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Meet the Designer Makers

Discover the stories behind our exclusive collection


EMILY MAY

 Emily was inspired by Isobel’s passion and determination to do exactly what she wanted in a time when the expectations of her sex were something quite different. 

The thought of a world that has parts as yet unexplored is something that we can’t quite comprehend now and Emily loved the idea that Isobel’s skills as a botanist allowed her to go to places that were off limits to other solo travellers. 

The floral specimens Isobel collected surround the design which illustrates the excitement of her life as an explorer, juxtaposed with her home at Carlowrie Castle. 

Emily is a gifted illustrator working in watercolours. Once she is satisfied with a design she works alongside carefully selected digital printing studios to translate her illustrations onto textiles, typically silk satins and silk wool. 

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FELICITY HAMILTON

Felicity’s mission was to capture Isobel’s spirit with her paintbrush. She connected with Isobel’s sense of adventure and disregard for conventions about women at the time. Felicity wanted to celebrate Isobel in a fun and playful collection, bringing her to life as a charming illustrated character, capturing all her different roles through the different outfits she has been pictured in. 

Felicity combined the fashion illustrations of Isobel with a pseudo arctic landscape built from the different shapes of Carlowrie’s architecture, infusing the castle’s architecture with Isobel’s sense of adventure. Botanical specimens were also incorporated into the design. The gorgeous reddish-orange ‘Saxifraga Bronchialis’ which grew in Greenland, the country Isobel made her home for a time, suited Felicity’s need for a plant that was not too feminine, reflecting Isobel’s courage in disassociating herself from traditional gender roles. 

Felicity’s work often incorporates spontaneous elements so it has an energetic and lively feel. Her style builds up gradually, using paint, sometimes combined with print, to create blocky sections alongside a variety of different brush marks. Felicity likes to combine charming characters with playfully coloured architecture, textural foliage and illustrated fashions. 

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HANNAH RUMSEY

Hannah wanted to create pieces that reflected Isobel’s life, work and travels. Echoing Isobel’s botanic legacy, Hannah used 100% natural dyes derived from plants. These plants were selected for their historical use in dyes and medicine across Scotland and the Arctic. Heather produces yellows and greens while Birch produces pinks and beiges. Alder Buckthorn bark was used in both regions as a red dye. While Indigo was not native to either, it was included to capture the colours of the Arctic. 

The scarves are inspired by Isobel’s lively watercolour paintings of Alaska and mirror the colours and shapes of the landscape, hand-knitted using a 20% silk and 80% extra fine Merino yarn. The jumpers are inspired by Isobel’s time at Carlowrie. Drawing on motifs from its stained glass windows and fireplaces, Hannah designed a Fair Isle pattern, referencing Isobel’s own knitwear and traditional Greenlandic dress. She used naturally coloured wool, spun in Scotland and hand-dyed with heather. Each piece is carefully constructed by hand. 

Hannah’s work is greatly focused around craft and traditional skills such as screen-printing, hand-spinning, knitting, natural dyeing and weaving.

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ANNA LEWANDOWSKA-MIRSKA

Through Anna’s research she sought to find out what kind of person Isobel was, what her interests were, what inspired her… It was fascinating to follow her path and learn from her approach to others: a strong yet empathetic woman, independent, passionate and driven. She was a woman ahead of her time. 

A love for nature is what I feel that brings my work closer to that of Isobel. ‘River Beauty’ is the common botanical name given to the ‘Epilobium latifolium’ one of the very many botanical samples that Isobel sent back from her travels to Greenland. In her notes she described it as “perhaps the most handsome species in the Greenland flora”. The dinner and high tea services have been designed around the structure, beauty and poise of the River Beauty. 

Anna Lewandowska is a Glasgow based artist maintaining a studio practice in the Glasgow Ceramics Studio. She mainly creates functional porcelain ware, working with the slip casting method using handmade plaster models and moulds. 

