Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Angus Open Studios - part one

Last weekend was the very first Angus Open Studios so Kirsty and I set off again, map and directory in hand, for a day of exploration.  For anyone not familiar with this part of the world, Angus is the bit between Aberdeenshire and Fife, and we live about 7 miles north of the Angus/ Aberdeenshire border.

This corner of Scotland is so often overlooked and it really shouldn't be.  Visitors tend to go to Edinburgh and/ or Glasgow then travel up the west coast to the Highlands, totally neglecting the east coast from Edinburgh to Inverness.

The area around Lunan Bay is particularly beautiful, with miles of unspoilt countryside and the most amazing sandy beach - and it's only half an hour from here :)

Our first stop on the studios trail was at the amazing Hawkhill Forge in this old church at Lunan.

Colin and Lisa Badger make the most beautiful furniture in wrought iron and glass.  This photo really doesn't do them justice so do take a look at their website.

 Here are some examples of Lisa's other work.

A little further on we visited Redcastle Pottery which was an absolute feast for the eyes!  I have never seen such beautiful, intricate ceramics as these.  Kirsty and I particularly liked these bowls, but couldn't think of anywhere in the house to put one.

The artist, Maralyn Reed Wood, was busily working away on another sea themed creation, and was very happy to chat about her work.  She was very keen to encourage Kirsty's interest in art, and kindly offered to talk to her about it at any time she likes.

As we couldn't figure out a home for a bowl, we had to settle for something much smaller - this ceramic custard cream is amazingly realistic (same size as a real biscuit)!

Just a short distance along the road from the studio are the ruins of Red Castle.  One of the big bonuses about open studios events is that you get to visit places that you never otherwise would get to see.  I've certainly never seen the castle from this side before - and it looks totally different from every angle.  (The sea and golden sands are just off to the right of this photo).

Our next stop was a short drive away at Auchmithie.  I'd heard of the place but never been before.  I was expecting just a couple of houses, but it's actually a very small, coastal village in the most beautiful setting.

This lovely village was the location of  No. 70, a small studio housing quirky jewellery.  We particularly liked the Scrabble jewellery but there were no Ks left for either Kirsty or myself!

From there we continued south to Arbroath to visit ceramicist Fran Marquis and the superb selection of work by various artists that she had on display.  I was really taken with this lovely wee bowl - it has a pottery base (made by Fran) and the sides are made from a coiled leather thong, stitched into place by her basket weaver friend.

At the same venue we spotted this wee troll who reminded us of Hoggle from the film Labyrinth!  We couldn't work out what he/ she was made from - turns out it's an apple!  The apple is carved and then left to dry which is when it adopts its troll-like characteristics!  They are made by Judy Sweet, who also carves amazing figures in bone.  We had to have him, so Hoggle now lives with us!

We also visited venues in Carnoustie, Monifieth and Letham and particularly enjoyed Tessa Mendez's venue Felt Unique, as Kirsty and I both love anything to do with textiles in general and felt in particular.  For some reason I forgot to take any photos after lunch :(

Friday, 27 May 2011

Hidden Gems in Glasgow

I used to live in Glasgow.  My first teaching job was in the city and I moved there in 1991 knowing no-one and nothing about the place. 

I rented the cheapest bedsit I could find - £135 a month rings a bell - which was infested with cockroaches and mice.  Sounds pretty dire, but the bedsit was one small room in a huge tenement flat that I shared with the best bunch of people you could ever wish to meet.  We were all of a similar age, and had all either moved to the city to start our first jobs or to escape from parents! 

Having moved to a city I didn't know, I could have been incredibly lonely.  Instead I was very lucky to be able to thoroughly enjoy the thrill of living in a fantastic city with a great group of friends to show me all the best bits.

Needless to say, I moved out of the bedsit as soon as my 6 month contract was up - the mice I could cope with (although the piles of poo behind the microwave were a bit gross!) but the cockroaches were something else.  I bought a lovely, small flat on the South Side, near to my friends, who were all moving out of the bedsits as soon as they could afford to as well.  As a result, it was only the city centre and the South Side that I really got to know, and the West End remained a complete unknown.

Having said that, one of my very best friends lives in the West End and I was staying with her on Monday night.  I had a couple of hours to kill before she finished work, so took the opportunity to explore the famous Byres Road. 

I love the Glasgow subway - or the Clockwork Orange is it's known locally.  It's so simple - you either go on the inner or outer circle depending on whether you're travelling clockwise or anti-clockwise.

Getting off the subway at Kelvinhall I walked along Byres Road to Hillhead.  There's a fantastic new eatery near Kelvinhall station called The Chocolate Emporium and, being a total chocoholic, I found myself sucked inside.  Highly recommended, excellent, friendly service and a crepe to die for!

