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A Bag for Isobel

‘A Bag for Isobel’, a plaited hairmoss basket created by award-winning basket maker Sarah Paramor, is a part of an exhibition at St Barbe Museum & Gallery, Lymington, Hampshire, until 16th March 2024.

‘A Bag for Isobel’ plaited hairmoss (Polytrichum commune) created by award-winning basket maker Sarah Paramor

‘Planting Ideas’, leads visitors on a journey through the stages in creating an Herbarium, introducing contemporary art inspired by science and botany. The exhibition looks at historic practices in preserving and presenting plant species and shows how these techniques inspire artists today.

‘A Bag for Isobel’ is a part of the Isobel Wylie Hutchison collection held at Carlowrie Castle. This piece was commissioned in celebration the previous owner of the Castle, 20th Century Arctic explorer, botanist, writer and artist.


Sarah wanted to make a bag for Isobel Wylie Hutchison to take on her 1927 expedition to Greenland. For the first time, she was travelling as a botanist, so she based the piece on a vasculum, a container carried by botanists to collect and transport plant samples. Hairmoss (Polytrichum commune), an unassuming plant that grows abundantly in Scotland, seemed an ideal material for this modest 38-year-old explorer.

Isobel Wylie Hutchison in Greenland in 1927, wearing the traditional Inuit dress for celebrations

When plaited, the hairmoss has a tweedy side to it, echoing Isobel Wylie Hutchison’s Carlowrie Castle heritage, and at the same time it has an unexpected green, mossy, living element, as if the bag could enclose a little bit of verdant Scotland to be carried with her to Greenland. “A Bag for Isobel” is a conceptual piece that Sarah hopes would have made Isobel Wylie Hutchison feel like a botanist. 

Sarah says, “I like to imagine it being something she might show to makers in Greenland, prompting a conversation about craft, about plants and about exploration.”


Planting Ideas, explores plant collecting, pressing and drying, mounting and arranging, preservation, recording, illustration and economic botany the exhibition is curated by Sherry Doyal, a maker, artist and teacher who has also worked as a conservator with both natural science and history collections. 


Each of these themes is illustrated by artefacts on loan and from St Barbe’s collection. They are embellished by contemporary artworks including a basket by Catherine Beaumont, cyanotypes by Angela Chalmers, road dust prints by Edward Chell, embroidery by Amanda Cobbett, Lynn Comley’s felt and embroidered textiles, Caroline Dear’s moss construction, Joe Horner’s photography, Stef Mitchell’s monotypes, Sarah Morrish’s botanical illustrations, Sarah Paramor’s moss bag and Helen Thomas’s paintings.


The exhibition not only wishes to entertain and delight but also to educate about botany in the New Forest by featuring the work of locally based botanical artists exploring plants found locally and likely to be affected by climate change. Other highlights include books by Anna Atkins and Henry Smith from the Linnean Society collection, Hampshire-based herbarium sheets from Hampshire Cultural Trust and Sven Berlin’s New Forest painting Gypsies Sorting Flowers on loan from a private collection.


Sarah lives in Applecross on the west coast of Scotland, and makes her baskets in a restored byre (cowshed) using techniques learnt from traditional basketmakers, and experimenting with Highland plants.


If you can, the exhibition is well worth a visit. Planting Ideas, St Barbe Museum & Gallery, Lymington, Hampshire, until 16th March 2024.

Check our instagram @isobelwyliehutchison for a short clip of Sarah making the bag.


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The North Star Explorer

Learn more about Isobel’s passion for the natural world, her experience of travelling to remote places and her encounters expressed through art and creative writing.

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