Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Thinking about Grandmother Spider

I've been thinking about Grandmother Spider a lot recently, perhaps its the knitter in me that links me to this image of the Divine Feminine. I love the way she sings and spins the world into being. If I listen very carefully I can just hear the beauty of her tune from somewhere far, far within. Its faint but yes its there, just audible through the mental chatter of ego. A gentle ripple of sound waves across the cosmos like a beautiful dewy spider's web rippling gently in the early morning breeze.

Sandra Ingerman has a lovely chapter in her book Medicine for the Earth where she talks about creation myths and suggests how to connect to your particular myth using song and dance. I think Grandmother Spider would approve. I can almost see her glowing with unconditional love as she feels the ripples travelling up through the silken threads of her web.

When Grandmother Spider wove the web of life around us she attached a silken thread to the top of each of our heads. If we remained open we would remember our connection and have access to her wisdom and teachings. I think over time too many of us have fallen asleep. If we were to examine the patterns of our lives that we ourselves currently weave we might discover our webs no longer glisten with love and light but instead lack lustre, colour and life. They mirror what we have become. They are chaotic like the webs woven by Witt's spiders during his study into the effects of drugs on spiders. We have become lost, absorbed in our various addictions. We have forgotten our connection to the Divine Feminine. Our webs no longer reflect the beauty of our souls.

But in life like in knitting we can change our pattern. So lets wake up, rediscover our connection and weave a web that truly reflects our souls. Let the needles dance in your hands. Sing with your heart to the gentle rhythm of the needles moving to and fro and watch what beauty unfolds. And as you knit and watch listen for that far away sound of Grandmother Spider.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Creatrix Knitting Circle

Explore your life through the medium of knitting - The Creatrix Knitting Circle....

Knitting Analogies

Here's an interesting knitting analogy that has just popped into my head. Perhaps knit and purl stitches are like Yin and Yang (feminine and masculine energy) and when woven together with love and intention they create the most beautiful designs....

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Off to Dundee, a weaver l'll be...

Michael Nairn born in 1804 came from a family of Master Weavers. His great grandfather Andrew Nairn was the Deacon of the Guild of Weavers and his grandfather Robert also worked in weaving. As a young boy Michael would run down to the harbour after school to watch ships arriving from the Baltic ports laden with flax.

Down to the harbour when school skailed, 
To eagerly watch what cargoes sailed,
Coal, canvas and linen are outward bound, 
And in from the Baltic bales of flax abound.

by Penny Sinclair (2013)

Michael was determined to learn the craft of weaving and went to Dundee to serve his apprenticeship.  In 1828 he built a canvas factory at the top of his garden in Coal Wynd, Kirkcaldy.  Over the four floors of the factory were some three dozen handlooms at which weavers produced a variety of canvas including sailcloth, oilcloth, and tarpaulin.  His customers were local and global from Liverpool to Calcutta, Quebec, Montreal, Boston, Jamaica, Adelaide, New York and Philadelphia.

Sailcloth - a page from my sketchbook
2013 Photograph: Penny Sinclair © Penny Sinclair
Muir A, (1956), Nairns of Kirkcaldy - A short history 1847 - 1956, Cambridge: W Heffer & Sons Ltd
The Start of the floorcloth industry at The Fife Post

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Linoleums and oilcloths in all manufactured widths (ca 1910)

Just found this great image on the National Library of New Zealand website.
Tonson Garlick Co :Linoleum and floorcloth department. Linoleums and oilcloths in all manufactured widths. [ca 1910].. Tonson Garlick Co :Complete modern house furnishers. [Catalogue. ca 1910].. Ref: Eph-B-DECOR-1910-01-005. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22541945

Arches and Rectangles

I was intrigued yesterday when photographing the canvas factory.  The building seemed to have two very distinct parts.  One a single storey building with lovely stone arched window recesses and fascinating roof supports and the other an elegant three storey premises with rectangular windows and an impressive sweeping profile.  For all intents and purposes there appeared to be two separate buildings.  My puzzle was soon to be solved when last night I picked up Nairns of Kirkcaldy.  Browsing through its pages I spotted a section entitled - St Mary's Canvas Factory.  Apparently what I had suspected was correct and there were indeed two buildings.  The single storey premises constructed probably around the early 1860s (no specific date is given) marked a period of manufacturing diversification for the Narins.  The small factory at the foot of the Path produced a varied range of products including table baize, black Japan cloths, hessians, marbled linen, waterproof carriage-roofing, stair-cloths, bath and coal scuttle mats, and gig and carriage oil-cloths.

By the late 1860s Michael Barker Nairn started to build alongside this factory to create the St Mary's Canvas Factory.  This building heralded a new industrial era for the Nairns with the birth of the steam power loom capable of weaving canvas eight yards wide.

