My silk scarves originated from a photographic project that I had been working on over a couple of years and, like many great ideas, it slowly morphed and changed as various people contributed to the idea.
It started on a walk around the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, a wondrous asset in Scotland’s capital. The Garden occupies about 70 acres on the north side of the city and is widely used by both visitors and locals alike, partly because it is free to enter and partly as it is simply a beautiful space and very peaceful. It boasts various important collections and a veritable forest of trees from all around the planet.
I noticed the Yunnan Crabapple, or more accurately I noticed its bark. It was autumn and it was sort of exfoliating, leaving scars and flakes of orange in the trunk. It was stunning. I snapped a picture and started to look more closely at the bark of other trees as I walked around the Garden and I took several more snaps. Later, as I looked through these, I started to wonder at the huge variety of colour and texture of bark and about how we don’t usually see it up close – the thought of not seeing the wood for the trees was particularly poignant. I thought about the technical problems of photographing the bark and the aesthetics of composition but mostly how beautiful it all was.
Not big enough was his immediate response
I returned to the Garden and, armed with a different lens, took some more studied photographs. I showed these photographs to several friends one of whom is at Trinity College, Cambridge. He suggested their gardens and this in turn lead to Clare and Magdalene College gardens. However, the series, as with many personal projects, had no real purpose except for the sheer joy of making photographs.
I met Robert McDowell, the owner of Summerhall, in a queue for a show during the Edinburgh Festival in 2013. Summerhall is possibly the largest contemporary art space in Europe and is a go to place for both visual and performance art and it simply buzzes during the Festival. We chatted about this and that. He mentioned being at the University of Cambridge and I mentioned my exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum. Robert knew many of the people that I had photographed for the University’s 800th anniversary celebrations.
“Come and see me with other ideas,” he said, and so I returned a month later with two 24 x 16 inch prints, mounted and framed. “Not big enough,” was his immediate response and then introduced me to Giclée UK, a fine art printer based at Summerhall. We discussed size – bigger is better – and Robert commissioned 10 prints to go up the main staircase at the entrance to the building. The photographs were printed and mounted to 1.6m.
The prints looked absolutely stunning and were up for a little over twelve months.
On one visit, Nina, my wife, commented that they would look fabulous as silk scarves. This in turn led me to Macclesfield and the printers…another story.