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Gray Ross, Lynn

Lynn Gray Ross (1946-2022) was an Arran textile artist, funding and managing craft-based community projects on the island from 1976.

She was born in Kilmarnock in 1946 and at the age of 11 her parents emigrated to California. An avid knitter as a child, it was whilst living in America, and in particular spending time in Mexico during the country’s Olympic summer of 1968, that she developed a fascination for Mexican weaving Culture.

In 1970 her then-husband’s work took her to Stockholm, Sweden, where she completed her MA in linguistics at Linköping University.  She continued her passion for textiles, taking classes in weaving and dyeing at Handarbetetsvänner and acquiring a large-frame Swedish loom.

After the separation from her first husband and with a burning desire to return to Scotland she made the journey to Arran with her daughter in 1975. On her arrival on Arran, she was given space at the gallery in Whiting Bay to assemble her loom, where she began to hold workshops and assimilate local textile techniques into her work.

She then established the Silverbirch Spinning and Weaving Workshop attracting students who came to her from colleges worldwide and achieving international acclaim. Silverbirch was a model in high quality craftsmanship and small-scale, sustainable production. A notable commission was a tapestry of Arran for the ‘Women Weaving the World Together’ exhibition at the United Nations Conference on Women, hosted in Beijing in 1995.

Turning her attention to adult education Lynn founded Arran Textiles which forged several projects which would connect lifelong learners through workshops and conferences in all corners of Europe leaning again on traditional textiles skills. She applied similar endeavour to social well-being on the island, serving as Chair of the Board of Trust Housing Association and supporting many other community causes.

Lynn travelled extensively in the UK, the US & Europe, as a delegate from Scotland, teaching practical skills and advising on the development of craft projects as a tool for regeneration in rural communities. She also spent time as an advisor to the government of Lesotho and the Tristan da Cunha Administration on the reintroduction of traditional craft production to the local economy.

Her work has been exhibited on Arran and in textile exhibitions worldwide.

Despite serious health issues in her final decade, Lynn authored the book

‘A Beginners Guide to Hand Weaving’ published by Bloomsbury Press.

The book documents some of the work and processes which were developed at Silverbirch.

In addition to her weaving work, Lynn managed the website for The Arran Knitting Company along with her daughter Jill and two sons Christopher and Simon.

She said this about her work:

“The inspiration for my knitting and weaving comes from the island, reflecting the constant changes in the natural surroundings and from the culture and history of the people who have lived here before me.

I use natural raw materials. They are the touchstone each time I start a new piece. The colours in my work are from natural dyes from a rainbow spectrum I have developed which is environmentally friendly both in the dye process and to the people involved in production.

I try to capture reflections of the sea or shapes of the mountains & rocks, or a fleeting glimpse of a figure like the Celtic monk who came to Arran from Ireland to nurture his spirit or Blind Peggy who dyed wool with plants which she recognised by taste. Through my textiles I can share my experience of colour, texture and the world about me in a way that would otherwise not be possible.”

She was also part of the Arran Arts Heritage Trail research group which was set up in 2020.

Lynn Gray Ross remained living on Arran until her death in 2022.

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