Morag Macpherson is working with Peatland Connections to produce artwork related to peatlands. Learn more about her and her work in this blog.
Hi Morag, tell us about yourself.
I’m a textile artist / designer living and working at my home and garden cottage studio overlooking Kirkcudbright Bay. I moved to Dumfries and Galloway 12 years ago from Glasgow, on a WASPS artists studio transfer.
I’ve been held in the comfort of this beautiful region, drawn in by the closeness to nature and the slower pace of life it creates. Walking my dog in this environment is a daily pleasure.
I’m involved with the local community and I'm the founder of an Artists & Makers co-operative which has three shops and 50 members. I’m committed to seeing artists treated fairly and with respect. Our collective is seven years old and a great success story from what began as a temporary pop up shop.
I enjoy helping people and find community art work locally with autistic and dementia clients really rewarding.
I’ve sold my creations all over the world and appreciate the travel experience that comes with an international reputation. However I’ve recently been enjoying staying closer to home with all the richness that a life in Dumfries & Galloway provides.
What art do you create and what inspires you to do so?
Mostly I’ve created repeat patterns in bold, bright and sometimes unusual colour combinations as my signature style, influenced by art history and anthropology (the degree I never studied and therefore taught myself). These surface patterns are usually applied digitally or sometimes using screenprint or monoprint techniques. I also enjoy abstract mark-making on plywood, using old household paint to create painterly patterns and vivid colour combinations.
More recently I’ve been investigating and slowly learning natural dyeing and eco-printing techniques as a more sustainable way to print onto textiles. Creative Scotland, Craft Scotland and local awards have allowed me the privilege of time to experiment.
This slowing down process has impacted my artistic output. I am hugely inspired by the natural abundance of plants and flora on my doorstep and in the nearby locality. The process of gathering, scouring, mordanting, dyeing, printing, drying and patch working is physical and creates a welcome embodiment to my practice which was absent before. My creations tell stories via a simple patchwork process and repurpose fabrics in the mix with original artworks.
What was your path into art?
I began as a graphic designer, straight out of Glasgow College of Building and Printing with an HND in Design for Printing. After 12 years of design work in an office, 9-5, I made the leap into the world of digitally printed textiles and self employment in 2007 via Glasgow School of Art Textile Design evening classes with Deirdre Nielsen and Glasgow Print Studio Fine Art Screenprinting evening classes with Will Maw. The transition from graphics (on paper) to textiles in the digital medium was seamless.
The Centre for Advanced Textiles at Glasgow School of Art was also a great resource, and accessible on my doorstep, in the early days.
A voluntary redundancy from Learning and Teaching Scotland’s graphics department allowed me the freedom to explore new ways of applying my illustrations to surfaces, notably textiles.
Now I embrace community art, commissions, project work, collaborations, workshops and talks aswell as exhibiting my own line of art wear and limited edition fashion and interior accessories all over the world.
Your residency takes in Peatlands and their flora and fauna. How have you familiarised yourself with the landscape so far?
I’ve visited Knowetop Loch and various other local peatland sites to build a relationship with the environment and the plants that live there.
I enjoy spending time alone (or with my dog) immersed in the sights and sounds of a peatland. They are generally overlooked and therefore it’s been interesting to give attention to an otherwise undervalued and extremely important aspect of the Dumfries and Galloway landscape. I’m passionate about my adopted region and find these areas to be really special. The insects in the summer months such as damselflies are visually stunning. I’ve familiarised myself with plants such as bog myrtle and heather atop the bog; birch trees, willow, broom and bracken around the bog; peat under the bog and even the Sitka spruce which is cleared off the bog. From these four areas in and around the bog, I’ve identified ideas for a series of garments. These garments will be naturally dyed with the plants mentioned and eco-printed with the leaves. I have buried various types of cloth into a local bog and await the result after a month of steeping in the rich peaty soil. I’ve been researching interesting aspects of Peatlands and weaving new knowledge into ideas for my garment collection which will be worn by Dr Kerry Morrison, Peatland Connections project officer and artist, and other models in a photo opportunity and film in October before being exhibited at the Scottish Parliament in December.
What are you most looking forward to in your residency?
Getting hands on! Brewing my aluminium jam pans and pots with dyestuff from the bog after a productive day of gathering plants. The smells in my studio are all part of the experience! Sampling each dyebath with six identified fabrics : hemp, linen, silk noil, silk satin, fine wool, organic and recycled cotton.
Leaving cloth to steep overnight and waking to the delight of a new colour each day is a simple pleasure not to be overlooked.
When I’m in this zone, I can feel an ancestral pull / I find myself thinking about my grandmother a lot - when I’m wringing out fabric by hand, carrying heavy buckets full of dyebath, mordants, water and modifiers. My gran was born into nomadic farmers in Ayrshire, the region just north of Dumfries and Galloway. When I look out my window everyday and see St Mary’s Isle growing out of the mirror-like water of Kirkcudbright Bay it always evokes a memory of Mary Brown. And how it must have felt to live over 100 years ago. It’s as if the past still exists in this moment, embedded and informing everything I do and who I am.
Thank you Morag for sharing your answers and what a beautiful sentiment to end on. We're so excited to see and share what she creates!