TREVOR LEAT: Eigg Residents’ Association and West Highland College Residency, 2014

Dreich…!!!  Low cloud, visibility low and me feeling slightly hungover after late night early morning island wedding celebrations. Amazing bothy inside – light, wood, steel, space, warmth and the view…..


I cooked veg stew on the neat wee stove and lay on the wooden boards looking out at the mizzle sky and joined up raindrops on the window.

The last couple here (and only just left), filled the bothy with their lovers energy and I had come carrying sadness…may the wind take it away over the cliffs…

The sky lifted and light returned and I wandered up to the cliffs behind trying to find Sweeney. Later I returned to the tea rooms with fiddle for a great session as the wedding party continued. Back late again and with candlelight my spirit was flying..


I took Trevor Joyce’s book ‘Poems of Sweeney’s Peregrinations’ with me to the Singing Sands. The light coming and going with the squalls. The rocks and sand swept smooth by the tide…soft and swirling. An eagle surprised me (and itself) flying up from the low cliff edge.

“Sweeney”, he began, “I find you here starved, naked on a branch  as any bird…”

A brighter morning and I took an early shower outside, looking up through the steam at two ravens hanging above the cliffs.

‘Deranged and rattled as a bird, Sweeney began his wanderings…”

I started some sketches for the sculpture of Sweeney. A blackbird had been brightly singing most mornings and so I decided upon this bird as a model for Sweeney’s head from which he will chant and sing his poem. I began welding a steel rod armature taking measurements from my own body.


And soaked some peeled willow in a nearby burn which I will use to capture his vulnerable nakedness.

willow soak

I felt a lightness as I worked, listening to the wrens and chaffinches singing and the ravens ‘kronk kronking’, remembering how I love this island and the magnificent cliffs up the back, the changing light and clouds, Rum coming and going. It’s good for me to be here and working too, staying in the warm, cosy bothy, Eigg supporting me.  And yoga in the morning as I wait for the burner to heat and boil my kettle. I am on a retreat…

Rain drives me inside to work, we squeeze into a space by the stove. Limbs are starting to shape. Sweeney is forming.

early sweeney

I had planned to site the sculpture roosting in a tree but suitable sized trees are scarce on Eddie and Lucy’s croft. I climbed the small hill behind the bothy to survey the land, placing Sweeney on the large stones there…he fitted perfectly astride one of them as though on a throne and looking disturbed as if surprised by approaching visitors.

sweeney and trevor 2

A break from Sweeney and I’m over the other side of the island running a willow workshop with 7 or 8 islanders all cheerfully creating platters and baskets and there is a plentiful supply of tea and cake. Nice to be with people again. Also I get a mobile signal and there is a heap of messages that will have to wait!

Wild night in the bothy as a storm picks up and there is a gale. The smoke from the stove takes a dive and fills the room up…I sleep with the door open and with the wind seeking me out….

sweeney and me

The storm has dropped away I continue weaving. I use naturally green coloured willow for Sweeney’s blackbird head and introduce some red willow into the peeled to suggest the lacerations he received whilst trying to roost in the blackthorn tree. Wes, Ben and Jen arrive with blackthorn bushes that Wes has grown and we plant them around the hill top by the sculpture.

sweeny and wes n me

Gales and hail stones return and Rum now looks very wintery and with the peaks covered in snow, they seem higher and nearer.

I’ve secured Sweeney to his throne, using steel pins to anchor him to the rock. The wind today is very strong and I wonder if he will manage seven years this time round or will he be swept up and blown high over the cliffs, his sad chant echoing along at night like the summer shearwaters returning to their roost…

The week has passed and I am sad to leave but I’m also happy and grateful to feel reconnected with Eigg and the community living here, with the good friends I have, and know that I will return.

sweeney on his throne

LESLEY PUNTON: Self-Directed Residency, 2014

Stilled life with moving trees. I arrived during a week of gales. The Cairngorms are windy at the best of times, yet I’m accustomed to being on the brittle granite plateau where the combination of altitude and the persistence of the wind creates a sub arctic landscape, a place where plants hug the land tightly. However because of the wind’s excessive force and unpredictable cloud level, the snow covered plateau became, in essence, out of bounds.

bothy 2b
Inshriach Bothy


inshriach forest


arrival at Inshriach

I found myself walking in the lower areas of the Cairngorms, along the passes, up into the more modest hills adjacent to the plateau, to hidden lochans, and into the forests – Inshriach and Rothiemurchus, generally less familiar territory for me since I usually seek out high places.

