cloutie tree

Woody Point, Gros Morne National Park

cloutie tree

Woody Point, Gros Morne National Park

A cloutie tree is a wish tree. Cloutie is the Scottish word for “cloth”. Cloutie trees have been a part of the British landscape since Celtic times – and are still found today in west England, Scotland and Ireland. In ancient times, a tree on the outskirts of a community would be chosen. It would always be near water – a brook or a stream. When people were sick or injured, they would take a piece of cloth, dip it in water and place the cloth on the part of the body that needed help. They would then hang the cloth, or “cloutie”, on the tree. In time, the cloth would fray and, as the cloth disintegrated, the person would heal.

In the autumn of 2013 I had the opportunity to do a month long artist residency in Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland and Labrador. While there, I began a Cloutie Tree on the outskirts of the community of Woody Point. It was an old plum tree in a meadow by a brook , overlooking Bonne Bay and Gros Morne Mountain. Each day for the 30 days I was there, I embroidered a strip of chiffon. I walked to the tree, dipped the cloth in the brook, made a wish – for my own health, for the health of my friends and family, and then for the health of the world. Members of the community began to take part too. Autumn turned to winter while I was there and the “clouties” began to fray.