ANGUS MCPHEE - Weaver of Grass

ANGUS MCPHEE or MACPHEE was a crofter from Uist who spent almost 50 years in a Highland psychiatric hospital. During this time he chose not to speak - instead he wove a series of incredible costumes out of grass. These he hung on trees in the hospital grounds.

This blog follows the progress of HORSE + BAMBOO THEATRE as they develop and tour a show about Angus....

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Two jackets and a red calf

Yesterday I went to the Art Extraordinary Gallery in Pittenweem, Fife, to meet Joyce Laing, the art therapist who first noticed Angus MacPhee when she visited Craig Dunain Hospital in the 1970s, and who subsequently rescued some of his work and wrote about him in her book 'Weaver of Grass'. It's through Joyce's efforts that we now remember Angus and know a little about his extraordinary work. 

I had with me the reproduction of Angus's jacket made by Joanne B Kaar for our theatre piece, and took it for Joyce to see. 

I laid Joanne's jacket on the floor in front of the display. The photographs above do the pieces a disservice as their colouring is actually almost identical to one another, but under the gallery lights the original appears far yellower. Joyce was astonished at Joanne's achievement and clearly thrilled that someone had at last been able to discover and replicate Angus's technique. 

We had a long conversation about the jacket - Joyce's memories of finding it under a rhododendron bush in the garden of Craig Dunain, and her feeling that the distortion in the shape was probably due to her having had to pull and tug at the weaving to release it.  The original also had a neck opening, but Joyce had pinned this back in order to display the piece better. This opens the intriguing possibility that if and when Joanne makes another copy for Joyce's collection it should instead be made with the original symmetry and open neck as in Angus's original.

One last treat for me was that Joanne had made the red calf I had asked for - a woven piece to be used in the theatre show, during a section when Angus MacPhee as a young boy is told, by his mum, the story of the Rashin Cootie (a kind of Scottish version of Cinderella). The hero is a red calf - and here it is:

1 comment:

  1. this is such an amazing story, i have been following via joanne. wish i could see the performance in person.