Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Two unplanned visits.

Yesterday I set off on a mission to deliver my brand new, hot off the press, Starfish Studio leaflets to various locations to the south of here.  There aren't many Tourist Information offices in Angus (Arbroath and Brechin being the only official Visit Scotland ones outside Dundee) so I have to think beyond those and find as many other locations as possible.

I took the coast road to Dundee - a much more pleasant journey than the dual carriageway, (and with more possible venues for the leaflets) - and found I arrived in the city much earlier than expected.  So, with no need to hurry home, I decided to take my time and explore a bit.

I've wanted to visit the Frigate Unicorn for a long time, but have never quite got around to it.  So yesterday, assuming it would be closed, I drove down to the dock where it is berthed.  

What an amazing ship this is!  It sits amongst modern buildings, looking somewhat out of place.  The entire Dundee Waterfront is undergoing massive regeneration at the moment with the first V&A museum outside London being located here in the next few years.  As part of this development, Unicorn will be relocated as a centrepiece of the Central Waterfront area.

If you look closely you'll see that there were painters working on the outside, getting it ready for the new tourist season.  I poked my head in through the door and was delighted to see that it was actually open - in fact it was the first day of opening this year, and I was the very first visitor!!

HMS Unicorn was launched in 1824 as part of a programme to re-equip the navy following the Napoleonic wars.  Under normal circumstances she would have been rigged, but this was a time of peace, so instead she was roofed over for protection, put into reserve and used for training purposes. 
Frigates like this were heavily armed - each window once housed a cannon - 46 in total.
Captain's cabin
The fact that Unicorn never saw active service means that she has survived a remarkably long time.  She is, in fact, the oldest British-built ship still afloat.
The very friendly and informative man at the Unicorn was very happy to do a leaflet swap with me, so if you want to find out more about the ship you can pick up a leaflet from my shop. 

I went on to the Tourist Information Centre at Discovery Point.  This is home to Captain's Scott's famous ship, RMS Discovery, which, along with the polar explorers exhibition is well worth a visit.  You can read more about it at http://www.rrsdiscovery.com/

Whilst there I picked up a leaflet for an exhibition called 'And So to Embroider' at the University of Dundee.  It was only a ten minute walk away, so I went to explore.  This is a collection of pieces that were gathered by the Needlework Development Scheme from 1934-1961.  Run by Scotland's four art colleges, the scheme toured the world collecting examples of historic and contemporary needlework to form a national educational resource. Click here to see the archive.

They have pieces from all over the world, but it was the early 20th century British work that fascinated me the most. 

It's difficult to pick a favourite, but I really like this lion which was worked in Britain by M Nash in 1946.  It's a shame that the name is just recored as 'M Nash' - what was her first name? 

Several examples had no name at all, which I find quite sad.  It got me thinking about ways of incorporating my own name into my textile work.  Signing a painting is easy, stitching the right thing in the right place needs a bit more thought.

So, if you ever find yourself with some 'me' time, I urge you to make the most of it.  Explore those places that are fairly close to home and you've always meant to visit but have never quite got around to!

Friday, 25 March 2011

SABAB Art Exhibition

There's a bright, vibrant art exhibition on in Montrose Library at the moment. 

The South Aberdeenshire Abstracts exhibition in Montrose Library still has a week to go, ending on Friday 1st April.  It features work by a number of artists who originally came together about a year ago to promote, develop and exhibit abstract work in the area.

As a member of this group, I have previously exhibited paintings, but at the moment I am particularly enjoying working with textiles and mixed media to create abstract works.

Unfortunately they don't photograph at all well!  These are made with loads of different fibres in various shades and textures, and I've sewn lots of tiny beads on that you just can't see in the photo.

Coincidentally, whilst typing the above I had a phone call from the library to tell me that one piece (not pictured here) has just been sold!!  Happy me :)

The other artists in the group include;

Angela Arnold

Gay Halley

Julia Macaulay & Janice Headrick
Unfortunately the reflections from the window meant that this corner was difficult to photograph. 

Jacky Niven

Gregor Phillips

Bern Ross

Pauline Newman
Michi Clark

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Union Terrace Gardens

Yesterday I had to pick up a huge number of new leaflets from the excellent Rocket Print in Aberdeen - I can highly recommend them to anyone needing flyers/ postcards etc. 

I popped in to the shops briefly and decided to make the most of the gorgeous weather and have lunch in the city centre's most beautiful area, Union Terrace Gardens. 

In the fifteen minutes or so that I sat there, I counted 39 other people on a Monday lunchtime using this apparently 'neglected' public park.  People were eating, chatting, reading or walking their dogs.  All the seats on the grassy area were full, as were many of the other benches.

As I have quite a few more Facebook followers since I last blogged about the dangers facing this special place, I'll go over the basics again and give a wee update on the dreadful situation.

If you don't live in Aberdeen/shire you probably don't know that this, the only green space in the city centre, is under the very serious threat of complete annihilation.  Sir Ian Wood, a local businessman in the oil industry, pledged £50 million to the city on the condition that it is used to realise his dream of this historic green space being obliterated and replaced with a city square at street level.

