One of Denmark’s foremost ceramic artists has created an extraordinary home and sculpture croft on the shores of remote Loch Eriboll in the wild landscape of Sutherland in Scotland’s far north Highlands.
Where the fickle climate, deep isolation and uncompromising terrain would daunt many, Lotte Glob rises to the challenge and thrives, albeit re-energised by occasional visits to winter sunshine in La Gomera, the smallest of the Canary Islands.
At a youthful 73 years old, Lotte recognises that the strongly woven threads of her passion for ceramics and nature, along with her wanderlust, drew her to the remote croft where she has lived for 16 years.
Lotte says she feels the powerful relationship between art and nature deeply. All about her home, curious ceramic creatures with alien faces bedeck branches of the native woodland, swinging and chanting in the breeze. Maturing trees burst out of pots that once contained them, while ethereal sculptures shelter in magical silver birch groves, where mountain and forest spirits might meet.
Growing up in an intellectual, artistic bohemian family living in Aarhus, Denmark’s second city, one of Lotte’s fondest relationships was with an uncle who had a tree nursery and delighted in sharing his passion for planting with his niece. Their bond made a lasting impression on Lotte, who plants up to 100 trees a year on her croft. “I just love planting trees,” she laughs. “When I feel miserable, I plant a tree because it makes me feel better. I want to see it grow.”
A simple life on stilts
Much as she loves trees, Lotte could not live in the forest, hence her house is on stilts, above the woodland with an outlook across Loch Eriboll to the peak of Ben Loyal.
After buying the croft land, Lotte lived frugally in an old caravan on site, saving to afford her house build while designing small clay models of homes she might like to live in. It took four years and four architects before the artist got what she wanted.
The award-winning design was inspired by Lotte’s determination to live simply. “I never go into debt,” she explains. “I feel it’s like a chain.
I have only what is in my pocket.”
“Every morning I say thank you to Gokay Deveci, who created this for me,” she declares. “Other architects failed to understand that I am allergic to walls and doors, that I wanted the outside to come in and that I wanted an eco-friendly affordable timber house as simple as my old caravan. What he made is amazing. Just like a traditional traveller’s van. When my sister saw it she asked, ‘Where are the horses?’”
Throughout her life, Lotte’s travels have been significant. Following a school trip to Denmark’s famous Gutte Eriksen pottery, she realised that classroom education was not for her and persuaded her parents to allow her to become an apprentice studio potter at the age of 14. She knew she’d found her vocation, “Even as a young child I was always making and shaping things, with wet sand on the beach, or with clay from the forest.” From her apprenticeship, Lotte’s self-confessed addiction to pottery directed her life’s journey.
She undertook a quest to study with other potters, including Knud Jensen’s traditional Danish family pottery, where glaze was painted on to milk dishes with a cow horn in the traditional way, and Syd Walker’s acclaimed studio pottery in Montrose. Pottery pilgrimages were made on testing shoestring budgets; during a month in Iceland, Lotte was so famished she had food fantasies as she walked from one destination to the next. “I promised myself I would make cakes every day when I got back but of course, I didn’t.”
Lotte’s work is an exuberant expression of her relationship with nature. Inspired by her inclination for long walks in wild landscapes, often for days, she returns to her potter’s wheel to craft extraordinary ceramics imbued with meaning, mischief and magic. Lotte frequently gifts her creations to “her comrades”, the mountains. With artworks stashed in her rucksack, she hikes to carefully considered lochans and ledges, away from deer and high winds, where she feels nature will receive them until they disappear to dust. More than 50 of Lotte’s sculptures are exhibited at liberty in 5,000 square metres of wilderness, intriguing many who stumble across them.
Despite her appreciation of solitude, Lotte is deeply rooted in the community that she first moved to and made home in 1968. She has brought up three children here and now entertains seven grandchildren in the surroundings of her enchanting sculpture croft, along with her adored dog, Juno.
Local people have taken her to their hearts, admiring her as an artist of international acclaim who still creates ceramics with local primary school children and offers evening classes to adults. Durness stonemason Neil Fuller describes Lotte as “a total inspiration”. He credits her generous encouragement for his decision to move to where he had been working during student summer holidays. Together Lotte and Neil created the sculptural centrepiece of the John Lennon memorial garden in Durness where the musician enjoyed summer holidays with Scottish relatives.
A visit to Lotte’s sculpture croft is easier than trekking into the mountains in search of her hidden sculptures. Check the opening times and follow the A838 single track road that winds to the tiny crofting township of Laid, created in 1832 when landowners cleared families from homes in Eriboll to make way for the more profitable business of rearing sheep for wool.
The transformation of rough land into native woodland and sculpture garden is extraordinary. Though far from manicured, it is an Eden nonetheless – windblown birds seek shelter and maturing fruit trees produce cherries and apples for juice and cider, Lotte’s latest project. Sometimes even Lotte is taken aback by her courageous achievement: “It all just evolves from one thing to another. I never knew it was going to be so good!”
For the studio’s opening times and further details, visit: lotteglob.co.uk