Sources of Inspiration
Some of the objects & scenes which provided inspiration and the textures and words which resulted.
Burial ground, South Uist, Outer Hebrides
The ancient churchyard at Howmore, South Uist. The stones here are encrusted with vividly coloured lichen. (Lichen provided some of the dyes used to make tweed.) At first sight the Hebrides are not very colourful places but if you look carefully there are dazzling colours to be found in unlikely places. The colours seem even brighter in the rain for some reason.
Rocks on North Uist
It was holidays in North Uist that aroused my interest in geology. I collected rocks in my pockets when beachcombing and we took them back home to Norfolk. Then when I moved to Skye we carried them back up north again so they're now very well-travelled. There seem to be an infinite number of colours and patterns. The colours are much brighter when the rocks are wet.
Boulders, North Uist, Outer Hebrides
In Ch. 1 of EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY I describe the North Uist beach: "White sand, crystalline, colourless, slithering between my fingers, dusting my boots; castaway seaweed; scattered shells like broken beads, precious and useless. Elephantine lumps of rock, humbug boulders, striped and stratified, like a pile of collapsed deckchairs."
Linda with her nautical quilt
This is a quilt I made for my husband when he was living on the Isle of Harris in a house by the sea. I used striped fabrics, mostly shirtings. It was my attempt to make something nautical that looked antique and faded.
Neist Point, Isle of Skye
"Once again the landscape seems to me somehow male: the sudden corners of escarpments, the steep drops of sea-cliffs, the projecting grassy knolls seem to suggest the limbs and joints of a giant recumbent body - shoulders, elbows, knees." [Chapter 18 of EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY]
Snow scene on Skye
Snow lasts on the Cuillin well into the spring. (In 2006 there was a fresh fall in the third week of May.) This is a photo of the mostly uncultivated garden we had on Skye. It was surrounded by croft land with a view of the Cuillin mountains beyond. By allowing the grass to grow long we provided cover and food for all sorts of wildlife including brown hares and weasels. I've included this photo because I'm fascinated by the colours we call white, which we think are white, but aren't. I'm interested in colour/lack of colour, both in my writing and my quilts and I've explored this again (plus the wildlife) in my third novel, STAR GAZING, some of which is set on Skye in winter.
The Delirium Quilt
A quilt designed when I was confined to bed with 'flu which maybe accounts for the colour scheme and the dubious inclusion of purple gingham. The main part of the quilt is made up of 16 blocks that are constructed in exactly the same way but look very different because of the use of colour. The triangle pattern in the corners and border is known as "Flying Geese". I love the language of quilting. Old quilt block patterns often have names associated with the natural world: Bear's Paw, Turkey Tracks, Birds in the Air, Ocean Waves.
I wrote a passage in A LIFETIME BURNING in which childless Flora fantasises about having twins. She recalls a photo of herself and her twin brother as babies in furry hoods, "as cosy and identical as broad beans in their downy pod." I thought I'd just imagined this image until I came across this photo of me as a toddler.
Elgol, Isle of Skye
This is my favourite place on Skye. Foxgloves grow amongst the rocks and the area is a haunt of student geologists on field trips. The honeycomb effect in the rock is caused by weathering. Soft rock has eroded more quickly than hard rock. Elgol is one of the few places on Skye I'd recommend visiting in foul weather. It's just as beautiful and even more exciting, as you can see from Adam Burton's photo elsewhere on the site.
A small wallhanging which I made very quickly without really knowing what I was doing or why. (I normally plan quilts very carefully and take a long time designing them.) It wasn't until I'd finished it and stared at it for a while that I realised it must have been a response to the constantly repeated images of the 9/11 destruction. This was my first attempt at embellishing a quilt with beads, sequins and embroidery. I hand-dyed the coloured fabric myself.
Rannoch Moor, Scotland
This photograph was adapted for the cover of EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY. Adam Burton's photo was actually taken on Rannoch Moor on the mainland, one of the bleakest, most eerie places in Scotland. I chose this photo for the cover of EG because a solitary tree features in the Epilogue, standing as a symbol of survival. You see many such trees in the Highlands and islands, defying the elements, but the weather is actually less harmful than the depredations of deer and sheep. Historically, the wilderness of the Highlands is man-made (with the help of sheep) and a great deal of effort is now going into re-foresting with native trees.