Sasha Saben Callaghan won the third commission for our “Bored Board” mural. She tells us about her intriguing design which includes the holly blue butterflies encircling an angel.

When I first saw the call for ways to fill the ‘Bored Board’, I wasn’t sure where to begin. A search through the historical records of Haddington quickly sparked off a chain of ideas.

I discovered the seven minute books of the Haddington Lodge of The Ancient Fraternity of Free Gardeners, established in 1676.

The books are a fascinating chronology of what was an early trade union or ‘friendly’ society. The co-operative ideals of the lodge were based on mutual aid. It offered practical training, and a programme of ethical development. In addition, the Fraternity provided financial support for any member or their dependents  in hardship. They also campaigned for the abolition of slavery.

The Haddington lodge of gardeners was one of the earliest horticultural societies to organise ‘exhibitions’. This started my thinking process.

Six panels of digital collage

Photo of mural by Sasha Saben Callaghan at Arts Hub and GalleryMy artwork consists of six panels of digital collage, relating to the Haddington district. It includes local landmarks, history, organisations, and wildlife. The overarching theme for the panels echoes the Fraternity’s bi-monthly flower and produce exhibitions.

For example, the main image here is of Nunraw House Dovecot, alongside cherries and ranunculus flowers which were the main categories for the Fraternity’s show each July.

As a disabled artist, my aim is to bring vivid and strange imaginings to life. Recently, I have been using a blend of collage and photomontage to create surreal and rebellious images.

Much of my work uses myths and fairy tales to portray alternative visions/versions of a future Scotland. The symbolism of the Fraternity, from their elaborate insignia to their solemn oath of unity, really appealed to me. For them, the cultivation of the earth was a metaphor for the nurturing of the soul through intelligence and virtue and signified the Garden of Eden. I incorporated these references into the panels by creating images; they are a mix of the uncanny and the everyday.

Seeing beauty beyond the mainstream

Photo of mural by Sasha Saben Callaghan at Arts Hub and GalleryEach piece is constructed to challenge the viewer’s assumptions. I want to encourage them to think about difference, see beauty beyond the mainstream and question conventional notions of ‘reality’.

I hope when people walk by the panels, they will glance at them once and then turn back to look again because something has caught their imagination. Yes, they will see the Bass Rock or Barnes Castle. They will also see a flight of holly blue butterflies encircling an angel, a woman with a bee skep headdress and a raven with a very human eye, reflected in a golden hand mirror.

But my biggest hope is that they enjoy the board and take pleasure from it. This project has been such a delight to work on and it would be wonderful if that delight is shared in the true spirit of the Haddington Free Gardeners.

@sashasaben

You can see Sasha’s artwork on MADE’s external mural board, Arts Hub and Gallery on Haddington’s Hardgate.