Joanne B Kaar’s new and ongoing project takes inspiration from aprons in all their various forms, and she is sharing your stories and photos on her blog for all to enjoy.

If you have any classic aprons, house dresses, wrap aprons, housecoats, ‘dusters’ or pinnies, either worn now, stashed in your cupboard, or in photos, art and memories, please do get in touch with her.

The project will eventually be developed into new artwork and designs, pushing traditional, educational and creative apron boundaries, while being easily folded and packed away, of course.

Ochrolechia tartarea lichen wrap apron designs

The house dress was often worn by women when dyeing yarns with lichen (crottle/crotal) in the Scottish Highland and Islands. Traditionally, this type of work clothing had a small, repeat floral pattern. Lichens, their folklore, uses and traditions, and associated work clothes combined to provide inspiration for her first wrap apron: she used a pen and ink drawing of Ochrolechea Tartarea (light crottle) to design the fabric.

Joanne B Kaar’s new crottle Wrap apron. Model: Sophie Kinghorn. Sheep: Sheep.

About Joanne:

A research based visual artist inspired by journeys over land, sea and through time, combining fact, fiction and folklore, Joanne lives in Caithness, Scotland, which being the most northerly point on the UK mainland, is geographically the proper North East, if not the actual one.  She holds an honours degree from Grays School of Art, Aberdeen, and a Master of Arts from Manchester Metropolitan University, and traveled extensively during her career, but now she lives only 2 miles from where she grew up, with the North Atlantic Ocean and Norwegian Sea forming the horizon. Joanne has been self-employed since graduating in Dec 1992, starting as artist in residence for the Isle of Skye a few weeks later.

In 2003, The Guild of Master craftsman published her book “Papermaking and Bookbinding Coastal Inspirations.”

Joanne B Kaar crottle wrap apron

Her artwork takes inspiration from our heritage. As both participant and instigator of arts and heritage projects and collaborations, she has worked and exhibited in Taiwan, South Korea, Iceland, USA, Canada, Estonia, Catalonia and the UK while also exhibiting in Japan, New Zealand, Germany, Australia, Sweden, Finland, Oman, Kuwait, Dubai and Saudi Arabia.

She is the recipient of an ‘Iconic Artists in Iconic Places Award’ from Museum Galleries Scotland and Creative Scotland.

Inspired by the competition to cross the Atlantic non-stop in 1919, she instigated an international community paper aeroplane exchange between 8 museums, heritage groups, and galleries in the North of Scotland and Newfoundland.

She has been selected twice as artist-in residence for Newfoundland and Labrador Crafts Council in Newfoundland, where she was a key-note speaker for their conference ‘Using Crafts to Tell a Story’, in collaboration with the Intangible Cultural Heritage department of the Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s. She has recently returned from consulting for the Trinity Historical Society on their portable museum project.

Keen to learn traditional skills, research local stories, learn about conservation and care of objects, she enjoys finding inventive ways to attract new audiences while adding new information to little studied artifacts.

One of her favourite work achievements was solving the mystery of how Angus MacPhee made his grass garments. Angus was a crofter from Uist who spent almost 50 years in a Highland psychiatric hospital; he didn’t speak, but he wove a series of incredible costumes out of grass. Joanne’s full size replicas are now part of the Art Extraordinary Trust collection along with Angus’s original grass garments, all now held in Glasgow Museums.

She has collaborated with Lynn Taylor, a printmaker in New Zealand, she has been lead artist for Chrysalis Arts in a two year, slow art, community artist residency project in Swaledale North Yorkshire, and was artist in residence for the National Trust for Scotland at Inverewe Gardens.

She supports local heritage groups run by volunteers for the Brough Bay Association, Castletown Heritage Society and Mary Anns Cottage, all in Caithness.

Joanne’s Crafts Council UK Makers Profile


Cover Photo: Linda Travis, grandmother, born 1895 Nee Margaret Elliot in Newcastle

“… gran in her wrap-over apron, usually accompanied with cardigan and complete with full fit slippers. This photo sums up my memories of gran. Every Sunday the family would gather at gran’s for a full roast dinner. She would make the gravy in a large roasting tin and a spoon that she rotated in circles (getting rid of Bisto lumps I guess), which caused short gyrations of the apron – as you can see, she’s a big lass….”

Get Newcastle Magazine direct to your inbox.

* indicates required


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here