Stromness Museum blog

Colourful crawly crustaceans

I’m Mary Grieve, one of the Mòti Collective artists due to exhibit at the Stromness Museum at the end of March. Most of my work is three dimensional, or at least has 3D elements, with recent projects manifesting themselves as puppetry, stop frame animation and kinetic sculpture.


In spring last year, along with a group of other Mòti members, I took part in an online workshop with the museum. We all brought along examples of our work, and Norna and Katy looked out exhibits from the museum’s collections that they thought connected visually or conceptually with what we had taken. 


Pictured is a handsewn toad, it is positioned mid-jump.  It has metallic green/gold body with a white underbelly.  It's mouth is open wide.
Toad, 2013. Image: Mary Grieve


I showed the group some of my puppets, one of which was a jubilant toad that I had stitched together from fabric and leather over a posable armature. This hand-craftedamphibian sparked links not only with the natural history exhibits but with examples of textiles and beautifully embroidered historical garments. We started to imagine my little characters exploring the museum, moving among the exhibits, investigating these textiles and textures and discovering the stories held within them.


Pictured is a close up of image of a museum case display. In the forfront of the image are vials containing tadpole specimens. Behind the vails is a glass specimen jar and the skull of an otter.
Tadpole to toad exhibit, Stromness Museum. Image: Mary Grieve


My project for the ‘Mòti at the Museum’ exhibition continues this whimsical tone and focuses on one of the smaller visitors to the museum, the Sea Slater (or Ligia Oceanica when they’re feeling fancy), wee nocturnal souls with a particular fondness for bladder wrack. You might have met a few under a rock on the beach one day or come across a cousin or two in your garden. They like crevices and rock pools and feasting on seaweed and apparently they are quite abundant in Stromness museum, often found sauntering around as if they own the place.


a close up of a sea slater crawling in a person's hand.  You can see four fingers which are resting in the mustard coloured sweater.
Sea Slater at Walkmill. Image: Frances Scott 


The museum’s proximity to the water cannot be ignored, it sits like much of Stromness, just metres from the shore and the slaters take advantage of this. This proximity is carried through the exhibits, the history of the collection never far from the sea as you travel from shipwreck and warship, past lighthouse and creel to many lands across the ocean. 


A close up image of the edges or rims of two objects, One the left if the rim of a wash basin, the glaze is cracked and worn . To the right is the rum of a white dinner plate with black edged line.
ash basin salvaged from the German Fleet, Stromness Museum. Image: Mary Grieve


Piece of artwork replicating the texture of cracked glaze on pottery. A white base with red, brown and yellow coloured prints in the lines and shapes inspired by the cracked glaze.
Batik fabric experiment based on salvaged wash basin. Image: Mary Grieve


I will be examining this journey in close up, taking swatches of patterns and tones from different exhibits and crafting them into small embroidered isopods. Who knows how they developed these unusual markings? Perhaps after dark they explore the museum, enjoying the colours and textures of the exhibits and mirroring them with their little armoured bodies. Or perhaps they have always been this way, as though, by inhabiting the watery rocks on which the museum stands, they have somehow become imbued with elements of the history of the place. Either way, come the end of March, they will be found roaming freely, camouflaged in the museum’s many delights. If you’re lucky and you look hard enough you might just come across a few! 


Follow Mary Grieve’s work here.



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