The Red Field are very proud to have been involved in the 2015 clay building festival and conference of Clayfest! As part of the week-long workshops, activities, conference talks and sharing of clay building ideas, the project featured multiple landscape clay interventions around the local area under the banner of ‘un-melting’.
The continuing project is about recording and documenting the four separate sites as each of them ‘melt’ back into the landscape.
Un-melting takes its inspiration from the lost and disappearing former clay dwellings whose last remnants litter the landscape of the Carse of Gowrie or, as Clayfest! organiser Tom Morton put it at an early project meeting, “They are melting back into the landscape”.
A very particular photograph, shown above, formed the starting point of this approach, and these are the remains of a house on the edge of Leetown, a few miles to the west of Errol. A solitary fireplace and chimney stack stand alone and marooned in the tall grasses of a summer meadow. But now these last standing remnants of a house have also succumbed and just rubble and brick now remain to melt back onto the ground. With our four landscape interventions, new and very brief relationships between the land and with our ideas of habitation re-emerged. Now, as with clay ruins of the area, before, each of them are melting back into the land again With community involvement in the design and build, and with the words of award-winning poet and ‘Sightlines’ author Kathleen Jamie, un-melting made four remarkable impressions on the landscape and, bound up in their brief existence, was an essence of habitation and its inviolable relationship with place.
Our first un-melting site is under construction and this can be found at the Cistern Green – just to the south of Errol. Archaeologist Tanja Romankiewkicz of Edinburgh University is working with the project team and, following on from Tanja’s recent research into Iron Age roundhouses in the area, we are creating a number of sections of a circular wall in cob blocks in the centre of the green as we cast our ideas of habitation back to more than a thousand years. Cistern Green can be found by following Gas Brae to the bottom of the road and this then leads in to a footpath and the community green is just 150 metres along the footpath heading south.
This week work began on the second of our un-melting installations and this was at the junctions of the northerly footpath and the east to west footpath as they meet at New Farm, just to the south east of Errol. Our second installation is an attempt to explore the other building materials of a roundhouse and for this we created a small section of upright stakes and interwoven lengths of hazel. Builders and hazel gatherers again were Tim and Tanja and, on this occasion, we were also joined by local volunteer Peter Symon.
Un-melting and the poems of Kathleen Jamie.
At the outset of the un-melting project, acclaimed poet and essayist Kathleen Jamie spent some days walking the footpaths and byways of the Carse of Cowrie. In response to the days walking and, in particular, to the inner and outer spaces of the the old schoolhouse of Cottown, Kathleen crafted four short poems in Scots: Bield, Spence, Carse and Schule. In turn, each of the four landscape interventions are aimed at reflecting back one of each of the poems and, as the four interventions are constructed, the corresponding poem and the map reference of each build will be posted here. We began with the shared community space of Cistern Green and, as a part of our latest visit to site, children of the P2 and P3 classes of Errol primary school joined us to find out about the project and to add their own Iron Age inspired art to the fragments of the ’roundhouse remains’
The structure at Cistern Green is our response to the site and to Carse. The location for Cistern Green and for Carse can be found on the map posted above and the co-ordinates are 56°23’21.30″ N – 03°12’37.40″ W
Our second construction on the Errol circular path at New Farm (see map below) is the setting for ‘Bield’.
Our wall ‘remains’ are a combination of stakes and hazel in another exploration of the materials of a roundhouse. With the inner and outer sections in place, it remains to slowly build up the cavity with clay and, with a further visit to the site on the 5th of June, some Leetown clay has now been added to the first build of a week earlier.
With Clayfest well and truly underway, our third structure ‘Spence’ has taken shape at the side of another path this time heading north and on the other side of the village to Carse and Bield.
We’ve chosen another junction of two footpaths and, where a new footpath creates a short cut across the corner, we’ve arranged the structure as though the footpath leads through a disappeared doorway.
The fourth un-melting site was created during the week of Clayfest and was made on the land of the local winery Cairn O’ Mohr (see map below).
With this last intervention the plan was to create a structure that resulted in one or more straight vertical edge and so by building the structure two blocks deep the alternate spacing of the block walls – and the straight wall edges – were possible.
Ron Gillies of Cairn O’ Mohr has been a great supporter throughout the project and for the installation on his home turf, he suggested other additions to the clay. We searched around many of the storage buildings at Cairn O’ Mohr and eventually found a lovely old blue door with a glass top half and decided that this would be a great way to complete ‘Schule’.
The ‘wall remains’ were set at the correct distance and the only thing left to decide was whether or not to use the full height of the door.
On the Thursday evening of the weeklong festival Ron set the full height door in the space and a photo of the result was sent to Tim in time to add to his conference talk on the following day. Many thanks to Ron and we’ll keep the door as it is – although adding a bit more height to the ‘remains’ of the school is planned for the near future.