Crafts in the northern and western isles of Scotland have grown out of necessity - tools for particular tasks, containers for transporting or storing food and fuel, furnishings for the home, clothes to wear – using materials available locally.
Skills have been developed and honed over generations so that crafts have come to be identified with specific places, such as the weaving of Harris Tweed and Fair Isle knitting. While the islands are rich in contemporary crafts of all types, including ceramics, jewellery and woodwork, the exhibition provides an overview of objects that were once hand-made locally and are now only found in museum collections, and focuses on textiles and straw-work, crafts that have been, literally, home-grown at certain points in history through the use of native wool or crops produced in the islands. Local and historic aspects of textile production are explored alongside their international reach and current status.
Highlights include Orkney linen and bog cotton, knitting from North Ronaldsay, the northernmost island in Orkney which has a native ancient breed of sheep, traditional Fair Isle and Shetland lace-knitting, Harris Tweed and the less-famous tweed industries of Orkney and Shetland, straw-work and straw-plaiting, and interviews with contemporary island makers. These feature alongside archive recordings and films, historic photographs, and paintings from other Scottish collections which illuminate stories behind objects, places and personalities.
Orkney: Between Islands is part of a project devised by An Lanntair, a multi-arts venue in Stornoway, with financial assistance through the LEADER 2014-2020 regional cooperation scheme, promoting the heritage and culture of Orkney, Shetland and the Outer Hebrides. It includes items from Orkney Museum, Orkney Library and Archive, Shetland Museum and Archives, and Museum agus Tasglann nan Eilean.