Torfljàr – Drawing Turf Building

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Brigitte Postma

Torfljàr – guidance note

This drawing was made following the 2019 turf building course in Iceland, developed by ARCH, funded through the Erasmus+ programme and hosted by Byggđasafn Skagfirđinga. I took part in the course in the capacity of EBUKI member.

An important part of the application process was to present plans for the dissemination of the acquired knowledge. For me these were mainly building turf structures with interested parties and visualising different aspects of the technique. As the latter was the easiest to realise in the short term, I chose this to be my contribution for the report that was to follow our visit to Iceland.

During our week in Iceland I made use of every opportunity to record visual material by making photos and sketches, and as a result I now have at my disposal a valuable source of material to continue to work on in my art studio. I will make a series of works on the subject that will be exhibited during Perthshire Open Studios in September 2019. For my contribution to the report (this will be the first work in the series) I wanted to focus mainly on the skills acquired during the workshop rather than on the turf walls these produce, so I chose to look at the actual actions that are associated with building with turf. The obvious physical manifestations of these actions are the tools. During the course we used a number of different tools, but the ones most specifically used in turf building were the torfljàr (turf scythe) and the ‘undercutting tool’.

For the visual report of my mobility I chose the torfljàr, this being the most intimate and unique of turf cutting tools. The ljàr is a turf knife with the blade set at a ninety-degree angle in the middle of a characteristically V-shaped wooden handle. The shape of the blade, in this case slightly curved upwards, determines the shape of the turves that are cut with it and so the ljàr defines the tiniest detail and aesthetics of turf construction. Moreover, its characteristic shape and aesthetic qualities make it very suitable for an eye-catching visualisation.

Brigitte Postma,

Madderty (Perth and Kinross)

July 2019

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