Opening a Centre for Learning and Conservation in his name, SHBT always intended to create some interpretation about Patrick Geddes in the public spaces leading to Riddle’s Court.
Artist Mary Bourne’s stone installation, ‘The Carpet of Leaves,’ previously at the Scottish Poetry Library is being relocated to Riddle’s Close. Mary’s installation references Geddes’ motto ‘By Leaves We Live’. With additional funding from Creative Scotland, our aspiration to create a brand new artistic commission for the Old Town could be realised: a series of roundels in the paving to intrigue and delight visitors to the Close.
Learning Officer, Russell Clegg, travelled to Ballater School to meet class P4/5 and teacher Julie Strang to introduce them to the Riddle’s Court project. Geddes was born in the Aberdeenshire town. The pupils were familiar with him, but less with this corner of the Lawnmarket that he took on as part of his social improvement schemes from the 1880s.
Mary also visited the school, explaining our project idea: to create a trail of carved stones into the inner courtyard of Riddle’s Close. The pupils were excited to don the safety goggles and dust masks she had brought and start work on the large piece of clashach sandstone with mallets and chisels! Each pupil had a go at carving a leaf design into the stone.
Next, some botanising in the school grounds: brambles, rowanberries, crab apples and silver birch identified and sketched by the pupils. This would provide material for Mary to inform her designs.
Russell and Mary then visited the Historic Environment Scotland conservation workshop at Elgin Cathedral to explain the Riddle’s Court project and three apprentice stonemasons from the Elgin programme were chosen to work with Mary.
In February this year, Ross Kennedy, Megan Crawford and Gregor Alcorn planned their design storyboards, which they brought to Riddle’s Court along with some plaster maquettes for project architect, Sarah Gear, to appraise.
They then carved the roundels back at Elgin: fern, willow and pine to represent Scotland, mango leaves for India, olives for Montpelier - thus Geddes’ international projects are represented in the trail.
Mary and Ross followed this with a second visit to Ballater to show class P4/5 some of the completed roundels and in June this year the class will visit Riddle’s Court to see the finished paving scheme.
The project has come full circle – by leaves we live!