Women of the Hill Artefacts | Caroline Dear

Women of the Hill Artefacts | Caroline Dear

As part of Women of the Hill, ATLAS commissioned the Skye-based artist Caroline Dear to work with Tuulikki to develop and create bespoke costumes and props to be used in the performance.

Women of the Hill told the story of three characters whom Dear made costumes for. Objects, dubbed ‘artifacts’, created for the Cailleach, Bride and Keening woman portrayed in the performance were made from plant material associated with the archeological site of High Pasture Cave, where the performance took place and where the story took its inspiration from. During a high-profile excavation of the site in 1972 , a large amount of willow pollen was found, alongside holly flower, red campion and white lilies – these components featured heavily in Dear’s designs for the performance, referencing the traditional meanings of the plants and their historic uses across Scotland.

Of all the artefacts created, one of the most extraordinary pieces was the head-dress of the main character, the Cailleach, who was played by Tuulikki. Dear’s designs for this piece were based on the traditional hat worn on Samhain across the Highlands and Islands. Made using rush and straw – traditional materials used in making hats – the design provided face coverage, emphasising the meaning of Cailleach – the veiled one.

Describing her experience of creating the artefacts and working with Tuulikki, Dear explains;

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‘It is important that I use plants which are abundant [and] undervalued now but which were commonly used in the past. For designing and making the work for this project I researched both Skye related customs as well as more ancient traditions. This work has its roots in the Neolithic [period], relating to the archeological excavations which took place on this site over a period of eight years. I enjoy working with Hanna [Tuulikki], we understand each other’s thinking, sources and methods of working so it flows easily, and, as Hanna puts it, we activate each others practice. The exciting thing about the project for me has been distilling each character’s essence and then selecting the right materials and structural forms to express this.’

Images by Laurence Winram