A xylotheque is a library of wood samples, a form devised during the Enlightenment as part of the project to define nature in terms of categories, types, kinds, and value. It allowed people to compare the grain, colour, and density of different woods, in a time when new species from overseas were being introduced.
I previously made a xylotheque in the form of wooden hinged books, in oak, each containing an inlaid sample of a tree species from the native woodland, for the hidden gardens (Glasgow).
This is an outdoor xylotheque, sheltered within a hut, built around an oak tree.
In this new version of a xylotheque, the walking wood, rather than standard samples, the artwork consists of 12 walking sticks.
Each shaft, or shank, is made from a different native species by my long-term stick-maker collaborator Peter Redhead.
One xylotheque will represent a Lowland wood, the other a Highland wood, with species that are typical of those ecologies. Peter and I decided that the only crossover species would be oak.
The final artwork will be installed at the Paths for All Demonstration centre, Oatridge College, near Broxburn, where accessible seat designs and path surfaces are tested. I want to add the xylotheque there as a model for the creation of innovative small-scale public works of art, to encourage communities to commission similar projects, aligned with biodiversity and participation. To become more aware of tree species which belong together is bound to encourage people to create diverse woodlands.
Scots pine, holly
silver birch, alder
For my work on limit, pain and chronic illness I've created a series of imaginary demo-sticks with placards added, which you can see here, suggesting the ways in which gentle activities, such as walking, can have radical consequences, encouraging people to feel a sense of permission to care for the world.
a walking stick has
the vulnerability of the sapling
and the strength of the full-
grown tree trunk
sticks are straight
a walking stick
is an extension of the arm
and an imitation of the leg
sticks should be cut in the dead season
when no leaves are to be seen
a walking stick should meet your body
just above the palm
a friendly reminder –
in some cultures
walking sticks were traditionally
decorated with the heads
not all sticks swagger
knobbles add character to a stick
as wrinkles do to the walker
Before these sticks become anchored in a static public artwork, we thought we should took them for a walk in the woodlands they're dedicated to. This May they were walked by groups around Scotland. Sam MacDiarmid took photos of two of the events, a walk up Barr Mor, Taynish NNR (with Argyll Live and Tamara Colchester of plant listening), and a walk with the Nethy Bridge Paths for All Health Walk, in Dell Wood, (also with Tamara as a guide).