After an inspirational art residency at the National Library of Scotland, there is no excuse to ignore Shetland maps – and I can’t, I never have and now as a confirmed map addict, I never will. The last time I had shivers running down my spine was with some beautifully rendered music, this time it was an original manuscript map by Timothy Pont. How sad am I?  Add to this – Blaeu, Moll, Keulen, Collins, Preston, Thomas, Blachford to name a few allowed me an historic gander through Shetland mapping over the centuries. From the visually whimsical (to our modern eyes) and largely pictorial Olaus Magnus map of Scandinavia (with a very peerie Shetland). Add to that a Shetland map by John Bruce of Symbister, (one of the few early surviving maps of Shetland mapped by Shetlander) or more recent cartographic gems – such as the maritime maps that include gas pipelines, oil pipelines, platforms (and there are a surprising amount crowding the North Sea), restricted zones, etc, etc, who could not be captivated.


I am just loving this new art journey. Hopefully I will complete my Dip.Botanical Illustration with the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh about mid-2017/18. I have been photographing and drawing the wildflowers found around the coastline since I started my  walks. Although I started out with very little knowledge, very gradually, I am getting to know the flora of Shetland. There is nothing quite like the bursts of colour that a good spring exhibits: cliffs full of the beautiful Primula vulgaris, the blue hues of fields of Scilla verna (spring squill), the stunning golden yellows of Ranunculus ficaria (lesser celandine), or a field full of deep cadmium yellow Taraxacum officinale or dandelions. Add to that the early spring song of the larks and a blue sky with whispy cirrus, it is just a small step to heaven.

Sadly the gradual changes in habitat through changing farming methods and land use have had a very negative impact on Shetland’s indigenous flora for many decades. The loss of many species may also be due to climate change and other human activities, so it is more important than ever to do what we can to highlight the beauty, simplicity and medicinal use that each flower posesses. The age old herbological uses of these flowers provide a wonderful insight to our past relationship with nature’s medicine cabinet – which has sadly mostly been forgotten about in the light of modern synthetic medicines. However a renewed interest in herbology by some of the leading botanical institutions may help popularise, renew and whet public interest and hopefully build respect for our wildflowers and our floral habitats.


My walks are the inspiration for most of my work. The natural and man-made landscapes allow me to interact with whatever sensory experience I choose to focus on. Whether it is: the sight of the long stretches of coastline, bings of beach pollution, or minute beetles climbing the stem of a flower; the sounds of bird call or the sea washing through the sand; the feel of the rain lashing my face or the sharp rocks as I pull myself over a rock; the overpowering reek of bird colonies or the gentle aroma of wild rose; or the taste of cold peaty water from a little burn. All provide inspiration for sculptural textiles.

© Copyright Diane Garrick