Margaret Ker is a graduate of Glasgow School of Art. Having been a Lecturer in Fine Art for many years she returned to her roots in Argyll to focus on the development of her own work. Margaret’s mosaic pieces are created with local slate, stone and gold smalti. Drawing her inspiration from the rich cultural history of Argyll, standing stones, cup and ring marks, cists, cairns and the abandoned settlements of the clearances all feature in her beautiful,intricate, rhythmic designs.
Tell me about your training.
I graduated from Glasgow School of Art where I studied Drawing & Painting and Silversmithing & Jewellery. Over the years I’ve attended numerous summer schools and workshops in a broad variety of disciplines such as ceramics, sculpture & stone carving,printmaking and mosaics. I enjoy experimenting with a range of techniques and materials.
From where do you draw your inspiration and who are your artistic influences?
The place that fires my imagination and inspires my artwork is Mid Argyll. The area has a rich cultural history and has Kilmartin Glen at its heart. The Glen, one of the world’s most significant archaeological sites, has a high concentration of archaeological remains from cup and ring marks, standing stones, cists and cairns, through to forts and medieval castles, up to the abandoned settlements of the highland clearances. As a child growing up in the area these sites were familiar markers in the landscape and although their origins and purpose were both mysterious and intriguing they were the focus of many childhood games which gave free reign to budding imaginations. As an adult artist returning to live in Mid Argyll I am re-immersed in this environment and finding my own creative response to the place, its people and its culture.
The medium of stone is ancient, timeless and permanent and in my mosaic I attune to and conserve the spirit of the large stones whilst surrounding them by hand snipped tessera to create a rhythm and flow in the work which is a synthesis of the key elements of the place - the unique topography of its hills, valleys, rivers and islands, and the stone landmarks created by it's inhabitants.
The moon, the Milky Way and major constellations link these monuments to the cosmos. Evidence is mounting that this may have been an attempt by their creators to fix time accurately through the movement of celestial bodies. In relation to artistic influences my interest in slate mosaics was sparked off many years ago when I attended a workshop run by the internationally acclaimed mosaic artist, Dougie MacInnes. His passion for geology and archaeology was infectious. Rachel Sager’s work is particularly inspiring as she involves other people in long term collaborative installations. I’ve recently joined The British Association for Modern Mosaic and this provides a wealth of information on contemporary mosaic.
Tell me about your artistic practice.
Sometimes I begin by selecting the stones, playing with them and weaving an idea around a composition. Other times I begin with some sketching and taking photographs in a particular location. If I am working on a commission a client may come to my studio with some special stones they have already collected and we can collaborate on the design elements. Quite often people would like a particular constellation or birth sign incorporated.
I enjoy researching the history of the locations and the myths and legends of the constellations.
Why do you do what you do?
I feel very much at home in this beautiful part of the world and I love exploring the places and stories through my work. I’ve just finished reading Graham Fulton’s epic poem about Kilmartin Glen in the heart of Dalriada - ‘an ancient land of mystery and ritual, silent power and haunting beauty. A world of ceremonial death and dark swirling currents.’
It is fascinating to think about the people who lived here in the past whilst creating my work from the very stones and pebbles they walked on.
What would you like an audience to take from your work?
I would like to inspire them to develop new and deeper relationships with nature and special places, to go outside, look at the stars and enjoy a sense of awe and wonder about the mystery of life and the universe.
Describe a typical day in your studio.
Once I have my sketches and have my design drawn out I basically spend hours sifting through stones for the right shape colour, size and texture. My palette consists of numerous containers of stones which are usually strewn about the floor. Then there is endless snipping of little shapes. Mosaic is very time consuming. I’m quite messy - I attempt to tidy as I go along!