Maya Rose Edwards completes Bute residency

Simone Waters speaks to sculptor Maya Rose Edwards about their residency with the Mount Stuart Trust on Bute.

FOR artist Maya Rose Edwards, the Isle of Bute is not just a stunning location to visit. The dramatic landscape played host for a three-month residency offered to this emerging sculptor by the Mount Stuart Trust.

“I have always been a maker – I think I could always draw and that is how I kind of communicated before I could in any other way,” they said. “It has always been my thing.

“There was never really any other option for me, it was never going to be anything else. I was not very well when I was younger, so I had a pretty difficult time at school but my artwork and making stuff has always been that which has got me through and got me places.”

Mount Stuart on Bute

Mount Stuart on Bute (David Falconer/Shutterstock)

Starting off

Growing up in North Yorkshire, Maya left school at 16 to study at the Glasgow School of Art, focusing on sculpture and environmental art. Being one of many graduating during the pandemic, the now Glasgow-based maker preferred to do work independently, although it proved harder at some points.

“We had no access to resources or the buildings at all, so doing a sculpture degree at my kitchen table was a challenge. But since I graduated in 2021, I have been making, creating and hosting public artwork and projects with communities across Scotland.”

Now with the residency coming to an end, Maya can look back at the time spent on the picturesque island in the Firth of Clyde. Perhaps inspired by the renowned architecture of Mount Stuart, the artist kept busy while living in the stately home near Rothesay. Acting as the base for trips and meetings that have packed Maya’s schedule while working as the resident artist, the island – nor the 19th century mansion – were not well-known locations before arriving here in November.

“It has been really interesting to go into this place blindly and, I mean, I have worked harder than I ever have worked in my life. But I sort of recognised that this is a massive opportunity and I have wanted to do myself justice and make work that really speaks to and connects people here.”

Changing the narrative

Using a wide range of art forms to tell stories is something Maya is used to. The residency, which bases its practices on socially engaging topics, selected the artist based on the proposed ambitious bid to realise the project called “Twofold”. Calling it “a participatory art project exploring the intersection between rural and queer identities alongside local people”, Maya, who grew up as a queer person in the countryside, knows it can feel hard for members of the LGBTQ+ community to live rurally.

Still, the “strange narrative about queer people”, described by the artist as “commonly being about them leaving home and moving to the city as an act of coming out of the closet”- is ignored in Twofold. Calling it the “antithesis” of this narrative, Maya instead wants to, with this project, give a voice to the people who are living in these spaces.

While LGBTQ+ culture is often more represented in cities, living on Bute made Maya reconsider some notions. “I have sort of come to believe that there is more in common between the queer individual, and how they look and move through the world, and rural spaces – being that about adventure, exploration, gathering, and even community – than it is between them and the city.”

Nature has been a very important part of Maya’s time on the island and seeing the links between residents and their home was interesting for the artist. “I feel like when you are in a place like this, that is just so packed with incredible spaces, landscapes and environments – you have ancient woodlands and you got beaches – there is just so much going on. As a place with not that many people but an absolute mass of nature and these really interestingly unique environments, it becomes a truly integral part of people’s connection to where they live and their identity. Especially as a lot of people on the island live and work with what grows and lives here – it is a lot of what their livelihood is. Whether that be fishing or farming and everything in-between.”

The "Fold" artwork

The “Fold” artwork viewed from above

The grand finale

Maya has worked with plenty of islanders during her residency, including four shepherdesses, who each own their own farm here.

“Essentially we had been herding the sheep and throwing seeds down to create a specific shape so they form a very large letter – one letter of the word ‘FOLD’.” Explaining why the choice fell on this word, Maya explained: “A fold can be a collection of sheep but it is also a community that comes together – just as it is also something that can cover up. There are a lot of reasons why that word was chosen.” A video was also made about these four women herding their sheep, all while capturing their togetherness and their community.

"The Milestone Circle" in the Bute Community Forest

“The Milestone Circle” in the Bute community forest

Now seeing the end of the residency in a mere week, the final part of the project will be unveiled. Having also used public workshops and sculpturing during the three months at Mount Stuart, Maya will leave a lasting legacy in the island’s community forest. Inspired by the classic milestones and neolithic standing stones, there will permanently be a circle of sculptures inspired by the island’s queer history, made by Maya. With submissions sent in by LGBTQ+ residents, the stones are hand-carved with their oral histories of significant moments, with the artist calling it “their queer milestones; moments where they felt like themselves”.

Opening tomorrow, with original music being performed and catering offered by local talents, Maya will be going back to Glasgow soon thereafter to participate at the Royal Scottish Academy’s contemporary show, where emerging artists get to showcase their work. Still, not forgetting about the experiences on the Isle of Bute, the artist feels proud of the work done there. “I felt the support and I will definitely be back. I think it will hold a place in my heart for a long time.”

See more of Maya Rose Edwards’ work at

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