The Witch Hare
The global pandemic has separated many families, friends and colleagues, and this is certainly true here at Virtual Yarns. The travel restrictions have stranded Jade in Glasgow, unable to make her usual frequent trips home to the Hebrides where we work together on photo shoots. Jade is the photographer and I assist with the models, still-life set-ups, and lighting. And when together we continually discuss ideas and inspirations; we have always produced our own individual unique designs and much of our discussions centre on where and how we are going to photograph them.
So we are deeply missing our usual contact but the proverbial cloud has had a silver lining: enforced separation has made us think and work in different ways. Whilst we long for the day when we can resume working on shoots together, we have found that another door has opened and we have produced our very first collaborative design – The Witch Hare.
The design began as one of Jade’s creative exercises for our Dùthchas agus Dualchas section, where she took her fairy-tale inspiration from one of my mixed media artworks. It depicts the ancient Highland legend of a witch who can transform into a white hare and run about the mountaintops.
I was captivated by Jade’s portrayal of moorland-coloured Witch Hares sitting wise and watchful, looking east and west through falling stars. This connected directly back in a neat reversal to an earlier collaboration where Jade’s Mountain Hare fairy tale provided the inspiration for my Mountain Hare costume and design. We had great fun discussing this notion back and forth by phone, text and email. I imagined Jade’s stars falling around the hares from a vaulting, northern night sky. We both agreed that a beret and mittens would be the perfect items to express the whole design idea and so she passed her charted Witch Hares to me. I placed them under the starry skies of the beret crown and then echoed the crown design and shaping in the mitten tops; each mitten features a single hare, and these hares face each other when worn on the hands.
The beret and mittens were a joy to knit, made all the more so by the collaborative nature of the design. Jade’s choice of moorland colours chimed with my memories of the supernatural Witch Hare legends I heard as a child on my ancestral moorland pasture, and made the choice of location for the photographs easy. Cregean Iseabal Mhartainn – Isabella Martin’s Crag – was a much-loved feature for the generations of families who spent their summers there. It overlooks Loch Beag a’ Coilich ( Little Cockerel Loch) in the centre of which sits a crannag – an artificial island built at least a thousand years ago. The rocks at the centre of the crannag have been covered in deep heather since I can remember, but these rocks would have formed a stone dwelling very likely used for centuries, and the marks of other ancient dwellings are evident on the creagan and on the surrounding hills. Iseabal Mhartainn had passed out of living memory even in my grandparents’ time, and today I can count only five people, myself included, who could name the place and guide you there. It is a place filled with atmosphere and it felt like a pilgrimage when I hiked there last week with the completed design and my camera equipment. Sitting out there alone, with just the sounds of nature for company, made it easy for me to imagine the sound of voices from long ago conjuring tales of Witch Hares through the ages.