Clootie Well for Hospitalfield
Collaborative installation

As Lead Artist on the Young Artist programme at Hospitalfield, I worked with a group of targeted young people from Angus on Saturdays for 20 weeks. As well as making their own work and learning new skills, the group explored the house’s history and collections, and for the culmination of the project, installed an exhibition that ran across the grounds and historic rooms.

Alongside this, I developed Clootie Well for Hospitalfield with the aim of creating an ending ritual for the Young Artist Club’s final meeting.   

Drawing on Hospitalfield’s early history as a place of healing and pilgrimage, and linking this with the ancient celtic tradition of making wishes at holy springs by tying pieces of cloth to nearby branches, the group transformed the Victorian fernery into a colourful grotto, installing textile pieces and making weavings using the metalwork on site. 

As the young people made their work we reflected on how they had grown in confidence and made new friends. We ended the session with each member of the group tying a ribbon and making a private wish for themselves. The following day, as part of their exhibition, they invited their families to do the same, so that the installation was added to throughout the day. 

Text from exhibition catalogue:

Clootie Well for Hospitalfield reimagines the fernery as a centre for pilgrimage and healing. A site-specific collaborative weaving will link Hospitalfield’s early history, as a hospital for pilgrims travelling to Arbroath Abbey, with the pre-Christian tradition of Clootie Wells. These were holy wells associated with healing, where pilgrims would dip strips of cloth in the water before tying them to trees as part of a wishing ritual. Ferns are ancient plants and have long been associated with sacredness. Visitors can add their own ribbon to the Young Artists’ installation and make a wish.