John O’ Groat Journal: New Adventure for Travelling String Dogs

12th April 2013


John O' Groat Journal and Caithness Courier by Catriona Metcalf

Read the full article here


A DUNNET artist is to exhibit her string dog creations in an open studio event in Dumfries and Galloway next month.

Fibre artist Joanne B. Kaar is travelling to the Wigtown County Buildings for the 11th annual Spring Fling which sees events take place across the region over the weekend of May 25-27.

She has been chosen as one of 36 art makers and designers to take part among a total of 93 exhibitors.

Kaar is continuing a project she started during a residency at last year’s Wigtown Book Festival in which she taught simple craft techniques to get people involved in crafts, creativity and storytelling.

Kaar said: “My theme last year was ‘Spinning a Yarn’. I made two string dogs before I went with the idea that the people who came along to the show could decide what the dog’s names would be. They called them Newton and Stewart after the nearby town of Newton Stewart.”

Visitors also helped to create a story about the dogs’ adventures, with each person writing a single idea on a tag. Kaar joined the ideas together and made a story from them. The exercise was so successful she will invite this year’s visitors to help with a new chapter.

“I photographed Newton and Stewart and printed it out in a larger than life picture which is being sent around the country before this year’s event starts. It first ended up at Dunnet Head Lighthouse, then Shetland and on an island near Oban. They’ve been to Lindisfarne too. The fun of it is I don’t know where they’re going to end up as it’s up to the person that gets hold of them next!”

The Wigtown locals donated a huge amount of grass and plant fibres during last year’s show and Kaar has been making new string animals out of the material for this year.

“I came home with a car full of grass and leaves given to me. I’ve made a team of Huskies this time and my very own breed called the Wigtown Waggers.

“I want to show people how to make string from plants in their own gardens. It’s simple to do and can then be used in all sorts of creative ways, whether it’s something like making toys or as part of flower arrangements or even as an attractive alternative to commercial twine for tying things back in their own gardens.”

Kaar has been busy recently making a new Portable Museum of Curiosity for Strathnaver Museum, Bettyhill, as part of a residency which she has been involved in for more than a year. She was due to deliver it to the museum yesterday, with BBC Alba filming the event.

Kaar said: “The portable museum for Strathnaver is a taster of what’s on display in their museum. The box, when closed, is inspired by the pulpit at the centre of the museum as it’s in an old church building. It was from this pulpit that the minister read out the eviction notices for the Clearances.

“When you open the portable museum it makes the sound of a flock of sheep and the feature inside the lid is Aggie, the pet sheep of museum volunteer Rosemary Mackintosh.”

The box is designed to be a self-contained exhibition, with information under flaps and an educational element built in. It will be loaned out to village halls, schools, groups, galleries, heritage centres and museums for people to learn more about Strathnaver Museum and entice them along to visit.

“The museum volunteers saw the portable museum I made for Caithness Horizons and loved it that much they commissioned one for themselves,” Kaar said.

Elliot Rudie, a volunteer at Strathnaver Museum, said: “Joanne went around the collection and picked up on certain things like a very genteel woman’s boot that had been preserved in a clay wall.

“The idea was to be inspired by the artefacts. She took photographs of the objects and did a lot of research on them.

“The museum is very proud to have one of her portable museums of our own.”

There is a short film about the portable museum at