May Day 2016

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Had to leave the windy house on the hill as yet another landlord wants to capitalize on high summer tourist rents….

So we are on the move, currently part-living out of the car. Sprout is bearing up well.


Hopefully by the next entry, we will have moved into a ‘real’ house with insulation and central heating. What’s that? Will I miss the all-pervading smell of peat smoke (my own ‘eau de peat’) and living with constant black facial smudging?

‘Traumas are Us’ this spring. My beloved Dad has been very ill with heart problems, so I went home to Englandshire for several weeks. Poorly family has provoked deep feelings of unrest about island life and increased my sense of isolation. I am too far away. My nieces and nephew are growing up too fast and I have begun to feel a bit slow and cut off from modern life, hitherto things, which have not really bothered me. However I am not yet holding my trousers up with binder twine.


While back at the family home in the gentle, green midlands, I was welcomed into the bosom of the Family Genever.   One daughter, my friend Kate, is an artist I much admire Two weeks lambing on her family farm just outside Stamford helped put me right. Four strong farming women and another generation are coming through. Farmer Genever is still holding his own amongst the oestrogen


With Dad on the on the mend, so it was back to Uist and the dreaded move, almost homelessness and rescue from my tent by Morag-Ann of Balushare, with whom I spent two happy weeks immersed in outdoor lambing, aided by Betsan, her Kelpie (well 90%) and her new rescue, border collie, Pip. Morag-Ann, another amazing farming woman, runs the croft single-handedly since she lost her brother Archie, two years ago to motor neurone disease. She has about a hundred Blackface and Cheviot sheep and eleven Aberdeen Angus and Limousin cows.  Deep respect, Morag-Ann


To be immersed in crofting and farming life is an exercise in living minute by minute by minute, hour by hour, responding to each crisis with patience and humour and kindness and good grace. Whilst the birth of new lambs is magical, there is also a dark side. Black-backed gulls (Greater or Lesser, who cares) taking the tongue out of young lambs, is a sight hard to bear, but it is all part of the rich tapestry of rural working life.

The return to the coalface of sheep has given me a fresh perspective on my felt making. I have overcome my own recent trauma in carding, having in good faith purchased a mechanized drum carder, but found it not to suit me. I am now the proud owner of a beautiful hand-operated jumbo machine made by Classic Carder and we are getting on well.

Recent meetings and a workshop in Stornaway with helpful mentors, Pamela, Fiona and Avril from Emergents, has helped me to assess the felt vessel (pod?) collection and push me forwards. I must keep going, keep faith, charge properly. Include profit (what’s that?)

So there will be an exhibition at ‘The Cowshed’, Claddach Balushare, starting June 19th for three weeks only. Please come to my international launch or at the very least see the link to Art on the Map 16 on this blog.


And I have started a new FB page about my felt making practice under ‘Rebecca Cotton, North Uist’.

Oh yes and I just found out I have secured a new ‘real’ job; helping to run the Uist ‘Local Food for Local People’ Project, which I’m very happy to be part of. (This does not necessarily mean I have given up molluscs entirely) Having several jobs is a normal part of crofting life, so let’s hope I can carry on felt making.



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