I began using Fair Isle designs which at the time were very popular. However, I soon began to look elsewhere for inspiration in producing my own designs.
I didn’t have to look far, with Orkney’s rich and vibrant archaeological history stretching back over thousands of years, and not to mention its beautiful landscape. Visiting the Orkney Museum in Kirkwall, I came across the Westray Stone on display, an ornate spiral carving from a Neolithic stone tomb, which was re-discovered in 1981 at Pierowall Quarry in Westray. This was set to influence one of my very first designs, which is still available today.
The stone has since been returned to Westray, and is now exhibited at the heritage centre in Pierowall.
I became further inspired by various Pictish and Celtic stone carvings found in Scotland, as well as ancient manuscripts, and incorporated these into my own designs.
The Aberlemno Sculptured Stones, a series of 5 standing stones found in the village of Aberlemno, Angus has been a great influence on my work, in particular the Aberlemno 2 stone, found in Aberlemno Kirkyard. The stone features a Celtic cross inscribed with knotwork and keywork designs, the latter which my Pictish Key designs are based on. My Celtic Spiral design is also based on the central spiral of the cross.
Continuing with the Pictish theme I set to work experimenting with Ogham text in my designs. Ogham is an early medieval alphabet used to write Old Irish. This is the earliest known text to be discovered in Orkney, an example of which was found inscribed on a spindle-whorl following an excavation at Buckquoy, Birsay in 1970.
‘Viking’ is inspired by the Scar Dragon Plaque, which was discovered during the excavation of a Viking boat burial at Scar, on the island of Sanday in 1991.
The plaque is suggested to have been used as a type of ironing board for the smoothing of linens. It has been skillfully carved from a piece of whalebone, featuring two dragon heads facing each other, decorated with dotted circles and a geometric pattern around the edge of the plaque which I have incorporated into my design.
The burial was dated to between 875 AD and 950 AD and analysis of sand samples found at the site suggests the boat and the people buried in it may have originated from Norway, where similar plaques have been discovered in other wealthy female graves.