Making the Scotland connection
Local artist weaving tartans for exchange trip
by Clay Neely - firstname.lastname@example.org
AnnLynn Whiteside can often be found these days tucked away in her small studio just outside of Newnan, working diligently at her weaving loom. Whiteside is creating the tartans that members of the Centre Masterworks Ensemble Choir will be wearing during a performance in Ayr, Scotland this summer.
For those not familiar with the garment, a tartan is a pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colors. The tartan is often associated with Scotland, as Scottish kilts often have tartan patterns.
Tartans were banned in Scotland in 1746, as the British government attempted to bring warrior clans under control and suppress other forms of Gaelic culture. Once the law was repealed, the tartan was adopted as the symbolic national dress of Scotland.
Whiteside made her first tartan two years ago as a Christmas present for her father.
“It’s a family tartan,” Whiteside said. “We’re from the MacNeil clan. I searched online, found the pattern and enlarged it enough to count the treads.”
Last year, Whiteside was attending the John C Kimball folk school in North Carolina during Scottish Heritage Week in hopes of learning how to make Scottish estate tweeds. During her visit, she spoke with one of the instructors about weaving tartans.
“When I came home, I decided that, in 2014, my focus would be placed on making tartans and Scottish estate tweeds,” she said.
Last Christmas during the Newnan Hospital Auxiliary’s Candlelight Tour of Homes, Whiteside was approached by Pamela Prange, from the Newnan Cultural Arts Commission.
“[Pamela] asked me what I was up to these days and I told her that I was working on my weaving,” Whiteside said. “When I told her my focus was on the tartan, she asked if it would be possible to weave some tartans for the choir.”
“It was a serendipitous meeting,” said Prange of her run-in with Whiteside. “We mentioned the idea at the next Newnan Cultural Arts Commission meeting and everyone was supportive and excited. How terrific is that to receive a piece of handmade art from Newnan and offer it to our friends across the pond.”
Once the idea was approved, Whiteside was commissioned to produce a total of 60 tartans and collaborated with JoAnn Ray, vice chair for the Global Achievers, on the design.
“It’s so exciting to have an artist in our community who can weave the official state of Georgia McIntosh tartan,” said Ray. “Because of Chief McIntosh and what he did — he really represented his nation well — he was a special person and I think we’re lucky to have that connection.”
The official state of Georgia tartan was adopted in 1997 by the Georgia legislature and is listed in the official Scottish Tartan Registry.
Each tartan is 72 inches and Whiteside will be making a few that are a little shorter for the smaller members of the choir. In order to complete each one, Whiteside will spend five hours preparing the loom. Once the thread is tied and wound on the front of the loom, she can begin the process of weaving, which can take up to four hours.
“For a tartan, the threads are very specific,” Whitside explained. “For the tartan we are creating, the pattern goes 24 black, 20 blue, 40 red, 20 blue, 24 black, 6 green, 4 black, 4 green, 4 black, 72 green and then it repeats.”
“Once I begin weaving, I can really start to get into the zone,” Whiteside said.
Currently, Whiteside is nearing the halfway mark in the project. She will continue to work throughout April and May to finish the remaining tartans. Her tartans will ultimately be the sole piece of color – as the choir will be wearing formal black and white attire for the performance.
“I’m really excited to be doing this project,” Whiteside said. “Not only because it was my focus throughout the year but for that practice to fall into something the county is doing, and to be able to help them, makes it even more exciting.
“I think it’s kind of cool,” she smiled.
Follow Clay Neely on Twitter - @clayneely