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Atlas Arts

ART / PEOPLE / PLACE

EALAN / DAOINE / ÀITE

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Joint commission | Ewan Thomson and Martin Campbell

Fuidheigh Sgarach (detail) by Martin Cambell & Ewan Thomson, 2018. Photograph Iain Smith

After meeting Martin at the Admiral’s House studio and seeing how inspired/excited he was at being ‘back in nature’ we decided to go for a walk to ‘go shopping’ both for materials and for inspiration. I knew a spot for getting good stuff.

We talked, walked and found things we liked. The colour palette of slightly muted vibrant colours almost blending in with nature and the more subtle greys, off-whites, beiges, blacks and other weathered browns. Colours of the coastal flowers, almost mimicking the plastics on the strand-line.

Chat turned to how we disliked waste and this would be a good opportunity to reclaim some. We also talked about the ‘Highland stool’ or ‘creepie’ as a good base to unify our designs and shore finds. Prototypes including resin in a vibrant orange top bonding together a nest of driftwood legs, a specially mixed resin to match that of lichen with a variation on the driftwood legs, or an old fence wire and black resin top, and mearl (a native cold water seaweed) and black resin. We liked the idea of using rock as well but seemed to have neglected it. We still had a few ideas to other possible routes and by combining selected elements creating other household furniture.

The stool, table and floor standing lamp were agreed to by atlas for their editions. The mearl and resin were a hit, so that was the winning idea to combine in each item. I made the moulds and gathered some maerl from the beach and cleaned it to mix with some pigmented resin. I chose black as this would highlight the maerl with its complexity of colours and shapes. Casting required more than anticipated but I had some spare for the garden. Shaping proved a bit more of a challenge than hoped and turned into a mission. Creating an attachment for my router I could route the surface flat and create the tapered profile towards the edges for the underside, to allow the legs to be attached. Sanded into shape and then smoothed to 120g to allow the feel of the coral. Martin added some legs and brought this up to ATLAS who loved it but had concerns regarding the ethics of removing the maerl from the beach. Works stopped on the table and lamp.

Ideas stalled and ATLAS wondered if plastic or shells could replace the maerl, the shells wouldn’t justify the work and the plastic would not bond to the resin. The plastic could be fused or stitched together but these proved difficult. There has been some success with fusing the plastic, hopefully more on this in the future. As my brain was ticking over the things that hadn’t jumped out but were around on the walk were geology and time. The basalt that is so ubiquitous often forms columns or chunky blocks once broken by the sea. Using off-cuts of pine/larch/spruce that had been cut up into 20 x 20mm sections for a previous job and had been leftovers or discarded for its knots, provided the perfect opportunity to replicate the basalt. Once assembled it was clear a few joints were a bit gappy, these would be filled with resin pigmented orange, from the colours of the strand-line. Stained black to unify and provide subtlety to the knots and defects, waxed and buffed to protect and replicate a finish from the ‘strand-line catalogue’.

Time grows in trees, quite literally it would be nice to express this. The collaboration stool brought in time in the form of a waste section of a cherry tree that shows the divergence of branches at its core surrounded by a recorded history in its rings. The splits occur from rapid drying and this timber would have only been good for burning, to be able to use this waste product required glueing, this was pigmented again using colours from the strandline, cream of the maerl, yellow of fishing equipment and
flowers, black from lots of things but a curiously shaped piece of foam wrapped in vinyl comes to mind, the orange from an old oil drum used to carry the items back.

This has been a learning experience and I hope to stay in contact with Martin and continue to develop ideas from this collaboration. We decided to name the stools after the islands around were we gathered the materials and inspiration, these are Fuidheigh, or Wiay which is of mixed Gaidhlig and Norse origin but the meaning is obscure. Other names to be decided but probably Fuidheigh sgarach for the collaboration stool and another of the islands for Martin’s stool.

Published on 10 December 2018