Davy MacDonald Exhibition

Posted by to The Blog on May 24th

“Harris Tweed – An Inspiring Heritage”

The Harris Tweed industry is having a renaissance. The Big Cloth (Clo Mor) has persevered through a turbulent history and is thriving in a new international market. The iconic fabric is being used in a diverse range of luxury goods from iPad covers, car interiors, bespoke furniture and in vogue with the top fashion houses in London, Paris and Tokyo. From James Bond, CIA Argo agent Tony Mendez, George Mallory on Everest – Harris Tweed is a fabric intertwined into our recent history and is still woven by hand in the Outer Hebrides.

Davy Macdonald is an Edinburgh-based painter specialising in portraits and figurative painting. His new exhibition “Harris Tweed – An Inspiring Heritage” celebrates the history of the making of Harris Tweed, re-creating the past life and the processes used in the creation of Harris Tweed in the Outer Hebrides.

Portrayed in the awe inspiring locations of  the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village in Carloway on the Isle of Lewis and the beautiful lochs in Plocrapool on the Isle of Harris, Macdonald’s work vividly re-creates a sense of life as it was experienced among the crofters creating Harris Tweed.

Inspiration for the series stemmed from Macdonald’s previous research into the life of the itinerant Herring Lassies, which led to a sell-out exhibition in March 2012 at the Dundas Street Gallery:

“..from Lewis, Harris, the Uists and even the remote community on St Kilda, the Big Cloth was used as currency to buy necessities and often to pay rent to the local Factor for the Landlords. In times not so long ago every house in a village would be expected to create a bolt of tweed annually. With wool sheared from their own flock, long hours spent washing, dyeing, carding, spinning, warping, weaving and waulking. This was an integral part of the crofting lifestyle.”

Davy Macdonald

This series of paintings depicts the processes that were used in the creation of Harris Tweed; washing fleeces, dyeing wool, hand-carding, spinning yarn, warping yarn, weaving and waulking. The “Waulking” was a significant social event in the villages where the young girls would come together to “finish” the cloth; beating it rhythmically back and forth to shrink and soften the tweed. Gaelic waulking songs were sung, many with interesting underlying messages and often working in stories to take the rise out of any males that may be of interest. Each village had their own unique way of waulking the tweed.

Five of the female models (Amy, Shona, Nanan, Kayleigh and Kirsten) are island girls dressed in costumes similar to those worn at the time (researched in the Scottish Life Archive). One of the models, Shona Campbell is the niece of Catherine Campbell who runs the family business “Harris Tweed & Knitwear” in Tarbert, who in turn is the grand niece of Marion Campbell (1909 – 1996). Marion was one of the most famous weavers on the Isle of Harris. Hundreds of tourists each year would make the then arduous journey from Tarbert to Plocrapool to see Marion create Harris Tweed using the old processes – providing a link between past and present.

An authentic sense of the period is enhanced in Macdonald’s work through the weaving-related objects that feature in the paintings which were loaned to Macdonald by Catherine Campbell. The dye pot, carding brushes, spinning wheel and warping table were in fact the actual artefacts used by her aunt Marion Campbell.

Davy Macdonald:

“My vision was to recreate and capture the processes that were used to create Harris Tweed, some of which are gradually being forgotten. The wonderful thing about Harris Tweed is, that with the Orb Mark and the Harris Tweed Authority as its guardian, a historic way of life is protected. Weavers can create unique tweeds in their own homes in some of the most beautiful places on this earth. At many times in the past they have managed to avoid being herded together into factory complexes,  which could then have been easily moved anywhere from Dundee to Delhi. It is marvellous to see that Harris Tweed is still appreciated around the world because of its inspiring heritage and the fact that it is “Handwoven in the Outer Hebrides”.  

Exhibition: Harris Tweed – An Inspiring Heritage

Artist:  Davy Macdonald

Dates/Times: 1st – 8th June 2013 (10am – 6pm)

Venue:  Dundas Street Gallery 




2 responses to “Davy MacDonald Exhibition”

  1. noor says:

    I am so excited for visit Embankment Stairway

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