Fascinated by some of the products produced by the smaller of the two factories I decided to undertake some research.  I had always thought table baize referred to the green felt covers that adorned the snooker and billiard tables of gentlemens clubs and stately homes.  But no, in the book there was reference to table baize having a backing of cotton and being printed in three different patterns.  Entering baize into Google I discovered:

Baize - A coarse, napped, felt-like, woollen or cotton material that goes back at least to the 1500s and used as a protective cover for carpets, tables and bookcases in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The only image I have been able to find for a table baize, that isn't green and snooker/billiard/card game related, is for an 1868 block printed baize - see image held by the Bridgeman.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

St Mary's Canvas Factory

With a respite in the rain and the light levels improving I decided it was time to go out and photograph some of the Nairn industrial heritage that survives in Kirkcaldy.  My first port of call (no pun intended) was the St Mary's Canvas Factory that overlooks Kirkcaldy harbour.  Part of the building is now just a fa├žade that hides an architectural atrocity which is part of the Adam Smith College Priory Campus.  Unfortunately the atrocity is all to visible through the lovely stone arches that once served as window frames for the canvas factory. The Victorians sure knew how to build great looking factories.  I'm afraid the same can't be said for today's metal sheds that house what little manufacturing now remains in this country.  Well before I digress too much and this post turns into a rant about modern architecture I'll post some images.

A small remaining fragment of the once substantial Narin dynasty
       2013 Photograph: Penny Sinclair © Penny Sinclair
A section of railway line that ran from the harbour to extensive  sidings near  Den Road
2013 Photograph: Penny Sinclair © Penny Sinclair
St Mary's Canvas Factory
2013 Photograph: Penny Sinclair © Penny Sinclair
St Mary's Canvas Factory
2013 Photograph: Penny Sinclair © Penny Sinclair
Roof supports - St Mary's Canvas Factory
2013 Photograph: Penny Sinclair © Penny Sinclair
Roof supports - St Mary's Canvas Factory
2013 Photograph: Penny Sinclair © Penny Sinclair
I thinking of turning some of these images into linocuts and collagraphs.  Tomorrows project maybe?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

My project and journey

"Made in Kirkcaldy" will explore the incredible journey of Michael Nairn from canvas weaver to floorcloth manufacturer.  I became captivated by the story of Michael Nairn after reading the first few pages of Augustus Muir's book "The Nairns of Kirkcaldy".  Whilst turning the pages of Muir's short history I found myself transported back in time to a Kirkcaldy I barely recognised.  How much the landscape of where I now stay has been shaped by one man's vision and drive.  As I begin my own personal journey retracing the footsteps of Michael Nairn I find myself both amazed and shocked by what once was but no longer is.   For me the decision to demolish the iconic linoleum factory which sits forlorn and forgotten on Victoria Road seems deeply sad.  It signals the end of an era and the loss of yet another chapter in the story of Michael Nairn's legacy.  A man who's foresight and quest for quality undoubtedly led to Kirkcaldy becoming the capital of the linoleum world.

       1900 Photograph: Unknown © Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Creativity is akin to insanity

Yesterday's presentation of my artwork went well, good to know all those late nights were well invested.  I can now move onto my new project - Linoleum. It has been a real fight trying to stop myself from starting work on this project.  So many temptations kept presenting themselves which would set my creative mind in a spin - the arrival in the post of Nairns of Kirkcaldy by Augustus Muir, the faint smell of linseed oil as I stepped out the front door and finally, finding some vintage lino tiles on the floor of a fife farmhouse kitchen.  I got really excited about the latter especially when I discovered the farmer still had some leftover tiles stashed away in a cupboard under the stairs and said I could have them.  That really started a tornado in my brain I can tell you.  Well if you are now beginning to think I'm mad you are probably right. Scientists do say creativity is akin to insanity but then what do scientists know, they once thought the earth was flat.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Weeping Beech

Decided to photograph my artwork outside in preparation for next week's presentation.

Close up front showing detail of copper wire leaves

Rear view

Front view

Thursday, January 10, 2013

End of the line for Kirkcaldy's iconic lino landmark

The world's oldest linoleum factory, a massive 19th century A-listed building in Kirkcaldy,is to be demolished this year.  From the end of the 19th century to the mid 20th century Kirkcaldy was the world's largest producer of linoleum.

The iconic industrial landmark which is to be demolished

The Nairn Linoleum Style Show

A 1940s publication about Nairn linoleum. Amazing designs. Think I might try and produce some quilted designs based on these patterns.

Made in Kirkcaldy

Just found these vintage films about linoleum manufacture in Kirkcaldy - Fine Floors and Made in Kirkcaldy.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


Well there's a strange thing.  I was thinking about how I should resurrect my blog to record my art projects and signed in to make a post.  What did I find?  Not much as its nearly been a year since I last posted!  So what has kept me from posting?  Many things including me signing up for an art and design course,  something I have wanted to do for years but like my blogging have always found reasons to put off.  However unlike my blog my art has progressed at a more successful rate and I am about to complete my first project - Canopies, Contrasts, Curves and Contours.

Canopies, Contrasts, Curves and Contours

In a couple of weeks project number two will begin and I am starting to feel quite excited about it. I've even bought a new sketch book.  I decided some weeks ago on a theme. Well if I'm honest the idea just sort of popped into my head one Saturday morning whilst having a long lie in.  I don't know where it came from but there it was unfurling like a roll of linoleum - yes LINOLEUM!  And because the project is going to require some research I thought it might be a nice idea to record it in a blog.