The story behind Ola Gorie’ new Ness of Brodgar collection
In 2003, Arnie and Ola Tait asked a local farmer to plough the field next to their house at Brodgar. Set a bit deeper than previous years, the plough unearthed an impressive carved slab, and the archaeologists were called in to have a look. What seemed at first a single ancient grave turned out – over 13 years of excavation – to be one of the most significant Neolithic sites in Western Europe.
Ola had spent her life as a designer exploring her Norse and Celtic heritage, as well as the imagery of famous Neolithic sites like Maes Howe and Skara Brae. Her jewellery designs helped spread knowledge of Orkney’s unique culture, and also inspired generations of younger designers.
Now the greatest inspiration of all had been discovered under her feet at the Ness of Brodgar.
As Nick Card led teams of archaeologists in their exploration of the site, with its massive walls and buildings, its enigmatic standing stones, its unrivalled collection of carved and coloured stones, so Ola started exploring the possibilities for jewellery based on the Ness’s finds.
Sketches were drawn and erased, new inspirations followed old as each season turned up exciting new discoveries. Finally, in the summer of 2015, everything came together. Ola attended the Art & Archaeology workshop run at the Ness by UHI, and spent three days studying, drawing and carving with daughter Ingrid Tait (who runs the company, now that Ola is retired) and Susan Cross, an old acquaintance (and Jerwood Prize-winning jeweller) from Edinburgh.
Now the exploration phase was over, and it was time for creation.
We’ll never know exactly how or why the original carvings at the Ness of Brodgar were made. But the creative process for Ola Gorie’s new collection is documented through a stack of photos, sketchbook pages, mock-ups, prototypes…and finally, finished jewellery.
The Ness was created by a hundreds of individuals, each with their own skill or speciality. And the dig needs nearly as many specialists – in stone, bone, stratification, carbon dating and many other skills – to succeed. Creating a new Ola Gorie jewellery collection is a collaborative venture too. As well as Ola, Ingrid and Susan, highly-skilled craftspeople in Orkney and Edinburgh have contributed to the process, and the suite of finished pieces.
Now the creation is complete. We hope you enjoy the jewellery as much as we all enjoyed creating it.