Thursday, 4 October 2012

Guest Blog at the John Gray Centre - September

I am half way through my time at exploring the John Gray Centre Archive and continue to be fascinated by the broad range of interesting artifacts safely cared for by the diligent archivists. As the cartoons inspired by the ‘Haddington Criminal Register’ gain momentum and appear fortnightly on the website, they are beginning to build up a picture of an intriguing criminal underworld in Haddington. Characters reoccur and interact with their neighbours, and although the incidents remain largely humourous, there is a melancholy beginning to immerge in later cartoons. I will let you form your own ideas on that though. 

Off Exploring

This month I took a journey around East Lothian, exploring its nooks and crannies and digging around for stories. On a very bright and extremely blustery day, I made a series of drawings that took me from the fisherman repairing fishing lines in Dunbar Harbour, past the old outdoor swimming pool in North Berwick, I met some chickens on a hard working farm outside East Linton, paused at an isolated and quiet Yellowcraig beach, and after a few more stops I ended up at the impressive, and at the same time, foreboding Cockensie Power Station. Woven into my own drawings of present day East Lothian are memories of beach huts at Dunbar, market gardeners and Fisherrow fishwives. This journey forms the starting point of a book of documentary illustrations of a beautiful county, and broad range of industries that have formed its story over the last few centuries.

Of those stories, the Fisherrow wives have particularly caught my attention. They were hardy women, well respected for being honest and hardworking. They are distinctive in their costume of white and blue stripped dresses, worn proudly, even by one woman on her wedding day! Whilst their men were out of the fishing boats there would prepare their fishing lines and sell their wares. Cleaning and baiting the lines was known as ‘redding’, and was no small job as each line contained up to 1300 hooks, and each man took 1 or even 2 lines each. As well as this work the women would bring up the children often undertake charity work. The newspaper stories Lindsay dug out of the archive reveal that the women were certainly not only known for their hard work, there are countless stories of galas, processions and games.

Works in progress

As well as telling you about my most interesting discoveries in the archive this month, I decided to give a little taste of what happens with the drawings back in the studio. The images this month give a peek at the working drawings from my exploration, research, ideas and also how the Haddington cartoons are created….
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