I was commissioned by the Scottish Waterways Trust in Inverness to create 3 benches to be located in natural sites around the city. I was to use words that had been created by groups that visit the sites regularly, the sites themselves inspiring the words. I decided I would use North American totems to inform the carvings, but putting my own spin on them. I was lucky enough to source well-seasoned Western Red Cedar from Camperdown Park in Dundee, it is one the woods traditionally used to carve totem poles. It was a fine wood to carve and I really enjoyed working with it.
As I worked on the designs for the carvings a story began to emerge, it goes a little something like this:
A young man is full of fear of many things, so he goes to visit an old woman who lives in a cottage in the forest, he is told that she has access to magic & medicine that can help people to conquer their fears. He arrives there one evening and she gives him a bag containing 2 objects and a blank mask, she tells him that whenever he feels a deep fear he is to put on the mask and hold the objects and they will give him the medicine that he needs. After thanking her he goes back into the forest, it is dark now and the wind is blowing, he begins to feel a fear that grows and grows of the howling wind and the swaying trees. Reaching into the bag he dons the mask and holds the objects, the mask becomes the head of a wolf and the objects, a drum & beater. He climbs into a tree and begins to play the drum, as he does his fear begins to fade away, by morning his fear of the wind & the trees has gone. Putting the mask & objects back in the bag he continues on his way. Soon he comes to a river, he is scared of water but sees the only way across is to enter the river, he becomes deeply afraid. He reaches into the bag, this time the mask becomes the head of a duck and the objects become a small boat & oar. With a splash he is paddling across the river, with each stroke his fears are washed away, by the time he reaches the other side his fear of the water is gone. Placing the mask & objects back into the bag he continues on. Eventually he comes to a wide & peaceful meadow, but this quiet and open space causes a fear to rise up in him, he wants to run for shelter but instead he reaches into the bag and takes out the items. This time the mask becomes the head of a deer and the objects become a bell & a stick for striking it. He settles into the meadow, beginning to appreciate the quiet, whenever he needs a sound he strikes the bell and a tiny chime reverberates through the meadow. Slowly his fear dissapates and he is calm. He places the mask & objects back into the bag and continues on. But now he finds whenever a fear begins to surface he is able to see it for what it is and not let it overpower him. It is rare that he ever needs to reach into the bag again.
The benches were installed at their sites around Inverness with the help of volunteers in early December 2016.