On Saturday morning our first stop was the hub at the Shetland Museum where we chatted to some more of the visitors. We spent a bit more time at the various exhibitions, one display of work in particular stood out for me. The work in question was titled The Lairds Witch by Fine Arts student Susan Pearson from the island of Whalsay, and she was awarded the Shetland Wool Week exhibition prize to highlight her work in knit and concrete sculptures. While I was in the boat hall I was asked a non-wool related question by the husband of one of the ladies taking part in wool week. He said he was a small boat builder back home in his native Finland and was particularly interested in the sixareen vessel on display in the boat hall. He enquired as to where the wood would have come from to build the sixareen in the late 1800s, as there were no trees in Shetland. Where he lived he simply went out into the forest and cut down a tree in order to build a boat. I replied, “Our wood nowadays is imported into Shetland, I suppose the same applied over 100 years ago. It was also possible that Shetland boat builders would salvage wreck wood from the sea, which had been lost overboard whilst being transported from country to country”. When I was a child back home in Burra Isle I could remember a lot of timber coming ashore lost from ships when the deck cargo shifted. I took him through to the boat shed where older boats are restored, he was really interested in this and I left him to wander around the various boats. I have to say it was nice to talk about another subject other than wool!
We left the Museum and travelled to the Makkers Market in the new Anderson High School, where all types of local textile products were on show and for sale. The stands were doing brisk business as both halls were packed with people.
We ventured upstairs and joined in with the “Peerie Makkers”; that is younger school children who are instructed in the art of hand knitting by volunteers, usually in their break times while at school. I was invited to sit with some of the youngsters while they were knitting; one young girl asked could I knit. I replied, “When I was perhaps 10 years old we were taught to knit in our break time by the school cleaner. I had not really knitted much in over 60 years”, she promptly said “you can have a go with this knitting “, and gave me a partially finished lace knitting piece on two knitting needles. I was aware of several pairs of young eyes watching me, I replied, “This is lace knitting it is far too fine for me to knit as I do not have my glasses”. This was met with a lot of smiling faces and with that I wished them all the best with their knitting and left.
My next trip was to my old island home of Burra and in particular to the iconic Burra Bears workshop where we met with owner Wendy Inkster. Wendy and I chatted about how busy she had been with Wool Week; she then took me completely by surprise and presented me with a most splendid Burra Bear. My first reaction was of total surprise and also appreciation with such a generous gift, I also felt very nostalgic as the Bear, Peerie Olie o’ Roadside, named by Wendy, had been made from a Fair Isle all over jumper my late mother had knitted for me over 50 years ago. Several years ago we had asked Wendy to make 3 bears for our grandchildren, I was unaware there was any material left over. I said to Catherine before we leave the isle I wish to go back to my childhood home of Roadside in Hamnavoe and have a picture taken with Peerie Olie o Roadside in front of my grannie’s house. It was as if young Olie had gone full circle! As I stood before the door I noticed the rusting remains of the ornate garden railing which I used to stand and hold on to. I am a very sentimental individual and must admit I had one of those heart felt moments. Even more so as I was standing at the Roadside house who should drive up and stop, my sister Alexis, quite a coincidence or what!
We then proceeded to travel down to the village of Sandwick in the south of Shetland and to the Hoswick visitor centre, where various classes had been held all through week. We had a nice cup of tea and a scone and wandered amongst all the old textile pieces on display. We then went a short distance along the road and paid a visit to designer Niela Nell Keria in her studio and had the unexpected pleasure to meet and old friend Mary-Jane Mucklestone, from the USA, who often visits us with textile tour groups. We had a chat with each other and then set off for home, now running out of time before my next assignment at night which I shall deal with in my next blog.