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Collection of typescript and manuscript letters from Ian Hamilton Finlay to Joanne Soroka discussing tapestries

 Fonds — Box: CLX-A-1261
Identifier: Coll-1665

Scope and Contents

The tapestries referred to were shown at exhibitions, including the ICA in London. The correspondence illustrates the creative process behind some of the very few tapestries Ian Hamilton Finlay had made. The collection is composed of:

- 18 x ts letters and 9 x ms letters from Ian Hamilton Finlay to Joanne Soroka discussing tapestries commissioned from Ivory Tapestries by Finlay, and written between 20 September 1989 and 7 September 1997 (one is undated).

- 26 x carbon copies of letters from Joanne Soroka to Ian Hamilton Finlay, between 24 November 1988 and 16 July 1997, together with diagrams and a photographic slide.


  • Creation: 1988-1997


Biographical / Historical

Scottish poet, writer, artist and gardener Ian Hamilton Finlay, CBE, was born in Nassau, Bahamas, on 28 October 1925. He was educated at Dollar Academy, in Clackmannanshire, Scotland. In 1942, he joined the army, fighting in the Second World War.

After the war, Finlay worked as a shepherd, and then began to write short stories and poems, while living on Rousay, in Orkney. He published his first book, The Sea Bed and Other Stories (1958) and some of his plays were broadcast on the BBC. His stories often featured in the newspapers. A collection of poetry followed, The Dancers Inherit the Party (1960). It was as a 'concrete poet' though that Finlay gained renown after he published Rapel (1963) - 'concrete poetry' laying importance on the layout and typography of the words to give effect. He then began to compose poems for inscription into stone which were incorporated into sculptures for the natural environment. Out of this emerged the 5-acre garden at Little Sparta in the Pentlands near Edinburgh, created together with his wife Sue Finlay.

Finlay received a Turner Prize nomination in 1985. He was awarded honorary doctorates from Aberdeen University in 1987, Heriot-Watt University in 1993 and the University of Glasgow in 2001, and an honorary and/or visiting professorship from the University of Dundee in 1999. He received the Scottish Horticultural Medal from the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society in 2002, and the Scottish Arts Council Creative Scotland Award in 2003.

He had collaborated with Patrick Caulfield, Richard Demarco, Malcolm Fraser, and Christopher Hall. He also worked with a host of lettering artists including Michael Harvey and Nicholas Sloan. He also collaborated with Joanne Soroka who produced tapestries based on Finlay's 'concrete poetry'. These mainly consisted of one-word-per-line short poems.

Ian Hamilton Finlay became a CBE in 2002, and he died on 27 March 2006.

Award-winning artist Joanne Soroka was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1949. She attended McGill University, 1970, where she obtained the degree of BA, then went to Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, being awarded the Diploma in Design in 1972. At the Edinburgh College of Art she obtained a Post-graduate diploma (with distinction) in 1976.

Soroka is currently a part-time lecturer, University of Edinburgh, from 2010. Previously she was a part-time tutor, Edinburgh College of Art, 1992-2010. She founded Ivory Tapestries in 1987, and has been Artistic Director at the Edinburgh Tapestry Company (Dovecot Studios), 1982-87.


1 volume

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition


Processing Information

Catalogued by Graeme D. Eddie, 16 November 2015

Collection of ts and ms letters, 1988-1997, from Ian Hamilton Finlay to Joanne Soroka discussing tapestries
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379