Boro'd Time

Dates : 9 Aug - 13 Aug,  2021 (mon - fri)

Location: Elphin near Ullapool

Course Places :   places available

Price : £460

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This five-day course is centred around the concept of slow stitching and borrows much from the Japanese tradition of Boro, which involves the use of scraps of cloth for mending garments by hand, over and over again, until the original fabric is almost non-existent. Nowadays, such garments are considered high art and are esteemed objects of Japanese cultural heritage, fetching enormous sums of money on the open market. This practice was borne of poverty but, like the early tradition of patchwork in our own country, each patch also represented a moment in time and place, recording a little bit of the story of the maker of the cloth and of the wearer of the garment from which it was salvaged. The resultant surface is rich in patina and full of resonance with the past.

The cloth surfaces we will make and stitch will record our journey through the week and through my semi-wild garden.  But we will begin with a session of indigo dyeing, in honour of the Japanese inspiration for the theme of the week.  Thereafter, we will focus on one plant each day, ably assisted by guest tutor for the week, Jan Breckenridge, a qualified medical herbalist who also shares my interest in natural dyes and natural print-making methods.  We 'Two Jans' meet regularly to experiment with plants, sharing our resources, knowledge and  enthusiasm. 

And so Jan Breckenridge will explain the facts and myths around each plant before we further explore its properties through print-making, including mono-printing with plant inks and a bit of sun-printing too, if the weather is favourable.  We will dye our own cloth and threads using the plants and each day we will make a little patched collage of that day's results by stitching them together by hand, boro-style, whilst exploring the use of negative applique.  At one point in the week we will make a little area of Sashiko, which involves pattern-making through dense stitching.

As the week progresses, we will keep adding on to the previous day's work, making for a length of work, a 'cloth diary' for the week.  On the last day, in another nod to Japanese tradition, you will have the option of making this into a scroll, which can be rolled up but also hung on the wall: your unique textile record of a week of time borrowed from life and spent in the gentle occupation of stitching your personal journey, by using the plants themselves as both the subject and the medium.


Please click on an image to see the full picture.



Jan's studio is in Elphin, overlooking the magnificent mountains of Suilven, Canisp, Cul Mor and Cul Beag. This remote location means that accommodation is a little more difficult to find, but the experience of visiting this area makes the search well worthwhile. Many course participants opt to stay in Ullapool, which is 20 minutes drive away. It is a most picturesque fishing village, with a good range of accommodation to suit all budgets. There are many restaurants and takeaways and shops, as well as some evening entertainment, should you have any energy left at the end of that day's workshop. And students often group together and car share for their daily trip up the road, past Stac Pollaidh, to the studio. Please look at the Accommodation links page to find out more.

To read about an innovative community partnership approach to preserving and improving this landscape for the benefit of all, have a look at Coigach and Assynt Living Landscapes. To find out about the fascinating geology of this area go to North West Highland Geopark.

Email :    Tel : 01854 666279,   Postal Address : Jan Kilpatrick, Cul Mor, Elphin, By Lairg, Sutherland, IV274HH.  
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