He has the backing of ACSEF, Aberdeen City & Shire Economic Future.  They believe that the City Square will safeguard the future of the city.  Apparently it will encourage investment in Aberdeen, with businesses flocking to relocate here.  They haven't said exactly how this will happen.  I attended a public debate at which they were repeatedly asked "HOW?" but no answer was forthcoming.

There followed the most appallingly flawed and biased public consultation by ASCEF.  This completely disregarded the existing plans for a superb contemporary arts centre which would have rejuvinated the gardens without destroying them.  This project by Peacock Visual Arts had already received full planning consent and had raised most of the money required. 

The Peacock Visual Arts plan
 Despite the public consultation's default 'yes' vote for the scheme, its leading questions and the complete lack of mention of the Peacock plan, the majority of respondants said 'NO'.  What did the council do?  They ignored this and are pushing on with their destructive plans regardless.   Peacock's plans have been completely thrown out.

Add in to the mix a whole muddle over exactly what money has been used to finance ACSEF's work on this fiasco to date, a lot of unanswered questions about exactly what will be included  in the square, a shortfall of £85 million in the budget, concerns voiced by the Royal Institute of Architects in Scotland etc etc and you can see why this has caused a real stir in the area.

To add insult to injury ASCEF have said that they are applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund to help finance the project.  It's a HERITAGE fund.  It wasn't set up to finance projects whose aim is to destroy the heritage of an area.  Victorian gardens, mature trees - let's replace them with a concrete structure, add a garden on top and call it heritage - I don't think so.  If you feel that this would be an inappropriate use of Heritage Lottery funding you can email them at Scotland@hlf.org.uk

Finally, here is the view from the bench where I ate my lunch.

It's a ruined building called the Triple Kirks - what's left of three separate churches built around one central spire.  The site is owned by Stewart Milne who have plans to turn it into an office complex.  With such an interesting, historic base with which to start, and such a unique location, this is a fantastic opportunity to build something really special. 

This is what's planned

The full plans are available on the council's website and comments are invited. http://planning.aberdeencity.gov.uk/docs/planningdocuments.asp?appnumber=110303

Of course these offices will need car parking space, which just happens to be one of the proposals for what is now the gardens.  Oh, and coincidentally Stewart Milne is a member of the ACSEF board...

It'll all be covered over with a new garden of course, which is why they have renamed it the City Garden Project.  That makes everything allright, doesn't it?

Friday, 18 March 2011

A day in Arbroath

 I recently headed south to Arbroath to have a wander around on a chilly but sunny day.  It's always interesting to watch the comings and goings in a large harbour.

The marina

I've been to Arbroath several times before, but I'd never seen the walkway being raised to allow a boat to pass through into the boatyard for repairs - just like Tower Bridge on a much smaller scale!

As regular readers will know, I like to search out small, independent shops wherever I go, so I was delighted to find a (very) newly opened girlie delight on the High Street!

With an exterior like that, you just have to find out more!

The inside is a beautiful, magical, sparkly dreamworld for little girls.  There are dressing up and dancing outfits and accessories for sale, toadstools to sit on and a cleverly built tree dominating the interior. 

In a room at the back (accessed through a pink curtain of course) there's a further magical wonderland where little girls can go to fairy parties, hosted by none other than the Fairy Queen herself.

My girls would have absolutely loved this when they were younger, and in fact, when I showed them the photos my thirteen year old said, "We have to go there!".

I bought a couple of things for my niece's birthday and they were beautifully wrapped in purple cellophane, tied off with a lovely big ribbon - perfect.

You can find out more about what Sara Lou has to offer at http://www.sara-lou.co.uk/

Finally, in Arbroath, if you're looking for a bite to eat I can highly recommend Sugar and Spice - keep walking down the High Street towards the sea and it's tucked away on the left hand side.

It's more than just a cafe, it's an old fashioned sweetie shop and gift shop too. Just be warned - the meringues are ENORMOUS!  www.sugarandspiceshop.co.uk

Friday, 11 March 2011

A sad day for Johnshaven

It is with great sadness that I report that Johnshaven's most iconic building was destroyed by fire last night.  Built as a church around 1850, it has more recently been used for the building and repairing of boats.

Anyone who has visited the village in the last year or so will probably have seen Richard's latest boat at various stages of production - it's an absolute work of art.  Seeing it gradually taking shape makes you really appreciate the skill involved in boat building.

Since it became too large to work on it inside, the boat has been kept outside the building and, remarkably, seems to have escaped any fire damage.  Sadly, the building itself and all Richard's tools and materials will have been destroyed.

I don't know the cause of the fire or whether what remains of the building can be saved.  It is a real local landmark, and is the building that features most prominantly on just about every painting I've ever seen of the village. 

At Hogmanay this is where the villagers gather to hear the bell on top ring in the New Year.

Our thoughts are with Richard today.  I can't imagine how he must be feeling.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Creative Stitches

At the weekend my daughter, Kirsty, and I went to the Creative Stitches and Hobbycrafts Shows at the SECC in Glasgow.  We had a lovely, girly time away - travelling by train, going out for a pizza and staying in a nice hotel.

