The standing stones of Scotland are having quite a moment this summer, and Quilters Newsletter seems to be part of it.
The photo above was sent to us by a subscriber who noticed a theme developing between her August/September 2014 issue of QN, in which we spotlight Scottish art quilter Effie Galletly in the Meetin’ Place regular feature, and the August issue of National Geographic, which includes a feature on the standing stones of the Orkney Islands.
And then there’s the fictional standing stone circle Craigh na Dun that figures prominently in Outlander, the wildly popular series of novels that just debuted as a series on cable. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the books — particularly from McCall’s Quilting art director Ellie Brown — so I guess I better start reading them before the Internet is nothing but spoilers regarding what’s happening with Claire and Jamie.
Galletly was brought to my attention a year or two ago by my best friend from childhood who has family in Scotland. My friend came across some small catalogs of Galletly’s work in an art gallery while visiting her aunties on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides and brought them home for me.
I was immediately taken by the beauty of her pieced (yes, they’re all pieced, not appliqued) quilts that brought back fond memories of visiting Lewis with my friend. As I said, we’ve been friends since we were preschoolers and some of our earliest memories are of each other. During elementary school my friend and her family would spend a good portion of each summer vacation in Scotland, and I guess one year when we were maybe 7 or 8 years old I threw a bit of a fit over how much I’d miss her while she was gone. “Don’t worry,” her mother said. “When you’re 16 I’ll take you home with me, too.” I’m thinking she didn’t really expect we’d still be friends so many years down the line, or that I’d remember what was probably said mostly to quiet me down.
Well, when my friend’s Sweet 16 came and mine was still a few months away, I’m sure I was none too subtle about saying, “OK, where’s my plane ticket?” At that point, it was decided to postpone the trip until after we graduated high school so we could make portions of the trip without a chaperone. I’m eternally grateful to report that my friend’s parents made good on their promise and treated my friend and me to a high school graduation gift of a lifetime. (This was all just a couple of years ago, you understand. *cough, cough*)
I’m also grateful to my friend for helping me in my job by identifying a great subject for Meetin’ Place. Galletly’s aim is not to be strictly representational of specific places but for her scenes to be recognizable. Through fabric, she is able to convey how these remote places look as well as feel.
It’s interesting for me to compare some of my photos from our trip with similar scenes in Galletly’s quilts. I know I took the shot above for some reason — I’m sure that stone dome in the background is noteworthy but I didn’t write down what it is.
The shapes and even many of the colors are similar, but her piece is emotionally evocative while still showing you what the scene looks like.
And of course, there are the Standing Stones of Callanish, the significance of which I didn’t truly comprehend the day we visited although I thought they were cool.
Galletly’s landscapes genuinely transmit dùthchas, the Scots Gaelic word for “sense of place.” You can see more of her quilts in the August/September 2014 issue and learn about the workshops she teaches in the United Kingdom by visiting her website.
Working on this profile of Galletly and getting to spend time looking at her work was highly enjoyable and a fun trip down memory lane. It gave me a reason to look through my photo album from my trip, although I was pained to be reminded that I once thought an acid-washed denim jacket was a good fashion choice. Fortunately, artists such as Galletly know how to leave out the insignificant, transitory details and focus on bringing to light their subject’s true essence.
If you plan to attend Quilting LIVE! next month in Georgia, I promise I will not be wearing any acid wash denim during the presentations and demos I’ll be doing with creative editor Lori Baker. In the meantime, be sure to check out our website, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube for the latest updates from QN!