Most of Anna’s work is realised in porcelain and she is a particularly gifted mould maker. The project takes full inspiration on Isobel’s work and achievements as writer, artist and botanist.

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SARAH PARAMOR

Sarah wanted to make a bag for Isobel Wylie Hutchison to take on her 1927 expedition to Greenland. For the first time, she was travelling as a botanist, so she based the piece on a vasculum, a container carried by botanists to collect and transport plant samples. Hairmoss (Polytrichum commune), an unassuming plant that grows abundantly in Scotland, seemed an ideal material for this modest 38-year-old explorer. When plaited, the hairmoss has a tweedy side to it, echoing Isobel Wylie Hutchison’s Carlowrie heritage, and at the same time it has an unexpected green, mossy, living element, as if the bag could enclose a little bit of verdant Scotland to be carried with her to Greenland. “A Bag for Isobel” is a conceptual piece that Sarah hopes would have made Isobel Wylie Hutchison feel like a botanist. “I like to imagine it being something she might show to makers in Greenland, prompting a conversation about craft, about plants and about exploration.” 

Sarah Paramor creates contemporary basketry for exhibition and for the catwalk and uses techniques learnt from traditional basketmakers. Sarah lives in Applecross on the west coast of Scotland, and makes her baskets in a restored byre (cowshed). 

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VICKY HIGGINSON

Isobel Wylie Hutchison is a fascinating figure, a lone female explorer venturing on Arctic expeditions at a time when women were considered ‘too fragile and gentle’ for such endeavours. Glass lends itself particularly well to representing these ideas of strength and fragility and Vicky chose to design a set of blown glass drinking vessels with a decanter as a practical but elegant tribute to Isobel. 

The vessels refer to various aspects of her explorations and the era in which she travelled. Geometric forms and patterns draw on Art Deco designs of the period and the geometric patterns on clothing of the indigenous people Isobel encountered. Engraving, carving and mark making on the glass surface, represent abstracted maps, landscape forms and details taken from her writing and documentaries. The rugged natural elements contrast with the rigid geometry, echoing Isobel’s determination to pursue her love of travel against society’s expectations. An icy palette, evocative of the Arctic landscapes, adds subtlety to the surface decoration, demanding a closer look. 

Vicky’s work combines hot glass and cold-working, with glass forms handblown and worked into using cutting, carving and engraving techniques to create vessels and sculptural forms that explore the relationships between form, pattern and colour.

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SANDRA BROWN

Whilst reading about the adventures of Isobel Wylie Sandra was surprised that such an amazing woman, who had been brought up and lived so near to her hometown of Broxburn, had never been highlighted in West Lothian. Reading about her walking expeditions in Britain and further afield to Alaska and Greenland, Sandra realised how difficult her journeys would have been and how very isolating, which indicated Isobel’s strong and determined character. Isobel would have achieved all that she did with only a compass for direction which is why Sandra chose to highlight this in her button designs. 

Other designs include a flower, and a toggle based on artefacts from an Inuit Tribe that Isobel befriended. The compass was the means and the link between Isobel (represented by the flower button) and the Inuit (represented by the toggle). The dishes displaying the buttons relate to each of the buttons: the flowers Isobel discovered and supplied to Kew Gardens, a traditional Inuit bird (with Sandra’s artistic twist to reflect the West- Lothian connection), and a map design. 

Much of Sandra’s work is realised in black and white, or other restricted palettes. Sandra’s inspiration is drawn nature, from ancient cultures and their mark making and design, architecture and faces. Her decorative schemes range from quirky statements to highly-focused rhythmic mark making, often using a wheel to keep the piece turning as she develops the surface pattern.

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DAVID MOLA

David’s design is a journey through Isobel’s life, adventures and inner inquietude. 

THE DREAM Isobel hasn’t yet begun her adventures. Since childhood she has loved the outdoors and adventure. As a woman she doesn’t have the freedom she would like. Instead, she devotes her energies to writing, and it is not until the sudden deaths of her brothers and father that she seriously contemplates escape. This section is a representation of her wanderlust, flying far from the Castle on coloured canoes, which will be so vital to her experience. 

