VACMA residency week 1

Week 1 of my VACMA supported residency.

This residency has been funded by VACMAs through Highlife Highland and Creative Scotland. I applied to do a 2 week “at home” residency and explore sculptural jewellery. The main inspiration for this comes from walking around my new local area since I moved to Inverness in January of 2021.

With Lockdown and the stay home message still in place when I started. I decided on a 45 min walking radius from my house. This should give me enough space to explore local places and parks without being away from home for too long on my walks. (Stay local has just come in at the end of this week.)

This week’s walks.

The first day of my VACMA residency I was unsure where to go! I decided on one of my favourite walks which is on the canal towpath along the Caledonian Canal out of town. On Tuesday I walked the other way along the canal towards the Beauly Firth. Wednesday I took a totally unplanned day off as I had my first migraine in about 20 years! I wanted to stay closer to home on Thursday just in case so I went towards Inverness itself. Friday was a much further walk towards the South Loch Ness trail end. Saturday I wanted to make up for lost time so I walked a short path along the River Ness.

This week I also took delivery of sheet wax. I’ve a few types of jewellers wax that I  use but I wanted to get something that’d help with the sculptural work to give myself some more freedom with it! I’m used to working with sheet metal, but sheet wax is so much easier to work with and cut!

Pink sheet wax in a fanned out pile on my desk

Inspiration this week.

The way wind can exert such a force on water.

It was such a windy day on Tuesday that I got completely transfixed looking at the way the wind interacted with the water on the canal. It kept pushing the water and causing it to look like it was darkening and lightening. I could literally see the wind moving along the surface of the water. It was so interesting as usually when it’s windy I just bury my head in my scarf, jumper, hat, anything!  

Wind on waterWind moving on water


The force of water on objects that get in the way. 

On Thursday walking towards town, the river was very full. I wanted to walk somewhere that I now know reasonably well so I walked towards Ness Islands. However when I got there the gates were shut! So that plan scuppered, I walked towards the city and walked over one of the many foot bridges. It had rained so much the day before that the River Ness was very high and I actually felt a little bit unsafe and uncomfortable walking over the foot bridge, like the water was so forceful it could wash the bridge away and me with it!

Footbridge over the River Ness


Why paths made by humans on the grass or ground make me feel different to walking on pavements.

On Friday, I explored an area where houses are still being built. I was trying to reach the South Loch Ness Trail end by a different route. There was a sign where I’d wanted to go saying private road, so I decided to avoid that and walk further into the estate. I ended up following my nose because it isn’t on maps yet! I followed the edge of the new estate from the road end but I instantly felt like I shouldn’t be there.

As I had come to the start of building works and couldn’t get any further, I walked down one of the streets. Walking down the street I felt watched and overlooked by all of the houses. There were no front gardens, fences, walls or anything to provide a physical barrier. I found my way through the estate and eventually onto a well worn path through the woods and instantly felt more comfortable!

Path worn by human feet through a grassy field.

Unyielding pavements don’t give the same sense of belonging that a well worn path does. There’s never any way of knowing if someone has walked on a pavement before you — sure you can assume — but it’s not like seeing the worn path of many boots before you. Or when you spot a puddle on a path and then you see the path that cuts around where lots of people before you have found another route.  I love stairs in old buildings too like castles (or tenements in Glasgow!). You can see where they’ve been worn down by hundreds of feet over the years. I like knowing that other people have been somewhere before me, there’s a connection to others and a comfort from that.


Inspiration themes

A few themes have sprung out of the VACMA residency so far. Most of them have shown up as words like, containment, escape, release, overflow, leaking, force, pressure, textures, ripples, movement, pausing. All of these themes feel pretty relevant to Lockdown and the feelings that I’m sure a lot of us have right now.

After my exploratory walk I spent most of the time writing up thoughts from my walks and experimenting with wax. I’ve melted and blown on wax to see if I can recreate the force of the wind on water. I’ve used the sheet wax just experimentally so far, no concrete ideas have come from that.

I was also reminded of the work of Hilde De Decker’s series of jewellery “For the farmer and market gardener” where fruits and vegetables become the gemstones in her jewellery and are contained and look squeezed by the precious metal that surrounds them.

I hope that you’ll join me next week for the second instalment of this journey. I’m looking forward to what next week brings!


Read my previous blog about the VACMA residency. Read my next blog about the VACMA residency.

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