Artist Fiona McLachlan-Powell has proposed to create sculptural installations inspired by female agricultural workers of the past, known as ‘bondagers’. Bondagers were hired at a hiring fair by hinds, who needed their labour, and worked in agriculture in East Lothian and Berwickshire. The installation will be of sculptural objects taken from the material culture of the bondagers.

The bondagers habitually received poor treatment and the hinds resented having to pay to hire them, being tied to the land by the bond paid for a year. They had very little of anything and protected their skin from severe weather by the ‘uglies’ – hats with a sheltering rim. How much protection these gave is questionable, however.

‘Uglies’ prototype – constructed from nylon, wire, straw, thread and muslin.

Fiona proposes to recreate the uglies using nylon tights as the main fabric, as seen in the prototype. This item of a woman’s clothing is intimate in nature to emphasise the feminine. The piece will include six uglies which will become more and more threadbare and ruined to emphasise the bondagers’ reduced rights and vulnerability.

The bondagers used blankets to separate their sleeping quarters from the families they lived with, improvising their own space.

Mockup showing the pile of blankets, stencilled with the words ‘By Laidlaw – logo of the woollen mill at Cumledge, on the Whiteadder Water – where the blankets are likely to have been produced.

Fiona McLachlan-Powell is an emerging artist based at the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop. Her personal story of growing up in the Lammermuirs helps to reflect on the long scale of time, natural and human process and interaction of the area.

She uses past referencing of modest materials, concerned with humanity and the psyche. Her work focuses on evolving forms that change through process, materials and environment. The dialogue between memory, her earlier life in rural Berwickshire, the psyche, and the recognition of humanity are central to her work.

You can find more about Fiona’s work here: https://cargocollective.com/fionamc