The trees became the most dominant part of my experience. Sat in an elevated hollow, surrounded by a wood of silver birch interspersed with dwarf juniper, the bothy is quite protected and sheltered. Unless you know it’s there, or happen to walk close along the trail, you’d probably be oblivious to its very existence. I spent a good deal of time watching the trees and their movement, and listening to their sound, mixed in with the white noise of the River Spey which flowed in spate and flood nearby.

birch, pine, heather, juniper,

I came with a loose idea of some work I could make, thinking that a plan would be wise, but soon abandoned it, and learned to leave preconceived notions well alone, and simply be with the place. Nan Shepherd’s short text, the living mountain guided me well in this sense, (and, struck by it’s notable absence on the bothy’s bookshelves, I popped out to Aviemore to buy a copy to leave as a gift).

The work didn’t come, but the time to think, and reassess aspects of my life and practice did, and I felt the repercussions of the trip perhaps more clearly once I returned home. I needed the time away, the space to be undisturbed by modern distractions such as the compulsion to check email. Technology has become particularly invasive and guilty of imposing a syncopated rhythm to lives that could be led more simply.

As someone who has always loved solitude, I don’t think I’d appreciated how difficult complete solitude really is however, (thank goodness for a battery powered radio playing Radio 4!). Inshriach can be a quiet place, but on reading the bothy book, it’s clear that for most people, residencies here are anything but solitary, and spur on collaboration.

An Lochan Uaine through Caledonian pine
An Lochan Uaine through Caledonian pine
in the summit shelter cairn of Meall a' Bhuachaille
in the summit shelter cairn of Meall a’ Bhuachaille

But the motion of walking is an antidote to too much solitary sitting and thinking, and a journey to the Lochan Uaine, an outrageously bright green lochan nestled amongst the Caledonian pine trees of the Ryvoan Pass, became like a visit to an old, dear friend. Onwards to Ryvoan, and some shelter from the wind for lunch, I made a spur of the moment decision to climb Meall a’ Bhuachaille, and despite ferocious winds which made standing near the summit difficult, the addictive lure of a vista, of expansiveness, and of physical exertion made it worth while.

map of the Cairngorms and Rothiemurchus

Back in the environs of the bothy, life settles into a regular rhythm.

Wake up, go to the loo (a composting loo a hundred yards from the bothy), light wood stove, place large urn of water on stove to heat, go back to bed and read or listen to radio until bothy warms up, put the kettle on the trangia (I cheated and cooked on a combination of the wood stove and my trusty Trangia 27), have breakfast, shower (deliciously) outside with the water previously heated on the stove, dress, collect wood from the bottom of the hill in rucksack, re-fill the tea urn with water from the Spey, rest of day is for leisure – reading, writing, drawing, walking, eating,.. At nightfall, light candles, last wood on the stove at 6pm(ish) so that the bed platform isn’t too warm later, retire to bed around 9 or 10, …etc.

On my last morning, I wake up to snow, the landscape again transformed. After a hot outdoor shower, with the snow still falling, I pack my things, then make the couple of trips back to the car parked almost a mile down the trail, food supplies diminished, and my load lighter than when I arrived. The weight of the city had also been lifted, and I’m reminded (if I ever really need such a thing) that part of me needs to be in the wild. I anticipate being reunited with my 3 year old son, so the departure isn’t unwelcome in the way it would have been years ago, but the bothy, a perfectly formed small space packed with all the essentials for good living, sends me on my way, nourished, and replete.

the bothy at dusk
the bothy at dusk
nautical twilight
nautical twilight
book found in the bothy library
book found in the bothy library
punton inshriach sun dog b
a sun dog through the birch trees
the view north
the view north

For further information This link here takes you to some video documentation of my residency on Vimeo. My website is at http://lesleypunton.com/  and blog at http://lesleypunton.blogspot.co.uk/

With thanks to Walter Micklethwait and everyone at Inshriach, and to Bobby Niven of The Bothy Project
all images L Punton, 2014

RYAN MILLER & DEE CHANEVA: Self-Directed Residency, 2014

Everyone knows this is nowhere “Is this an art form? or are you a technician”

100 plus logs chopped
Full moon
Valentines Day
Fish on a Friday, it’s religious
Burnt love letters
Bourbon themed games
Relaxation repetitive
Chop, burn, eat
Passes quickly yet slowly















“Becoming acquainted and swallowing fears and settling down to life in the little cabin with its warm glow of woodstove and kerosene lamp and let the ghosts fly their asses off”
― Jack KerouacBig Sur















Many Thanks to the Bothy Project, Walter and Inshriach farm for making this possible. 🙂

Best Ryan & Dee