Louise Worthy | Scottish Birds and Nature’s Muse
Textile artist Louise Worthy finds her muse in Scottish birds as well as nature in Scotland. Louise lives in one of the interior communities of Flow Country in Caithness and Sutherland in the North of Scotland. Louise trained in fashion and textiles at Bath Spa University and Manchester Polytechnic. After 20 years as a fashion designer, in 2005 she moved to the small village of Culrain near Ardgay, about an 1.5 hours southwest of Helmsdale. Louise specializes in two mediums: printmaking and mixed media.
Her printmaking is done through monoprint, drypoint engraving and collograph while also using linocut for her work. She exhibits regularly in the Scottish Highlands including local galleries and her work is included in private collections in the UK, Europe, USA and Australia. She also runs printmaking workshops for small groups in the Highlands.
Nature in Scotland is Art Itself
Meg: Let’s start out with how the wildlife and nature in Scotland have inspired you as a textile artist.
Louise: I take inspiration from my surroundings in the Scottish Highlands. There is an abundance of wildlife and a vast range of contrasting landscapes; from the rugged Cairngorm mountains, unexplored moorlands with remote lochs, waterfalls and streams to the white sandy beaches and turquoise seas of the west coast.
Meg: And what does that look like in terms of your textile art?
Louise: In the last few years I have been experimenting more with fabric and print including block printing and eco printing onto fabric, I have also started a body of work based on textiles with embroidery, all inspired by my surroundings and the local wildlife.
Meg: Can you talk a bit about how nature in Scotland first inspired you?
Louise: When we first moved here we had herds of deer visiting the garden which was lovely but we had no chance of growing anything so we had a deer fence installed. They can now be spotted outside the fence; both Roe and Sika deer. During the rutting season, which is from September to November, you can hear the bigger Red Deer bellowing early in the morning and at dusk, the eerie sound carries over from the next strath; they like more open mountainous ground and we have quite a few trees here where we are.
From here I can see the water of the Kyle of Sutherland with Bonar Bridge in the distance, the deer also forage around the croft but are quick to make an alarm call, which sounds like a shrill whistle, and then bounce off into the distance their white rears bobbing up and down!
Creatures Small and Large Inspire
Meg: Which creatures are you most drawn to?
Louise: A fair bit of my inspiration comes from just outside in our wild garden, often the Rowan tree is filled with Scottish birds: Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Blackbird, Thrush, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Siskin, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Treecreeper, Dunnock, Fieldfares, Long Tailed Tit, Brambling, Bullfinch, Wagtail, Stonechats, Wheatears, Crossbill, Kestrel, Merlin, Corvids.
My favorites are the Swallows- I am looking forward to their return this year as last year they brought up a family just outside my studio window. I also look forward to the Geese flying overhead in their magnificent skeins, a wonderful sign of the beginning and end of seasons. Walking out into the garden you can often spot Buzzards enjoying the thermals over the Kyle of Sutherland and now & then Red Kite, Osprey and Golden Eagle, I spend a lot of time running inside for the binoculars. I could spend hours just staring out of the window and looking skywards enjoying the displays.
We also have other visitors to the garden including many Pheasants who I think are an overspill of the local shooting estate. The last 2 years have seen wonderful appearances of the endangered Red Squirrel, very entertaining seeing him/her stealing nuts from our Hazel Tree and burying them around the garden! Another furry visitor is the Pine marten who visits the bird feeders regularly and has quite often brought up young in our neighbors old stable.
Wildlife Walks Spark Inspiration
Louise: I walk a lot with our Border Collie Willow as she needs a lot of exercise and it’s quite often early in the morning and at dusk when it’s possible to see a lot more wildlife, I always carry my camera and there is always a trace of our resident fox and I quite often see the white tip of his tail disappearing up the track where we walk as he slithers away.
If I walk in one direction there is moorland and a derelict croft about 10 minutes from the house and it is home to a beautiful Barn Owl family. These are amazing creatures and to see them in flight and land is almost otherworldly and such a privilege, they feature a lot in my work. I wasn’t a birdwatcher really before moving to Sutherland but I was always interested in animals. When I was a child we kept hens, geese, ducks and a pet cow!
I sometimes hear the raucous Jays but they are such a shy bird and I rarely see them, just a flash of white in the distance. Woodcock, Snipe and Curlew (another endangered species) can be found in this area too, the call of the Curlew is a hauntingly beautiful sound and we have also been treated to the sound of Drumming by the Snipe (Drumming is a sound produced by snipe as part of their courtship display flights).
Meg: What other habitats do you see?
Louise: If I walk in the other direction I can see Ben Klibreck in the north, often snow covered in winter until April/May, and Carbisdale Castle in the foreground surrounded by woods. Pink Footed and Greylag Geese can be found feeding in the lower fertile farm fields and Whooper Swans can be heard from the Kyle. There are lovely woodland walks up to a small loch and when I walk here I quite often see Tawny Owls and Herons and Red Squirrels that taunt Willow!
We are very lucky as only 40 minutes away is Loch Fleet Nature Reserve near Dornoch where a variety of Scottish birds can be spotted, including Arctic terns, common terns, oystercatchers, ringed plovers, wheatears, stonechats, cuckoos, meadow pipits and skylarks, these species tending to favor the links habitat. You can also spot Otters and Harbor Seals, quite often at low tide there will be dozens of seals resting up on the sandbanks.
The Natural Aviary of the Scottish Highlands
Meg: I’ve seen the puffin in your work quite a bit, can you talk about them? And how would visitors be able to catch a glimpse of them?
Louise: I can’t not mention the cute entertaining bird the Puffin – featured a lot in my work! You can find these on the North Sutherland coast at Faraid Head and at Dunnet Head in Caithness. If you really want to get ‘up close & personal’ I would recommend the Treshnish Isles off the Isle of Mull which we were treated to last year; an absolutely unforgettable experience. These wee chaps are adorable and at your feet, in & out of their burrows, so an amazing opportunity to photograph & sketch, not to mention all the other wonderful Scottish birds such as Razorbills, Guillemots, Fulmars, Storm Petrels, Kittiwakes, Herring Gulls and Shags.
Before moving to the Highlands, I think because I was so busy with work and living in a town I didn’t really have time to appreciate things as I do now. Sutherland is so beautiful and has so many remote places with little traffic and few humans, I wouldn’t have it any other way!
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