My work during this project evolved through collaboration with MESH artists Irene Campbell, Sophie Ferguson and Barbara Rowell, based on our common interest in materials- and process-led approaches, as well as contemporary weaving techniques. As the project went along, we met several times to share techniques and ideas, and to pass on materials from our own practices to each other. These cross-linkages can be seen in the work we are showing in ‘Lines of Enquiry’.
My line of enquiry stems from my experiences as a beekeeper. While melting down old honeycombs to extract the wax, I noticed tiny, semi-translucent objects floating to the surface.
They were the silk cases that had lined the wax cells where bee larvae had pupated. These tiny structures literally encapsulated the life of the hive and seemed imbued with concentrated meaning. I began to explore different ways of working with wax and hive frames, with inclusions of paper, threads and inks.
This work is a continuation of my interest in natural materials, and the technologies and cultural meanings associated with them. Bees are the supreme technicians of wax, secreting it from their abdomens to create combs of hexagonal cells where larvae are reared from eggs to spin their silk cases, pupate and metamorphose into adult bees. Bee silk differs from other insect silks; being made of coiled protein coils it is very tough.
Barbara Rowell visited me at my home on Skye with a box of samples and materials she had been working with. We tried out different ways of combining these with my experiments with wax, and made a work together.
Finding our way to a creative space where we could fuse our respective interests and know-how was an intense and rewarding experience, and produced results that individually we might not have thought of. A conversation with Barbara introduced me to the symbolic associations of bees in ancient Egyptian culture.
I also read about bee neurophysiology, finding out how bees experience their world and learning that foraging bees exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides can’t find their way home.
These associations fed into my work, which is becoming a commentary on humankind’s long history of living alongside honeybees and the threats now facing them from disease and pesticide use.
Dorothy Jackson’s work will be on show in the Lines of Enquiry Exhibition at the Maclaurin Gallery, Ayr, open daily from 2nd July to 6th August 2017