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Braiding, Bogs, Broom: Morag Macpherson Blog 6

Artist in Residence for Peatland Connections (a Crichton Carbon Centre project), Morag Macpherson, writes more about her work and discovery of eco-dyeing using bog plants.


 

Braiding grasses and interventions 

 

The bog is home to many types of grasses…hares tail cotton grass, widely known as bog cotton, can be a good indicator of areas where the peat is deeper than 50cm.


Other grasses found on shallow peat are:

Purple moor grass

Bristle bent

Common bent 

Sheep’s fescue

Mat grass 

Tormentil

Heath milkwort 

Heath bedstraw

 

The most common I encountered on many hours and days spent hanging around bogs were bog cotton, purple moor grass and Heath bedstraw.

 

Kerry and I were keen to engage local community on this project in the form of interventions and I liked the idea of braiding grasses. It’s such a beautiful way for two people to connect - one holds the ends while the other braids, then switch. It’s repetitive and meditative whilst chatting simultaneously. A great way to engage curious passers-by into conversation about our Peatlands. 

 



So, we ventured out with baskets of grasses, scissors, string and a keen attitude for meeting the local community. We chose Clatteringshaws visitor centre on a dry dull day. We enjoyed a few hours of talking about Peatlands whilst engaged in the task of braiding. Our next outing was the CatStrand and further outings included Dalry Town Hall.

 

We also had our Sphagnum Tribe split into groups of two and braid grass together during the film and photoshoot on Upper Urr Peatland on a bright October morning with beautiful dawn light.

 

I had been reading a beautiful book called ‘Braiding Sweet grass’ by Robin Wall Kimmerer. It embraces indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the teaching of plants - a great combination. This is a metaphor for the three strands braiding the grasses together. She talks about sweet grass resembling ‘newly washed hair‘ and scientific names translating as ‘fragrant holy grass’. And the ‘sweetest way’ to braid sweet grass is ‘to have someone else hold the end so that you pull gently against each other, all the while leaning in, head-to-head, chatting and laughing, watching each other’s hands‘.  We definitely experienced this beautiful union whilst out in the local community of Dumfries and Galloway. 

 



 

Bog Bonding  

 

An interesting bond formed between myself and the bog plants during this residency.

 

I noticed characteristics from each plant as I collaborated and co-created with them. All of them became dear friends in the research process and remain so, friends for life that I’ll return to over and over as years go by, for their beauty, wisdom, and good company. 

 

 

Bog Breathing

 

The bog as a whole evoked a particular sense of freedom as it regenerates and I tapped into its ‘breathing’ in this process…as it starts a new unhindered life…I felt a sense of calm being on it, in it, around it…

 

I used my own breath work from a technique I learned called ha breathing (from Hawaiian Huna) to mix with other bog sounds in a unique recording created by Jen Mac for the Bogstar film score. It gives a sense of calm and at the same time is simultaneously alive and present. Something I felt a lot of when hanging about on these wonderful landscapes.

 

Jen Mac took the brief and created something beautiful that perfectly fits the visuals filmed by Coulson & Tennant. This process was a true collaboration between myself as artist, the film makers and the musician. 





Bowing to Broom 

 

On the Outskirt there are so many plants co-existing in peripheral spaces:

BROOM. The beauty of its appearance on an Outskirt always pleases. The spindly long skinny fingers, bush together in clumps of green joy. The olive black, oval shapes of the ‘fruits’ create strong silhouettes against a rainbow bog backdrop. I enjoyed drawing, dyeing, and photographing Broom in all seasons, weathers and times of the day. Studying this plant has been a pleasure that’s only just begun. I’m beginning a lifelong appreciation of this common bog-bordered specimen that rarely stays still…

 

Broom Sway

 

Broom, swing in the wind

And show me your hues

Verdant and fresh

Turning cloth olive

And Mint like lichen

In your green calm 

 

teach me 

Seasonal time

That is No time

Just broom sway



 

Morag's artist in residency is funded by Peatland Connections (a Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation funded project) and Creative Scotland. The project and residency are now complete.



You can find Morag on instagram or her website.

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