SUTHERLAND, in the far north-west reaches of Scotland, is one of Britain's last wild outposts, where up on the vast expanses of moor and mountains you can leave behind modern society and experience nature in its most beautiful and cruel forms. But watch your step.
Occasionally an adventurous hiker will stumble across an object which appears like nothing that nature created and yet is not quite human either. These rare gifts are the offerings of Lotte Glob, local ceramic artist and sculptor, who has left 75 of her works in the hills between the small crofting villages of Durness and Torridon, in a lifelong mission to give something back to nature.
Lotte spends many of her days hiking in the mountains, gathering materials for her work in the studio on the shores of Loch Eriboll. "I bring back rocks and clay and use it in my work," she says. "I play around with nature and put it back."
Her sculptures are a metamorphosis of the raw materials she brings from the hills. She heats them up, to the molten state they would have been before they hardened on earth, and then remoulds them into other-worldly shapes: round, weather-beaten rocks of browns, blues and greens; stones which float or fly, and unknown, yet strangely familiar creatures or plants. They are symbols of nature's enduring ability to change and adapt.
Every so often Lotte makes a pilgrimage into the mountains, which drew her from her native Denmark some 38 years ago when she was 24. "I always have something in my backpack," she says. Sometimes the sculptures are heavy and awkward to carry and often she sleeps overnight, with only a bivvy bag and limited food supplies, but this is all part of what has become an almost spiritual journey.
Lotte documents each mission with photographs and records her thoughts and feelings as she delivers her offering to nature, from the self-doubt and physical difficulties of climbing mountains and hiking over rough terrain in harsh weather, to the joy of a sunrise or unexpected mountain loch. "Life is sometimes gruelling and nature is not just romantic – it's the moments that count."
On one occasion she took a particularly heavy sculpture up a hill covered in snow. It was an arduous journey, but when she reached the top the view was so breathtaking that she wanted to take a photograph of the sculpture on the cliffs before she found it a more permanent resting place.
"I stepped back to take the photograph and a gust of wind broke the piece!" Lotte recalls. Undeterred, she returned another day with some glue.
As well as the sculptures in the hills, more recently, Lotte has left subtle artistic offerings in the lochans of north-west Scotland. Observant travellers to these watery havens in the hills may encounter floating stones, gleaming unnaturally smooth and blue or green amidst the water lilies. The stones have been left in 111 lochs, all of which have been recorded, between Durness and Oban, in Argyllshire.
The floating stones are also a theme to a memorial garden in Durness for John Lennon, who visited the area as a child. The fountain there includes around 200 of the stones, which local children helped to decorate.
Until recently, Lotte had her studio in Balnakeil, a popular craft village north-west of Durness, where the highly regarded artist made sculptures, plates and bowls for her expeditions as well as to be sold at exhibitions or in her shop. She was one of the first artists to take up one of the spaces in this disused military base and the area has now developed into a thriving artistic community.
Her current home and studio east of Durness is much more an expression of her beliefs on looking after the environment and creation of structures which fit in with the natural beauty of her surroundings. The timber-built house stands on stilts, with windows all along the front to let in as much of the light as possible. It has minimal walls and doors inside to allow "the outside to come inside," as she says.
This and her new studio, which is under construction, are now keeping Lotte closer to home. Gradually her garden has filled up with peaceful-looking creatures, plants and rocks, which add a surreal quality to this tranquil spot, where the windswept moorland rolls down to the sea.
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