WORDS Isobel was a polyglot: by the time she was an adult she could speak Italian, Gaelic, Greek, Hebrew, Danish, Icelandic, Greenlandic and some Inuit words. She was as well a remarkable writer of poetry, prose and articles for the National Geographic and many journals and newspapers. This section is a celebration of her love of Words. 

PLANTS Botany was a lifelong passion for Isobel and a “door” to funding her travels and gaining permission to explore closed countries such as Greenland. The plants she collected during her life are stored at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew and Edinburgh and at the British Museum. This is a celebration of her love to plants and botanical research, her meticulous 

archiving, notes and poetry attached to her botanical findings. 

PEOPLE LANDSCAPES For David, the most inspiring side of Isobel is her undoubtable love for people. Her writing is full of personal anecdotes and descriptions of communities she encountered. But it is in her films that you can notice most clearly this deep respect and admiration of humans. Many of her short films show people laughing, fishermen playing in canoes, children playing with their slides, dancing or feeding dogs… Images full of joy. Isobel bring to us a cheerful portraiture of northern people. 

THE TRAVELLER Isobel was a flexible traveller, and she often had to alter her itinerary to accommodate new circumstances. She was able to change schedules, modes of transport, and even her route. The hanging pieces on this section emphasise just the course of her journey: the thin line of maps Isobel’s route, but with no map behind. Her journey is a personal experience, more intimate and life-changing than something merely geographical. 

Edinburgh-based David Mola is a glass artist working in stained and bespoke kiln-glass. Much of David’s inspiration is derived from nature and distilled into simple structures and striking designs, and the works he creates are often intended to integrate with natural surroundings, at once harmonious and unexpected.

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CAROL SINCLAIR

Carol immediately connected the qualities of porcelain to the vast polar landscapes that Isobel explored. She has created porcelain icebergs, glaciers and landscapes that capture the endless variations of eroded and melted textures in snow and ice, and added touches of icy blue glaze to reflect the sea that connects and feeds them. 

Isobel Wylie Hutchison was a force of nature. She had an indomitable spirit of adventure, a heart warming sense of fun and an insatiable curiosity. In creating their “Cabinets of Curiosity” David Mola and Carol aim to capture something of the breadth of her expertise, the depth of her knowledge and lengths she went to in her explorations. 

David and Carol celebrate the life force of this remarkable woman, and in the ceramic “Portrait of an Explorer” Carol has used an image from Isobel’s own collection of photographs to introduce us to her and highlight her sheer joy of adventure. 

“Direction of Travel” is based on an illustration by Isobel from her book North to the Rime Ringed Sun, in which she documented her trip around Alaska. 

The 3 Glacier pieces capture something of the almost imperceptible but relentless movement of ice across a 

landscape. Presented under glass domes, they represent a moment captured in time before the glacier continues on its way. 

David Mola also works by constructing his pieces in layers. In their collaborative piece “Northern Lights” David and Carol have illuminated a glass sky and porcelain landscape with the shifting colours of the Arora Borealis. Notoriously difficult to capture even with modern technology, Isobel’s own black and white photographs don’t reveal her experience of seeing the Northern Lights. However, from her works we know that she witnessed these remarkable skies and in this work David and Carol seek to reveal and share Isobel’s world. 

“Blue Ice” is composition that expresses the luminous qualities of icebergs, and the surprising presence of blue within the ice itself. 

Carol loves the beauty and flexibility of the material, in particular, fine white porcelain. Carol’s work is an intimate response to the fragility of memory and its role in defining who we are. She uses the connections between the porcelain layers to express the complexity of our personal connections, and seeks to balance what is present, with the random absences that are created by time. 

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URSULA HUNTER

Ursula drew on Isobel’s childhood and her ambitions to break the mould of restrictive Victorian society and head out to explore the Arctic. 

