Scottish Diaspora Tapestry (The Scots Abroad Tapestry)
Launched at 3 Harbours Arts Festival May 31 2014
Each panel is 0.5 metres square.
Involved over 700 stitchers in 30 countries
As the person who drew out the Tapestry, I also designed each panel (apart from a few) and the structure, which I developed after listening and involving as many as possible.
This "Community Arts" tapestry tells how people from Scotland have travelled and settled around the world. The word "Diaspora" can be a word that is little understood, but I find the best way to explain it as "The Scots Abroad", a term that was used when the tapestry was exhibited in Paisley. The 307 panels begin to tell the story from 30 countries. Also, the Tapestry shows how "The Scots Abroad" influenced thier homeland. This is very profound to the Scottish culture.
The design of the whole artwork is in four sections. The four pointers of the corners in the introductory panel represent the four main continents or land masses of Europe/Asia, Africa, Australia/New Zealand and North America/South America (there is one panel about Antarctica). These four main pointers are used throughout the whole tapestry when indicating a great distance.
The Tapestry is really a narrative pattern. As much as possible the patterns contain symbols and shapes that carry meaning. These patterns and symbols are repeated throughout the whole artwork. The structure of the tapestry is based within The Introductory Panel. It has many visual symbols going back and forth. It has four main pointers at each corner, which are based on a compass.
Within The Introductory Panel are the key symbols that are explored throughout the tapestry. It is the repeated use of these visual symbols that link the tapestry together. Further visual symbols are introduced in The Global Panels.
For example the second panel in the tapestry is the ancient trade routes, it has a celtic pattern, that reflects some of older routes that people would travel to and from, that would become Scotland (some of these trade routes were there long before Scotland was nation!). The celtic pattern is typical in that it can also be found in other cultures, but has developed in a particular way within Scotland.
The third panel is the birth of the Scottish Societies, which are a key to the continued success of how Scots celebrate world wide. This panel introduces the use of written dates and a timeline of how long The Scots have being travelling away from thier homeland (at this time Scotland was a nation!).
Each of the four continents has shapes and symbols that should help reflects the stories, so each continent should have an overall unity, which is different from the other continents/sections. The final panel is the Auld Lang Syne panel which is a fitting end that tells of friendships made globally. The plan was if there was any other additional panels they would be added as a third stage to the four sections. The original 307 set would remain as a set.
The research of the tapestry is interesting as there was not one historian overseeing or verifying the information, but many sources and historians. The vast bulk of the tapestry is individual stories from the global communities, which was gathered through Yvonne Murphy and Gillian Hart, who were based at Cockenzie House Hub, which was the centre of its creation. But I would have to understand each story and gather information too, as everything had to be as accurate as possible. So the wide ranging research came from many sources and many forms such as written, digital, sound, spoken and visual. Thousands of emails, sketches, notes, etc.
One day I will gather all this information. For me, the link between research and designing the panels/structure is complex and at some point will be worth explaining. For now it remains hidden in my sketchbooks. There are different interpretations of how this Scottish Diaspora tapestry was created but not using this information. For me one day I will write my own version, and troll through the evidence! But not today.