The Cowal Open Studios artists’ network is linking up with the ECHO Trails to showcase the work of artists across the area at Historic Kilmun on the 24th and 25th of September.
Here we profile the innovative fibre art of Cowal resident Mhairi Scott.
Cowal move pays off for fibre artist Mhairi
Moving to Argyll’s spectacular Cowal peninsula has allowed fibre artist Mhairi Scott to more clearly find her artistic voice within the inspirational landscape. Her artistic work has dramatically changed and continues to evolve as she explores this wonderful region on the west coast of Scotland.
Mhairi, a member of the Cowal Open Studios (COS) artists’ network, gained a degree in Psychology and worked in victim support before discovering the creative potential of fibres and fabrics.
“I don’t often think of myself as a traditional artist but it is wonderful when others can relate to my work and the creative process within it.” explained Mhairi who moved to Toward, south of Dunoon, from her native East Ayrshire just before the first Covid lockdown in the January of 2020.
“The landscapes, nature and history of this part of the world have always interested me. The stone circles and Neolithic rock art in and around Kilmartin Glen strongly influences my work. We holidayed here as a family for many years before we were in a position to finally move and call Argyll home. With the pace of life here you are more able to hear and listen to that voice inside of you that wants to be expressed through what you create.
“I love that there is a vibrant and ever-growing community of artists across Cowal with the COS network providing support for both established artists and new arrivals,” added Mhairi who has recently started her own felting workshops for people interested in finding out more about fibre art.
Mhairi continued “The first few courses have been very well received and a lot of fun. It feels strange to now be considered both an artist and a teacher but that reflects the personal journey I’ve been on in recent years and, though challenging at times, it has only increased my confidence. I can only hopefully continue to grow and allow many others to find their own creative spark and voice.
“I started out around six years ago creating needle felted characters from science fiction and fantasy, a genre that we adore as a family. Since moving to Cowal however my work has very much been grounded within the scenery and nature of this part of the world.
“The diversity of my work has also increased in scope by studying more advanced techniques in wet felting. Also eco printing plays an increasing role in my artistic adventures.
“Eco printing is especially satisfying given the importance of environmental issues and the climate. It’s proving particularly popular with visitors to my studio and I have a growing range of unique clothing that incorporates this form of printing. In the process, leaves and flowers are gathered from the local area in a conscious and mindful way and used to imprint their image on fabrics and papers in my studio. It is a fabulous way of connecting to the natural world around us.
“Art has always enabled me to overcome personal factors such as anxiety and panic in my daily life. It empowers me and gives a focus and way of expressing things that mere words cannot. My fibre art is also very tactile and soothing as you work with the wools, silks and fabrics to create a two or three dimensional piece. Wool is often simply thrown away by farmers after shearing as it is regarded as being worthless. Finding a new purpose for this natural fibre is awesome and cuts down on the waste of this precious resource.
“I still recall the happiness of making my first sale shortly after moving to Argyll gave to me. It was a cashmere wrap that had been eco printed. It was bought by a fellow artist here in Cowal and felt like a warm hello and love of my new work from the wonderful group of creatives here.
“Progressing your life in new directions is always a challenge and you worry if people will understand and appreciate what you produce as an artist. Happily they do and, through events like the felting courses, I am finding new audiences all the time for this emerging and much needed art. Keeping all things as local and as community grounded as possible will have positive impacts upon our environment and economy.
“Learning and working with eco printing techniques has opened my eyes up to the tragedies of the fast fashion industry where aggressive dying techniques poison the land upon which we depend and add to the unnecessary carbon footprint. If artistic processes can open up awareness of a better, more sustainable way of living on this gorgeous peninsula and world in general, then I am in! The Cowal Open Studios can only lead the way in making this happen.
“We are all constantly growing in some way or another and I’m delighted that the pure and untouched beauty of Cowal together with the nurturing nature of COS has played a part in my increased artistic and personal confidence and creative direction.
“This is a wonderful place to be an artist and I can only see more creative souls deciding to call Cowal home,” concluded Mhairi.