Photo Credit: Colin Hattersley

Mary Morrison Artist Interview - FINDRA Clothing

Hey, can you tell everybody where are you based and what you do?

I am based just outside Walkerburn, in the River Tweed Valley in the Scottish Borders. I am an artist, and I also work part-time running a network for creative professionals in the region, of which there are many! I work with and support creatives of all disciplines including artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers, craft makers. Textiles are a real USP of this region and there is an incredible heritage of making here. Findra draws on that heritage while being an inspirational and ethical contemporary brand and community.

How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?

I grew up on the Isle of Harris, and for as long as I remember we spent as much time as possible outdoors. I have 3 sisters and we roamed pretty wild, in the hills around the family croft and guddling around on the sea shore. For many years we lived on the island of Scalpay – before a bridge was built – so crossed back and forth on the small car ferry or in a wee fishing boat. We had to get the ferry to go to secondary school.

We lived on the rocky east side of the island, so a trip to the beach was a real treat, racing into the waves and jumping down the sand dunes. My father had sheep and we also cut our own peats. I have great memories of picnics with tartan thermos flasks and swimming in brackish rivers.

What’s been your favourite trip or adventure?

Ooh, that’s tricky, some of the best adventures happen close to home! Sunday school outing on a fishing boat to the Shiant Isles was memorable - the dizzying number of seabirds we were surrounded by. I love the elemental volcanic landscapes of Iceland and Lanzarote, I find these landscapes very inspirational. My favourite adventure might be one I haven’t had yet – to visit St Kilda. My father only went there for the first time a few years ago, despite living his whole life in Harris.

One of my favourite life adventures was working for an animation company near Balquhidder in the Highlands, living miles up a rough track and off grid in huts built in the 70s and making beautiful films using cel painting techniques and 16mm film cameras. I loved the simplicity of no technology, no running water, swimming in the loch and ‘commuting’ to work through the woods. You had to plan ahead and be pretty savvy about food and firewood, it was often pretty challenging, but I have really great memories of this time and the people who shared it. We had some great parties under the stars and by the loch.

How do you find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities i.e. work and family?

Those who know me will roll their eyes here! Like many people who work in the arts, I tend to over invest and find the line between work and life quite blurry. I am incredibly passionate about what I do and always feel I could do more. I have a tendency to burn out, though I’m learning to balance things out a bit more now and being active is a massive part of this.

I have to admit, I didn’t have the healthiest of lifestyles until a few years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer and had various life threatening complications. Starting to walk again felt miraculous and I was advised to start running. I was referred to a Macmillan support programme to improve my life chances ahead of surgery, and with the support of Callie Angus, a local fitness instructor working for the Macmillian programme, I went from being able to run for 20 seconds before timing out to where I am now – running 5k most mornings. My route is along the river between Walkerburn and Innerleithen, and it always sorts me out physically and mentally. It has led to all sorts of other positive shifts in my life.

Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?

No one person really, though I have my parents to thank for the incredible childhood we had growing up in Harris. The imprint of being brought up by the sea, in a landscape which is both beautiful and challenging is something which I always carry with me. My artwork is inspired and informed by the landscape I grew up in and I draw on those memories and sensations of place when I paint. My work is semi abstract and suggests the space and shifting light which is unique to the Hebrides. I use fluid oil paint to suggest sea, tides and coastal edges, always shifting.

Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?

Absolutely, it always restores a sense of balance, and clears your head. I love being out in changing weather conditions too, it makes you feel more alive.

What is it about painting specifically that you love?

Painting for me is about realising something internal, something you feel deeply and trying to give that a visual expression. Music and poetry are good analogies of the same thing, where you attempt to capture a feeling or emotion, create a moment in time. What I love most is how this can take me into a completely different space. Many artists – and sports people – talk about flow, that moment when body and mind and action are in tune. These moments don’t happen all the time though, painting is a combination of discipline and intuition and some days more paint ends up on the floor than on the canvas! I love that every work is unique.

I never have a fixed plan when I start a painting but there are recurrent themes in my work linked to nature, mostly the sea and coast. I often incorporate maps and compasses, so they are also about journeys and crossings. Although the paintings come from personal experience, one of the things I love most is when other people connect with my work and interpret it for themselves. There is no right way to interpret them and I love sending my work out into the world for others to respond to.

Photo Credits: Colin Hattersley.

When did you discover FINDRA?

I’ve been aware of Alex as a designer for many years through my work supporting creative professionals in the Borders. Alex gave a really inspirational talk to other small businesses at an event I organised, and I’ve seen how Findra has evolved into this incredibly successful business which is rooted in the area and has such a strong brand ethos. I have a good friend - Jen Isherwood who lives a full on outdoor life for work and leisure and she is a massive Findra fan. I bought my husband a merino layer for Christmas and he is a total convert and has picked up several more pieces. He bought me a gorgeous Oronsay Merino-Lite ¾ sleeve top which could have been made for me – the colours are my favourite sea blue/greens! I love it and am adding to my Findra collection.

I have an attic studio in an old mill building above the Findra offices, so I feel very connected to Findra now! We also live near the Findra shop on Innerleithen High Street which was a lovely place to shop at Christmas time, with a cosy fire.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

That’s a hard one, recently someone gave me this advice: ‘Remember to put your own oxygen mask on first' and I find myself quoting that to others!

On writing this blog, what do you feel is the key motivational or inspirational message you would like to highlight to our followers that would inspire them to get outdoors more?

A journey begins with one step. Don’t feel daunted, even the shortest walk or detour takes you somewhere else in body and mind. We have so many amazing spaces to explore close to home.

Favourite Book?

I like dipping in and out of poetry books - Seamus Heaney is a favourite, as well as Norman MacCraig, Ian Chrichton Smith and Sufi Poet Rumi. Kenneth White is a Scottish poet whose work reflects the idea of geopoetics. All of these poets have inspired my artwork.

Favourite Quote?

Favourite Song?

Anything by Icelandic band Sigur Ros. I love how they evoke the landscape of Iceland so strongly in their songs. Staralfur is a beautiful track, from first album Hvarf/Heim.

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