Would you ever take fashion inspiration from a 4,000-year-old weapon? When Sandy Leahy of Struan's Mòr Books and the Windrush Café Studio found an ancient flint arrowhead on her croft, she knew that she wanted to interpret its characteristics through the mediums of jewellery and textiles.
“I found the arrowhead in August 2012 when I was up on the croft trying to enlarge a gateway into a field,” explains Sandy. “I was breaking away rock with a spade and my hands. I went up to check on the sheep, then wandered back down and on a rock ledge I saw the Bronze Age flint arrowhead. As I picked it up, I felt like I'd had an electric shock – because this hadn't been handled in around 3,000 years!”
Armed with a vision of how she wanted the arrowhead to be used in any designs, Sandy kept a look out for someone who could help make her plans a reality. She eventually met Victoria Radcliffe at the Great Northern Craft Fair in Manchester. “Victoria studied jewellery and metalworking and I liked her pieces very much – especially a remarkable ring she had made out of river-washed slate and silver,” Sandy reveals. “I approached her with the suggestion that we work together on a series of one-off pieces to go in the Windrush Café and then expanded it to include the arrowhead.”
The result will be a limited edition of 75 necklaces in bronze cast directly from the arrowhead – a perfect tribute to the original's rippled texture and serrated edges. “They will be made in batches, but some are for sale in the Cafe now at £85 each,” Sandy explains. The necklaces have an archaic quality and yet are in no way out of place with today's styles.
Sandy's passion for textile design meant that the arrowhead would sooner or later find its way into her fabric creations. Her new collection of tubular neck scarves uses the graphic shape and evocative lines of the arrowhead in a striking pattern. Taking inspiration from antiquarian images from the 16th century, Sandy created a scarf in a subtle monochrome. She is still exploring ways of using the arrowhead in her designs, working with different materials.
The tubular scarves have great appeal due to their versatility. “You can twist them, turn them round because there is a different print on each side or wear them has a hat or hairband...” Sandy enthuses. “They are a concept - it's down to the wearer how they wear it and I like that.”
Sandy has incorporated other natural patterns into the scarf designs, saying: “I've been taking photographs for years, and always knew I wanted to use them as a textile design, but never knew how to. One time I was waiting for a train. It was lashing down with rain and I had nothing to read... but I did have a camera. I started messing around with the effects of light on the water.”
Lights reflecting on the harbour, the tail light of a car in the rain or the head lights of a taxi have now all been incorporated into Sandy's scarves as abstract explosions of colour. “I like the idea that these are just as much photographs of Skye as photographs of the Cuillins are,” she says. “I think the landscape needs a more direct and visceral reaction to it. I make what I want and I want to explore and work with others in an unmediated response to Skye.”
Sandy uses her unique vision to look past the obvious and interpret objects into wearable items of beauty. Whether she is taking inspiration from her surroundings or from a 4,000-year-old arrowhead, Sandy creates something truly individual - one-off designs from a one-off lady.