Boro'd Time

Dates : n/a (mon - fri)

Location: Elphin near Ullapool

Course Places : n/a

Price : n/a


Tutors: Jan Kilpatrick and Jan Breckenridge





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's activities. We will begin with a session of indigo dyeing, in honour of the Japanese inspiration for the theme of the week.  We will also dip our cloths and threads into some natural dyes created from the plants to be found in my own, semi-wild garden and, in the process,dip our toes into the world of Shibori.  I will be ably assisted by guest tutor for the week, Jan Breckenridge, who is 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. 

We will then further develop our cloths by simple mark-making and do a bit of sun-printing (cyanotype) too. Before we know it, we will have a good collection of uniquely dyed cloths with which we will make a patched collage, stitching them together by hand, Boro-style.  We will explore both positive and negative applique and will delve into the world of Sashiko, a related area of Japanese tradition which involves pattern-making through dense stitching.

As the week progresses, we will keep adding on to the previous day's work, working our way towards a decorative art work or boro garment, suitable to be displayed on a wall or even repaired enough to be worn again.  On the last day, in another nod to Japanese tradition, we will make simple stab-bound books with the remaining scraps of cloth.And so you will leave with two highly-individual artefacts, both of which record a week of time borrowed from normal life and spent in the gentle occupation of stitching, surrounded by the timeless landscape of Assynt and in the company of a small group of like-minded people.


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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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