Lois Walpole: Weaving Ghosts
In the past, Shetlanders used everything that washed up on the shore to make things. The nature of the materials has changed, but the work in this exhibition follows that tradition.
Lois Walpole explains: “The weaving bit is simple - it is what I do as an artist and basketmaker. The ghostly part is more complicated and made up primarily of 'ghost gear' but also the 'ghostly' remains of the Shetland basketry tradition and my family 'ghosts'.”
'Ghost gear' is the term given to discarded nets, ropes and other objects that float about in the oceans trapping marine life and endangering shipping. Large quantities of this drift onto the beaches of Shetland. Working with these materials allows Lois to draw attention to the problems the material causes, and also to explore its potential as a wonderful free resource. Often these materials are in very good condition when she finds them.
The rich Shetland tradition of weaving plants into essential tools for life has gone. There are only a few people left now who remember making a kishie or a flakkie or any of the many other traditional basketry forms. Many factors brought about the relatively quick death of a centuries old tradition. But it's not the passing of the objects themselves that matters to Lois so much as the knowledge that we have lost of how to use indigenous plants to make genuinely sustainable products. For the work in this exhibition, she has chosen to use only the techniques that were an important part of this tradition.
Lois continues: “Wanting to make something out of nothing has always been a driving force for my work. Maybe I inherited this from my Shetland family, though for them it was a necessity rather than a choice. If my great grandfather Laurence Moar Tulloch had found some of these ropes washed up on Brekkon beach I feel sure he would have been as excited as I am to find something so strong, colourful and useful.“
For more information about Lois and her work, see the following websites:
John Hunter, Shetland Museum and Archives exhibitions officer: “There’s something very satisfying about recycling. Taking a discarded object and reusing it; returning its ‘worth’. The material has not come to the end of its usefulness and is given a new purpose. Artists are good at this and Lois is a master of the genre. Beaches littered with brightly coloured plastic jab our conscience but at the same time we’re attracted to the vibrancy. Lois’s skill as a maker transforms these fankled masses in stunning, desirable objects.”