In her design, Ursula has included Ice flows in geometric shapes, Arctic animals including the Polar Bear and the Narwal that Isobel would have seen on her travels, and the model kayak with Inuit sailors that Isobel commissioned. These elements are interwoven with garlands of two plants that were widely used by the Inuit. The ‘Bearberry’ (Arctostaphylos uva – ursi) has a rounded leaf and red berries; it’s eaten fresh and used for medicinal purposes and as an ingredient in tobacco. The ‘Crowberry’, (Empetrum Nigrum) has sharp pointed leaves and blue berries that can be eaten when cooked. The plant can also gives a green textile dye. All of the elements of Ursula’s design are surrounded by stars symbolising the constellations used by seafarers to navigate the globe. 

Ursula’s work is all about nature, plants and animals, flora and fauna. She focuses predominantly on rare or endangered species, particularly the ones that are disappearing from the environment due to climate change and habitat loss. 

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GILLY LANGTON

As a designer it’s been a privilege to get to know the life of Isobel Wylie Hutchinson and have the opportunity to explore the artefacts she collected throughout her expeditions to Greenland and Alaska. Gilly was particularly taken by the Baleen Basket held at the National Museum of Scotland, made from the filter system of a Baleen whales mouth, used for it flexibility. The men of Barrow, Alaska would make the baskets to sell to visitors. They are still made there today. 

Gilly wanted to create pieces of jewellery that reflected Isobel’s journey through forged mapping marks tooled onto the silver, combined with other artefacts that I found in her collection. 

Utilising traditional silversmithing techniques alongside knitting and hand-dying, Gilly’s multidisciplinary approach to her practice results in striking wearable pieces. Taking inspiration from her home town, the fishing village of Plockton, Gilly incorporates materials with contrasting properties to reflect the strength and struggle of a sea-faring way of life. She challenges the properties of control and resilience with minimal aesthetics, creating dramatic pieces of beauty, strength and texture.

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BARBARA SPENCE

Isobel’s descriptions of the Arctic night sky were Barbara’s starting point: “the rich cobalt of Alaskan midnight when the summer sun circles the horizon all night long”; a “land of sparkling snows and dancing lights”; and the setting moon, “as large as a rising sun.” There is an impression of a heightened awareness of the earth and the moon, and Barbara tries to capture them both suspended in space. Isobel’s infectious love of the Arctic and quasi-spiritual calling to it also translated into her jewellery: “I must go North again! My heart/Is where the white mist lies…” 

Reading Isobel’s poetry, Barbara sensed a spiritual dimension to Isobel’s perceptions of the earth and the night sky. This may have partly been a response to the death of Isobel’s brother in WW1. In the 1914 poem Liege, Isobel looks at the night sky above the Pentlands and feels connected to the sky over the battlefields of Belgium. It is as if she is above the world looking down, as well as looking up at the stars. Barbara’s designs are a direct response to Isobel Wylie Hutchison’s descriptions and love of the Arctic but also try to capture an essence of her beliefs. 

Barbara’s work is grounded in the geometry of the physical world. From planets held in orbit, to the motion of waves, she explores the simplicity of shape, curve and rhythms that occur naturally and the relationship between bodies creating space or collision. Each piece is structured to capture a fleeting moment of dynamic motion. 

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KELLY STEWART

Representing the life and work of Isobel Wylie Hutchison through a series of journals and Card designs started with an inspiring body of text that Isobel wrote in one of her journals about her homeland. As an adventurer, explorer, story teller and avid nature lover Kelly felt that words and sketches of flora found in the garden at Carlowrie was the purest subject matter to depict. 

In ‘The Scribbler’ magazine that she made as a child, Isobel wrote a poem about the flora and landscape that surrounded her. Kelly drew a series of pen and ink sketches of lilies, honeysuckle and roses from these descriptions. 

Using a nib and ink Kelly rewrote snippets of text and poetry which were overlaid onto book cloth and incorporated with the drawings via the screen-printing process. 

