Maya Owen (she/her)
I work with textiles and music to tell stories about people and places. I enjoy researching specific locations and people in history and making things to dress up in. A focus on sustainable and traditional hand craft practices and an interest in folk and social history permeates all my work. I write music and sing stories too.
My work is very process driven, I like spending time learning and perfecting techniques as I believe the making to be as much a part of the work as the finished product. I’m also interested in using ancient techniques to explore modern shapes and experimenting with mixing methods of construction and decoration; using history to influence but not dictate the form and feeling of my work.
Sustainability and ethical practice are very important to me and I endeavour to fully research and consider the work I make and how it impacts the environment as well as trying to address ideas of consumerism and waste in the themes of my work.
The Pilgrimage Project
The main project of my final year of university, this combined drawing, song writing, printing and making garments under one theme, an imagined trip to the Outer Hebrides. The project started with conversations with my dad about the trip that he did around Northern Scotland in the summer of 1991. His stories and memories, as well as those of my mum and two other friends who accompanied him, inspired the works; each piece reflecting vague memories and imagined places. Shown here are a selection of outcomes, they are documented more extensively under their individual headings: Battledress, Escapade, Pilgrimage EP, Memory Quilt, Broadside, Song Cards, and Pilgrimage Drawings.
The Battledress combines the various wearable items made for the Pilgrimage project: a pair of knitted socks, a shift, a pair of pockets, a headscarf and a waterproof dress coat. All of these items take inspiration from historical textile practices and were designed and made by me.
Each item was inspired by a story or place described to me in the interviews I conducted at the beginning of the project.
The socks, or ‘hose’, came from a comment my dad made about all the serious walkers going up Ben Nevis wearing red socks and peddle pushers. Very warm for winter walking and held up by cotton tape garters tied below the knee.
The shift is a response to my research on medieval Scotland and the prominent evidence of history within the landscape, visible next to the signs of encroaching modernity. It is hand sewn and traditionally constructed from a 13th century pattern.
The pockets were inspired by 17th and 18th century detachable pockets, worn under the skirts and reached by slits in the side. Mine are made from a linen napkin belonging to my great grandfather’s household, emblazoned with his family crest. If there is no mobile phone signal on your journey, why not carry a pocket encyclopedia for those moments when you need a quick answer or a bit of cerebral entertainment? One of these knowledgable tomes (not pocket size) provided evening entertainment for the 4 on long drives.
The headscarf is embroidered in cross stitch with the word ‘SCRAMBLE’ which is what you would do if you were being chased down a mountain by an angry ram, which did happen to my dad.
The Escapade is a waterproof dress which packs down into a small bundle, like it’s inspiration, the Pac-a-mac.
All photographs taken by fellow student, Tom Ive.
Follow the ‘Music’ link in my bio to listen.
The four songs of this EP are based on the interviews and research from the Pilgrimage project.
Whisky Galore was constructed from lines taken almost verbatim from the interviews and is about the melancholic beauty of Scotland.
The Misty Isle Hotel is a ballad about a hotel in Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye, the passage of time and the tourist industry in the Highlands.
Kite Song documents the remarkable Scottish wind holding a kite that had been pegged in the ground, up in the air for an entire day.
The Banquet is a Medieval invitation to a feast with the Clan MacLeod on one of their table mountains, based on an urban legend that they held banquets on the hill to intimidate their guests.
The guitar and vocals were recorded in my bedroom in Glasgow, the bass and percussion in Stroud at Sponge Studios. The tracks were mixed by Jam Sponge.
I made a score for the Banquet, based on examples of medieval sheet music which was often very illustrative and non-linear. Here the staves follow the lines of the landscape in photographs my dad took on his trip. The crest is the very same that adorns the pockets for the Battledress.
I shot a lot of footage of the Battledress once it was complete, in various locations near Glasgow. Had further travel been permitted, I would have taken the costume to some of the places it was inspired by and filmed it in those spaces. Failing that, I felt it was important for the costume to be seen in nature, it is an outdoor outfit after all. A 3rd year Communication Design student, Mourad Kourbaj, edited this footage together. The soundtrack is ‘Whisky Galore’ from the Pilgrimage EP.
This quilt is pieced from cut up linen shirts given to me by my parents. The back is a sheet I used to sleep on as a child, worn so thin in the middle but still stiff and starched at the edges. I had intended to quilt it whilst travelling in the footsteps of my dad on my journey up to see the Callanish standing stones on the Isle of Lewis, as this was his and was to be my destination. It was instead quilted in my bedroom in Glasgow but will be my companion and keep me warm when I make the journey at a later date.
Memory quilts and commemorative quilts are a long tradition. They are made in remembrance or celebration of a place or a person, a group or an event. This celebrates the tradition of patchwork and quilting in my family, my connection to and love for them.
In the 17th century, popular and new ballads, telling well known tales or stories of current events, were printed cheaply and disseminated like newspapers for musicians and singers to interpret as they liked. I made one for the ballad of the Misty Isle Hotel, with a small print of the real building in Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye.
A run of 21 are available for purchase on white Zerkall mould made acid free smooth and as well as 3 copies on the sun-bleached green and just one on the mustard yellow. Contact me by email for details.
A collaboration with Rhian Lloyd, 3rd year Communication Design.
Combining our joint love of costume making and folk history, this project centred around the small coastal village of Inverkip in Renfrewshire. Despite being a hotbed of witchcraft activity in the 1660s with many women put on trial and murdered for their suspicious activities, our research trip revealed no trace of this dramatic history. We resolved to take some 17th century sorcery back to Inverkip.
“As the tide leaves some things and takes others, so the past is in turns remembered and forgotten. Perhaps in our washed-away histories we have become wary of gatherers. Certainly in the 17th century a woman collecting washed up bones from Inverkip’s shore might have been thought suspicious, though her corset might have been constructed from whale cartilage. Even taking sand could be directions from the devil.” From Rhian’s brief.
“While thinking about the way the beach may have looked in the mid 17th Century and looking at the discarded plastic and refuse of the modern world, time becomes as fluid as the river. The trees are mostly new, they have not witnessed much change. Some perhaps were germinating in a time when witches roamed this shoreline, and pushed up their shoots as the dead twigs were gathered for the lethal pyre.” From my brief.
My pair of sleeves were inspired by the yellow ‘special mark’ buoy in Inverkip Bay, a signal of buried treasure, sewer outlets, waterskiing boundaries and shallow water amongst other things. A bright beam signalling something. A special mark for marking a special thing. Their shape is influenced by 17th century designs. The skirt is for gathering, combing, collecting; an apron all the way around.
Kite Song Cards
A set of cards for viewing and reordering the lyrics of the Kite Song from the Pilgrimage EP. These small symbol drawings are based on musical notation, common patchwork designs for quilts and the shapes of items from the Battledress. Each has a symbol on the front and a lyric on the back and they can be shuffled to create new narratives or new pattern sequences as the viewer chooses.
A selection of drawings from throughout the year. Along with writing reams and reams, drawing and painting helps me think and allows ideas to sort themselves in my head before I go about them.