The Hobbycrafts show is largely for card makers and scrapbookers, and although I do use scrapbooking techniques to file away my photos, I tend to find it a bit of a chore rather than a pleasure.  I'm about 2 years behind with my photo albums, which makes it a daunting prospect to get started again.

The Creative Stitches show is much more my cup of tea!  I managed to be fairly restrained with my purchases, but did treat myself to a couple of new things to try out. 

One was this rubbery substance that you mix with acrylic paint and then heat to produce raised effects.  It can be used on fabric or canvas, and the photo below shows what happened when I had my first play with it yesterday.
The most stunning exhibit at the show was the incredible "Above and Below The Waves" knitting project.  It comprises knitted donations from 2000 knitters of all ages and abilities. 

These photos don't really do it justice.  Everywhere you look you see something new - all kinds of sea creatures, lifeboats, gulls, lighthouses, seaweed etc.

You can find out more about this incredible piece of work at http://www.all2knit.co.uk/

Another outstanding project on display was Afghanistan Inspiration.  This is a scheme whereby women in Afghanistan embroider 8 x 8 cms square panels which are then sold in Europe with the intention that they will be integrated into a larger piece of work. 

In the UK a number of these squares on the theme of jugs, dishes, pots etc were sewn into larger pieces that are now being sold to raise more money to help the Afghan women.  One of these really caught my eye and (with Kirsty's approval) I have reserved it - we won't see it for a long time as the exhibition will be on tour for some time!  You can read more about this project at  http://www.oneearthtextiles.co.uk/

Kirsty spent some time at a stall that was promoting the teaching of crafts in schools.  There is a real danger that skills such as hand knitting could die out and they are working hard to prevent this. 

She was shown how to cast on and do a couple of rows of stitches and was given the needles and a huge ball of wool to take away so, filled with enthusiasm, she sat and knitted on the train home!  Unfortunately I haven't a clue about knitting, so helping her with dropped stitches is going to be a bit of a problem!

Finally, before taking the train home we had a quick bite to eat on our way up to Queen Street Station, and passed by the famous statue of the Duke of Wellington.  When I lived in Glasgow I met a guy who told me that if he ever walked past the Duke at night and saw that he wasn't wearing his usual traffic cone, he felt it was his obligation to climb up there and replace it!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

A different kind of trade fair

Yesterday, with a different hat on, I travelled down to another trade fair in Glasgow.  This was nothing to do with Starfish Studio, but all about a very exciting project that I'm involved with - setting up a Community Cafe in Johnshaven.

In our village we have Johnshaven Stores (the best convenience store in the world), Starfish Studio, Odysee hairdressers and two pubs, one of which serves excellent food.  What we need above all else is a cafe. 

For the locals it will provide a much needed meeting, eating and socialising place other than a pub.  All profits made will go back into helping community groups in the village so everyone benefits.

I am constantly being asked by visitors where they can get a coffee - the shop does hot & cold takeaway drinks and the Anchor Hotel serves coffee, but there is a big difference between those options and a cosy cafe serving yummy homemade cakes and frothy hot chocolate.

So, yesterday, on behalf of the Community Cafe Group committee, I visited the ScotHot exhibition at the SECC.  The sun shone beautifully, and I enjoyed my lunch sitting down by the River Clyde before going in to the show.

The new BBC Scotland building and Glasgow Science Centre


The 'Wonky' bridge

The Finnieston Crane and, in the foreground, work in progress on a velodrome for the Commonwealth Games in 2014
 Once inside it didn't take long to realise I was well out of my comfort zone!  I know nothing about catering and have never worked in a cafe or pulled a pint!  The first couple of stalls I visted used jargon that meant nothing to me, so from then on I approached each stall differently - explaining my ignorance before they had a chance to launch into their sale patter!

The whole atmosphere was very different to the craft and gift trade fairs I'm used to - bustling and noisy with lots and lots of young people, mostly male.  Eventually I realised that there was a competitive element to the show and that many of these youngsters were representing and supporting various catering colleges.

A competition in full swing

There was a huge amount to look at and I came away with mountains of brochures for the committee to work through.  There are massive companies who'll design and supply everything from the entire kitchen, servery area, tables and chairs right down to crockery & cutlery.  There were also other stalls focusing on one product - I particularly liked a waffle maker with all kinds of delicious serving suggestions (nom nom!).

Free tasting samples were on offer everywhere and I enjoyed small portions of yummy thick milkshake, ice cream, mars bar crispy, pizza slice, waffle, hot chocolate etc etc. 

There were competitions for creations in chocolate, icing and sugar and the entries were on display for all to see.  Take a look at these amazing, edible works of art!

A sugar lobster

I'm going back down to Glasgow again on Saturday - this time with my younger daughter for company and firmly back in my comfort zone.  We're going to the Hobbycrafts & Creative Stitches exhibition at the SECC, staying overnight in a hotel and having a girly time - can't wait!