See all stories
14 Jul 2022

Solas 2022 creative residency on Canna

Written by Fiona J Mackenzie, Canna House Archivist
An image made up of three colour photos side by side. On the left are a collection of brightly painted and felted stones. In the middle is a nest-like basket, with yellow flowers wrapped around the rim. On the right, a bunch of flowers lies against an engraved stone at the foot of a sundial.
Artwork created during the 2022 Solas creative residency on Canna
For the past three years, Canna House has delivered an immersive creative residency every June, in which artists from all the creative arts are invited to create new work inspired by the Canna media archives. These archives comprise the photography and film of Margaret Fay Shaw as well as the sound archive collection of John Lorne Campbell.

The three-year Solas project, which has been very generously funded by the National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA, aims to further explore and promote the photographic archives of Margaret Fay Shaw. The creative residency has become a much-anticipated feature of the summer events programme on Canna and is enjoyed by visitors and residents alike. Previous residencies have resulted in the creation of trails for visitors to follow; making places for visitors to contemplate their surroundings and find inspiration and peace from nature around them; and the delivery of workshops in many different crafts, including leaf-printing, stone-painting and felt making. These crafts were all inspired by the colours of the shoreline and hillside, as reflected in Margaret’s films of Canna in particular.

Cats Gu Leòr – Cats Galore on Canna

The Solas Point: Canna’s new art installation

This year is the final year of the Solas project. The theme for the residency was ‘legacy’, and the artists were invited to respond in whatever medium they wished. Singer/songwriter Yvonne Lyon chose to compose a song cycle; artist Raine Clarke worked with basket weaving and lino prints; and ceramics artist and floral artist Lynne Knott worked with the colours seen in the garden and the harbour ‘graffiti’ as well as the textures of ‘found’ objects. Solas is the Gaelic word for ‘light’ and this was certainly the creative strand which wove its way through our ten days of art. Light in every sense of the word was celebrated: the sun, the water, the horizon, the clouds and the mood.

Visitors and residents on the island were invited to observe the artists at work and also to participate. As this is Scotland’s Year of Stories, a song & storytelling session was held at the Rubha Sholais during the ferry stopover period midweek. With the harbour and Lochnevis ferry in the background, I read a story collected by John Lorne Campbell, telling of the ghostly presence of the master of the former CalMac ferry MV Lochmor, Captain Donald Joseph Mackinnon (also known as An Eòsag). Canna ranger Catriona played some tunes on the flute. Our artists-in-residence Yvonne and Raine read poetry and sang us songs to help lift the damp greyness of the day!

In addition, Catriona also led a Cuairt cladaich (shoreline walk) on the Saturday morning, and Raine delivered a felt making workshop in the afternoon in the Old Dairy, which proved very popular. The original Solas film that I produced in the first phase of the project was screened and was much enjoyed by many of the cruise ship passengers who arrived on the island that afternoon.

Read more about the Solas film

Buy the Solas DVD

A group of smiling people either sit or stand around a long workbench. There are mats in front of each person, as well as pairs of scissors, bars of soap, some old tights and a bowl of water. There are several grey stones at the end of the bench. Printed artworks have been pinned up on the walls around the room.
Raine’s workshop

The full day of events concluded with a ceilidh in the Shearing Shed, where the rafters were ringing to the sounds of the fantastic Canna Ceilidhers band – made up of piper and composer James Duncan Mackenzie (who composed the score for the Solas film), accordion player Robert Nairn and guitarist Ross Martin.

Yvonne gave another set of fabulous crowd-pleasing songs as well as some of her self-penned songs. Café Canna provided fantastic stovies and refreshments to keep the ceilidh-goers happy. Films from the Canna archives were projected onto the wall behind the band, and at times it was as if John and Margaret Campbell were in the room with us, enjoying themselves as much as everyone else!

The Solas residencies have not only given artists the opportunity to explore their own creativity but they have also provided opportunities for our own island communities to explore and be inspired by the Canna collections. The residencies have been a great example of the ‘collage effect’ of the Canna Collections – the music feeds into the visual, which in turn feeds back into the tangible outcomes of creativity: song, colour, and the spoken and written word.

Moran taing dhuibh uile – thank you everyone for participating and for contributing. And I’d like to offer an enormous thank you as well to our donors for the opportunity to further explore the treasures of the Canna Collections.


Explore Canna

Visit now