Words and flora were intrinsic to Isobel’s lifework and passion. Kelly hopes that it will also be inspirational for those who enjoy documenting their own words and sketches in the journals she has created. 

Screen printing allows Kelly to combine her illustrations and drawings with mark making, handwritten text and found textures, all in the one image. It provides a collaborative potential unlike any other medium. Versatile as the medium is, it is also somewhat unpredictable, as you can never be certain how a new layer will take to the layers already in place. 

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UZO OKWUOSA

For the Isobel Wylie Hutchison Collection Uzo has created a bag that prioritises travel, accessibility and practicality, whether the wearer’s expedition is to the Arctic or a local cafe. It is a timeless piece that harks back to the origins of leathercraft, with visible stitching much like Isobel would have encountered on the handcrafted items of the Inuit peoples she lived amongst and a natural, earthy palette that reflects Isobel’s interest in nature, flora and the outdoors. Uzo worked with vegetable tanned leather which is durable and holds its form well, protecting the bag’s contents. An integrated divider in the main part of the bag provides a slim protected area that Isobel might have used for her notebooks or paintings but today could equally hold and protect a laptop. Uzo has also exchanged his trademark two front strap clasps for a singular clasp, making access to the interior of the bag quicker and easier whether the user is simply in a hurry or, like Isobel, hampered by Arctic-weather worthy gloves. 

Uzo of Frank Horn has a deep-rooted attachment to the idea of creating items that embody the processes of the craft, having something that isn’t mass produced but made by someone with a love for what they do. The vision has always been to develop simple and stylish creations. Every item is made using traditional methods and tools, which reflects in the final design – a combination of traditional techniques and contemporary features. 

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CATHERINE AITKEN

Catherine has been inspired by Isobel’s fearlessness and her intrepid travelling, her courageous and uplifting unwillingness to conform to society’s restrictions on women of her time, since the early 1990s. When Catherine began working as a bag designer, Isobel was the woman she visualised wearing her designs, because of her ability to move from the everyday life of a gentlewoman to what could be a long walk to London – or further! 

The Hutchison Haversack allows the wearer to be comfortable with their bag while working in the City, and look the part for heading off into the hills. The Harris Tweed is the same kind that Isobel would have worn; the waxed cotton, produced locally, gives protection; the bag can be worn in a number of ways – as haversack, as messenger bag or as handbag – meaning that like Isobel, the wearer is ready for any occasion. Handmade in Catherine’s Edinburgh studio, the Haversack is lined with cotton drill printed with the map from Isobel’s. It’s time for all of us to be more like Isobel! 

Catherine specialises in working with the heritage cloths of Scotland and intuitive design to create contemporary accessories for the modern urban adventurer. 

Sustainable, slow fashion that’s practical as well as stylish, Catherine’s pieces are inspired by people on the move, the city-break lover, and created for those who want to connect with beauty, purpose and provenance. 

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SAM WHITTON AND FELICITY HAMILTON

Sam Whitton, the world’s first sustainable hemp eyewear designer has worked alongside illustrator Felicity Hamilton to create beautiful hand-painted hemp eyewear. Solid, lightweight and robust material from what is arguably the most sustainable and environmentally-friendly resource in the world. 

The style of the hemp frame takes its lead from mid-century eyewear designs and is exclusive to the Isobel Wylie Hutchison Collection. Felicity, whose illustrated silk textile designs are also featured in the collection, has painted directly onto the hemp surface, creating truly one-off eyewear pieces. 

Every pair of glasses made in his Leith studio features Zeiss lenses, recognised as leaders in lens technology throughout the world, and are assembled by hand using artisanal techniques. 

Felicity’s work is inspired by the fashions Isobel wore and the diverse places and cultures Isobel visited, represented by architectural and floral elements in her designs and has translated these elements from her textile designs into striking hand-painted eyewear offerings. From the number of different outfits Isobel was proudly photographed sporting and the fact that the archive boxes donated to museums included pairs of Isobel’s sunglasses from her travels, this would certainly have met with her approval. 

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