Beginning to appreciate the Picts.

I’ve always been interested in history – the older the better as far as I’m concerned but for some reason the Picts never really ‘grabbed’ my attention much. Possibly, because there’s not a lot known about them. But with the enthusiasm of Dr. Gordon Noble, and others on the case, a better understanding of these people will hopefully be developed.

Dr. Gordon Noble at the Rhynie Dig 2015. Evidence that this was once the site of a Pictish fort was found.

Dr. Gordon Noble at the Rhynie Dig 2015. Evidence that this was once the site of a Pictish fort was found.

One thing the Picts are known for are their marvellous symbol stones. The significance of these stones and their Pictish symbols are still not fully understood. Once the Picts became introduced to Christianity, this influence can be seen on stones.

The Nigg stone is carved with a cross on one side and Pictish artwork on the other

The Nigg stone is carved with a cross on one side and Pictish artwork on the other. The carving on the top triangle area is regarded as the earliest depiction of the Eucharist.

Having recently joined NOSAS (North of Scotland Archaeology Society) I was keen to extend my knowledge of these stones on a wee tour of 3 stones near Balintore.

Being on an organised tour has it's advantages - we had the key to get inside the protective glass box for a closer look.

Being on an organised tour has it’s advantages – we had the key to get inside the protective glass box for a closer look at the Shandwick stone.

Beautiful sculpted panel.

Beautiful sculpted panel on the Shandwick stone.

The Shandwick stone inside its glass box which was recycled from the Glasgow Garden Festival a few years ago.

The Shandwick stone inside its glass box which was recycled from the Glasgow Garden Festival a few years ago.

The original is in Edinburgh museum. This is a copy carved by a local sculptor.

The original Hilton of Cadboll stone in Edinburgh museum. This is a copy carved by a local sculptor.

I thoroughly enjoyed my excursion. I think I can say that my indifference towards the Picts has gone and I have started reading any theories and evidence I can find about them. Also, there are more stones closer to home which I will have to investigate.

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Ganseys.

One of my lasting memories of my maternal grandmother is that she was always ‘wyvin’ -or in English knitting. And the garments that were always on her ‘wires’ or knitting needles were Ganseys- ¬†patterned fishing jumpers. My father and uncles were fishermen so she always had someone to appreciate her knitting. Despite this she found time to knit for other people who were not so skilled in the art of the Gansey. She never used a pattern and used to mix and match ideas from other jumpers she had seen. Using 4 shiny, silver, metal, double-pointed needles always looked a dangerous procedure to my young eyes. Added to this she wore a knitting sheath/belt where she stabbed one of the needles into, to take the weight of the Gansey whilst she knitted. Each time she thrust the needle into the belt I could hardly believe she hadn’t done herself an injury!

After my grandmother died in 1993 I don’t think I ever saw anyone knit a Gansey again. The fishing industry had declined and the younger fishermen bought ready made clothing (perhaps their womenfolk had other things to do with their time?).

This week the Gansey came into my life again when I read that there was an exhibition in The Maritime Museum in Aberdeen of Ganseys. I just had to go!

2 Ganseys.

2 Ganseys.

One style of neck detail.

One style of neck detail.

Pattern detail.

Pattern detail.

More Ganseys.

More Ganseys.

i am so happy that this skilful art has been recognised and examples saved for posterity. But even better The Moray Firth Gansey Project has not only made more people aware of this knitting heritage but has also encouraged knitters to keep the art alive and evolve new ways to use the patterns like this ladies jumper by knitwear designer, Di Gilpin.

Jumper by Di Gilpin.

Jumper by Di Gilpin.

I also got a lovely surprise to see that 2 of the Ganseys were credited to Mrs. Isabella Stewart- my grandmother!

An inspirational artist.

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be staying at the Shangrli La Resort in Oman and chanced upon an exhibition by the Omani artist Safiya Al Bahlani. I loved her mixed media approach and admired her even more when I read her biography and the challenges she has faced.

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Her pieces definitely reflect her culture and I was sorely tempted to buy one, but didn’t. Instead I bought some silver Bedouin jewellery as a momento of my visit. I hope I don’t regret my decision.

Biography
My name is Safiya Al Bahlani, I am an Omani artist, graphic designer, and inspirational and motivational speaker.

I was studying animation and graphic design, but was not able to complete my studies, but on a daily basis I try teaching myself through various tutorials and through practise.

I am a physically challenged young woman. I would like to draw the attention of Omani society to recognize that people with special needs, are unique, talented and able to contribute to the society.
I have been drawing and painting ever since I can remember, it has always been my way of expressing my emotions and communicating my thoughts to the world.

I was recognized for my skills when I was fourteen, then I started learning art under various teachers and artists.

At The American International School of Muscat, I took AP Art, which is an advanced program for art in preparation for studying art in college, where I started learning using different medias in art using various mediums and techniques.
During my college years in Jordan I held my first solo exhibition which contained thirty of my paintings. It was a wonderful experience, had many positive feedbacks that encouraged me to think of doing one in my own country.

In March 2011 in collaboration with an Omani fashion designer, we had combined fashion show and art exhibition. The theme was derived from His Majesty annual speeches which inspired to us to incorporate them in a collection of dresses, and paintings.

I have also been drawing on the I Pad, which I participated in Muscat Festival 2012 with ITA to promote technology as in COMEX 2012

I just had my third solo exhibition, with Bait Al Zubair, at the Shangri La, Bar Al Jissah “Beneath The Surface”.

Currently, I am trying to establish my own graphic design company, I am also a freelancer in Inspirational, and Motivational speaker.