmly believe it’s our bodies craving fresh air, natural foliage (looking at green definitely works), basically anything other than looking at a computer screen. Luckily I am self employed and can take action when that stale feeling creeps in.

You only need to look at a pristine, vibrant green leaf to feel energised and engaged with the world. And for that reason, one of the first places I seek out whether at home or while travelling, is the local botanical garden.

We are exceptionally lucky here in Edinburgh as I’ve mentioned before in Strength and Form to have The Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. But there are others for you to seek out and visit, hundreds of them in fact, sometimes in the most obscure places. But beware, many of our fabulous gardens are struggling for funding which is terrifying considering they offer so much to such a broad range of recreational and educational purposes.
I was in St.Andrews last week (an easy one hours drive or train journey from Edinburgh), and was fortunate to be taken to St.Andrews Botanic Gardens – an absolute haven of native and exotic plants. I wasn’t really looking at the plants from a botanical angle but simply looking at their colour and form. Endless fun and a focused mind. Result.
Do you have a local botanic garden that you can tell us about?

How do you find your focus on fuzzy days?