Category: Textiles

Arctic Initiation – British Whalers’ traditions

This is a small piece inspired by a particular aspect of arctic whaling that has interested me for a while now. British Arctic Whalers had various superstitions and traditions and the ones that interest me at the moment are those that relate to their material culture – special things that they made. In December I was privileged to be able to read and photograph some original whaling log books at the Hull History Centre in December 2015. One of these mentioned two of the interesting rituals of the whalers.

 Log book of the Whaler Neptune of Hull 1821, off Spitsbergen, Captain Munroe

May 1st  The Crew diverting themselves with their usual shenanigans in fixing a garland made of ribbons on the main top gallant stay and initiating regularly such of the crew as never before been to the arctic region by blacking their faces with a kind of blacken and then shaving off with a hatched iron hoop in the shape of a razor.

Arctic Initiation - image of joke razor on digitally printed whalers logbook

Arctic Initiation – image of joke razor on digitally printed whalers logbook

The ribbons for the garland were given to the sailors by their wives and sweethearts prior to the voyage. Representations of the garlands can be glimpsed in some of the paintings of whaling ships in the Arctic in the Hull Maritime Museum.  They also have an original joke razor, which I used as the basis for the drawing.  I digitally printed out part of my photograph of that page of the log book containing the above text on blue fabric and using free hand machine embroidery and sheer fabric made the quilted outline of the razor.

Redpath Beluga

Inspired by my recent trip the Gulf of St Lawrence where I was fortunate to see some of the small population of beluga whales that live near the mouth of the Saguenay Fjord.  A couple of days later I visited the Redpath Museum at McGill University in Montreal to see their beluga and minke whale skeletons (and lots of other great marine mammal skeletons and skulls).  The beluga flipper is based on the Redpath specimen.  The maps (one modern and one historical) are digitally printed on textile. Size 30 x 35 cm.

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Redpath Beluga

The Greenland Fisheries

 

I’ve used some related imagery I’ve been working on for a while to loosely illustrate this traditional song about a whaling voyage in book form.

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I used a combination of digital printing on fabric and fabric paint for the lyric pages.  The images were made using transfer dyes, layering burnt sheer fabrics and freehand machine embroidery.  The pages run in a continuous concertina with the two covers able to be separated so that the all pages can be viewed at once as well as in traditional book format.  The pages are 10cm square, so it’s not very big (and a bit fiddly to make in places).

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Whale ship Diana in the Arctic

Diana in the Ice

Diana in the Ice

Transfer dye on textile. 2015.  Work in progress.  Image inspired by various images of the Hull whaler Diana trapped in the Arctic ice in 1866.

Orca II (Bergen)

Orca II (Bergen)

Orca II (Bergen)

 

Transfer dye on grey textile. 2015. Orca skeleton based on one at Bergen Natural History Museum

Right Whale (gold)

Right Whale (gold)

Right Whale (gold)

Quilted gold satin freehand machine embroidered Right Whale with skeleton, 2015

Eclipse from Dundee

The Eclipse from Dundee

The Eclipse from Dundee

Layered organza iceberg with digital print of Whale ship Eclipse from Dundee.  2014

Harpoon cushion

Harpoon Cushion

Harpoon Cushion

Cushion with harpoon design, 2014

Spitsbergen (maps)

Spitsbergen maps

Spitsbergen maps

Digitally Printed textile 2014.  Double-sided map of Spitsbergen, geography on the front, geology on the back.

Spitsbergen maps (geology)

Spitsbergen maps (geology)

Four seals (Tromso)

Four Tromso Seals

Grey, Harbour, Bearded and Hooded Seal skulls

Digitally printed freehand machine embroidered textiles, 2014. The skulls are based on ones at Tromso Polar Museum, the maps and charts relate to where those specific species can be found. They are approximately life sized.