Building an embodied town: experiences of Scottish tradesmen, tools and techniques for generations
featured image: Janus interpretation of Sandy’s work
“There are many fine historic buildings in Inverkeithing. Some of these are named after the original owners such as Rosebury House and The Friary. In other parts of the country, houses are recognised as being the work of famous architects – Adam brothers – or as a reward for battles fought and won – Blenheim Palace – but as I studied the buildings and the methods used to build them I realised that those gems of construction are actually memorials to the multitudes of men and women who shaped and cut the stone and timber. Who worked long hours in often appalling conditions and so often to the detriment of their health. Who are forgotten and nameless. So when I see a tool mark or a particularly subtle piece of skill, I like to touch it and connect across the ages and thereby for a fleeting moment acknowledge and appreciate their skill and craftsmanship and even of their existence.”
Sandy Stephen, text for Snapshots & Sketches 2020
Sandy originally set off on the project drawing and painting the buildings of Inverkeithing, and as he looked at details, it was as if the countless number of nameless men who had physically built the town began to emerge from his pen! He filled a sketchbook with teeming details about building methods, tools and machinery, and even recreated tools from wood and other materials. But it was probably his paintings of the men working away which most readily illustrate his thinking. When Jane included the figures in her Janus interpretation for Sandy’s work, it began to take on the impression that the men were ‘building’ the head out of stone, like lilliputians creating a giant statue. This seems entirely fitting to his subject matter.
Remembering the unvoiced: Inverkeithing’s witch trials and the dangerous power of young woman
Emma Hurles, 13
featured image: Janus interpretation of Emma’s work
Emma and her mum Susan worked in tandem on the project, and both were immediately drawn to the Inverkeithing witch trials and murders. They researched the terrible events and created their own personalised memorial for the people who suffered. Their research and art work deliberately aims for the creation of a permanent memorial within the town, which has been done in so many other places in Scotland, as across England and the rest of Europe.
Emma explored her own interest in concepts of the occult, and modern day witchcraft as a marginal belief system. As a young girl she represents the disruptive power which causes women and minority groups to remain ‘othered’. The work of 13 year old Hope Francis also reflects this, especially with photographs which include unsettling self portraits, set within the environments of Inverkeithing.
Two of the other artists involved with the motif project, Donna Sinclair and Ian Walker, were also drawn to the accusations of witchcraft, and the torture and murder which occurred in Inverkeithing in the 17th Century. Interest in this subject waxes and wanes amongst artists and writers, but 2021 seems an auspicious time, perhaps particularly on the back of the Covid 19 pandemic, to bring these ideas forward and think about bringing them to fruition this year. Watch this space!
Making masks and the power of hands in a pandemic: across many generations of care, health and loss.
featured image: Janus interpretation of Esther’s work.
When the project began, Esther was already busy making face coverings for her family and friends. As an experienced seamstress she had sourced a really nice design, with a good shape, a removable nose grip and removable internal layer. This attention to detail, and level of care, is a good indicator of how Esther tackles everything, including the motif project. She began the project by drawing her own hands, doing ‘women’s’ tasks such as sewing, and the hands of loved ones. For her, they represent care, but nands also resonated with the fear that Covid was spread through touch, and the health directives to socially distance from each other and to wash our hands frequently.
Esther’s other interests included the Friary Hospitium, extending her theme of care and care-takers. The Hospitium provided a stopping-off-point for people on religious pilgrimage to Dunfermline, and for other travellers. Behind the Friary buildings, the site of the current parks and community garden, there would have been kitchen and physic gardens, growing plants to provide food and for medicinal purposes. The Friary sits atop a hill running down to Inverkeithing bay and harbour, and one thinks of supplies perhaps being taken down to the people on docked plague ships. The Friary is also just within the old town walls, where plague camps would squat, people quarantining and waiting to be allowed in to the town. Would they have been provided food by the Friary?
Esther’s work developed towards a sensitive interpretation of living during the Covid19 pandemic. She was interested in the idea of ‘memento mori’ and the way in which, in many eras, people have had to live with high mortality as a daily lived reality.
Searching for the Lazaretto: Inner Bay, Pinkie Well and mud-skating across generations.
featured image: the Janus interpretation of Karen’s work
“The muddy surface (of Inner Bay) presents a wretched contrast to the scene when the tide has returned and is at its height. One day soon going home from school with bag on back, I turned up my trousers as far as they could go, and started across from the bottom of the manse garden in the direction of Pinkie well. When nearly halfway over my imagination became possessed by the idea of bogs and the bottomless pit; and it seemed the same if I tried to turn back or proceed. I kept on my way, and got out at ‘Pinkie’, and there washed my little shanks in the pool at which cows were watered, none the worse, and less disposed to repeat the feat.”
‘Reminiscences of childhood at Inverkeithing, or, Life at a Lazaretto’ 1882, by James Simpson, b1826
Karen Delaney ‘Dad skating across Inner Bay with his brother, Inverkeithing 1950s”
Karen was intrigued by ‘the Lazaretto book’ which can be read here , and in particular she explored the topography and geography of Inverkeithing’s bay, and the position of the buildings. She runs the local cafe, situated near the top of The Mill Brae, a pathway from the high street to the bay and harbour. Her work in the community, especially for older Inverkeithingers, is well known and appreciated.
Karen’s family are from the area, and she found a delightful parallel between the story of James’ fearful skate across the mud flats in the 1830s, and her dad and uncle’s stories of skating there in the 1950s.
Karen is also interested in locally produced food and foraging, and has a knowledge about local sites where wild plants can be collected.