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Published: 14 May 2016

By Andy Ross

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Stumbling upon art - Joanne B Kaar

We are on our first Textile Tour of the year. A small group - three - from France, Scotland-via-France, and Switzerland. 

It has been stunning so far. With a smaller group there seems to be more time to see and do, and it is easier to get around and visit unexpected places too. Lerwick yesterday is a case in point. The previous day there was a Tall Ship in the harbour, and yesterday there were three! The Romance of Sail in full view as we crested the hill and descended into town. But, even though I love Tall Ships, that was not the highlight. That came a little later in the lighthouse buildings at Sumburgh Head. Although the puffins were not in evidence, the artist in residence was: Joanne B. Kaar. 

Now those of you who have been reading the blog for ages will remember that, a few years ago, we hosted the Robert Dick Portable Museum of Curiosity by Joanne. It is a super art piece with opening drawers and hinged flaps, stuffed to the gunwales with artefacts and art, letters and pictures, all about the Victorian baker turned botanist who collected and dried specimens of plants. You can read more and see a video of the project here. I wanted to see what Joanne was doing during her residency at the lighthouse and we were not disappointed.

Bumping into the artist right at the start of the visit meant that we were privileged to have time for coffee and a chat and a look at recent work. Out came more boxes with waterproof jackets stamped with fish and stencilled with Russian characters, another portable museum, this time about the whalers and their introduction of the Magellan Daisy to various parts of Scotland including Shetland, and paintings. There was also textile work; fishing gloves and other artefacts inspired by a very recent trip to Newfoundland, made from net mending line using Viking techniques, and socks, umbrellas and swimming attire printed with Joanne's colourful drawings and paintings of plants and flowers on a stay in the outer Hebrides. It was a fascinating and entertaining afternoon, and we ended up carrying home the last of a limited-edition-of-four artworks - The Westland Logs. As the other three are in a New Zealand museum, Caithness Horizons and Joanne's house, we are in very select company in owning one. And we will be getting the portable museum (pictured left) about the daisies for the studio on loan for a few months over the summer and autumn too!

Joanne's residency runs until the end of May. Go down to Sumburgh if you can, get a coffee in the beautiful room on the cliffs with the panoramic view of the South Mainland, and see if you can get Joanne to have a chat. It was A Pleasant Surprise to find on our tour.