The service at the next two places I visited couldn't have been more of a contrast - I was staggered at the extreme rudeness from the woman serving in the Oxfam shop, who barely glanced at me as I bought a ball of wool, but instead continued her loud conversation with someone else. 

In another shop I overheard unbelievable conversations between the owner and two separate customers enquiring about having some jewellery repaired.  She was so rude and abrupt with these women, implying that they were stupid to be unable to make these simple repairs themselves.  Absolutely incredible.  I am very tempted to name the shop, but as it's an independently owned shop I feel it would be disloyal!

I had done a little homework beforehand, and made a point of visiting some of the more interesting spots on the wee lanes to the side of Byres Road.

This shop, Relics, was my favourite - full of all kinds of antiques, junk and bits & pieces. 

I spent ages looking around, and couldn't resist buying some old maps printed on linen...

... and these amazing magazines printed in 1940.

They have instructions for making all kinds of things.  Ideas about what constitutes a hobby have changed somewhat since then - look at this reader's letter!

and this is fascinating!

Just around the corner from Relics, hidden away down another back street I found the most amazing place - Ruthven Mews - an arcade full of shops specialising in antiques and interiors.  I didn't take any photos there, but you can get the idea from their website.

So why was I in Glasgow?  To see my hero in concert...

 ... and he was awesome!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Being brave.

When I started this blog I intended it to be a mixture of stuff about the shop, my creative pursuits and the places I like to explore. 

Looking back over posts so far, I can see that I've barely mentioned any of my art, so I've had a big think about why that should be.  I reckon it all boils down to confidence.  I'm always very nervous about putting my work out there for people to see, especially when it's something completely new. 

So today I'm being bold and brave and am going to show you something I've been quietly working on for a while.  I'd really appreciate your thoughts - both positive and negative (now I've taken this big brave step I have to be able to accept criticism!).

For a long time I've been fascinated by the work of an American artist called Sandy Steen Bartholemew.  She is an amazing artist and illustrator and (amongst her many projects) has written a number of books giving advice and suggestions for the incredibly relaxing and enjoyable art of zentangling.

Using just white paper, a good quality black pen, and a pencil for shading, you can create some fabulous zentangles.  I've done several small test pieces but, never having any use for the finished product, they usually just ended up in the recycling! 

When we were on holiday at Easter I bought a small sketching book in which I did some silly sketches of the things we got up to on holiday, and I plan to keep adding to this every time we go away.  On the cover was one of those really annoying stickers which ripped the fabric when I removed it, so I decided I'd recover it - and my first zentangling 'project with a purpose' was born!

I was really pleased with the result and had a think about what else I could do, eventually coming up with the idea of greetings cards.

This final one is a work in progress...

It's a scary step to take to commit to having some printed - what if no-one likes them?  - what if I'm left with boxes and boxes of the things?  I do need to have some of my other cards (from paintings) reprinted as stocks are very low, so at least I can combine different designs into one big order which makes these new designs a bit less of a financial gamble.

Decisions, decisions....

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Out of the kiln

The postie brought an exciting parcel this morning - the glass creatures that we made at the Fife Open Studios last week have been fired and had findings attached so we can hang them up.  

Thanks to Chillilicious for giving us the opportunity to try out this craft for the very first time. 

 My cat

Kirsty's bee

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Fife Open Studios

On Sunday my daughter Kirsty (11) and I had an absolutely brilliant day out visiting the Fife Open Studios.   We weren't entirely sure that we were doing the right thing as we set off in torrential rain and encountered thick fog around Dundee, but once we crossed over the Tay Bridge into the Kingdom of Fife it did start to brighten up a lot. 

We printed a spare (faded out) map off the website and plotted a logical circular route that would take in lots of the venues that interested us the most. 

Kirsty was navigator (although I was glad to have the satnav as back up as some of the directions provided in the directory were less than brilliant!).

We managed to visit eleven venues in total - nine that were on our plan and two extras that we came across en route.  They ranged from a house on a hill in the middle of nowhere, to a new shop right in the centre of Cupar.

As we visited so many, I won't go into detail about them all - just our two favourite venues which were Stacey Galfskiy and Aileen Clarke.

Stacey works in fused glass and much of her work has a chilli theme.  In the garden her mum has a polytunnel containing an incredible array of varieties of chilli.  She makes chutneys from her plants and is obviously very passionate about them.

This is Stacey's garden workshop in which she was running glass making workshops, so we just had to have a go! 

 Kirsty made a bee and I made a cat.  Now we just have to wait for them to be sent on to us after Stacey has fired them in her kiln.

Our other favourite venue was (no surprise) textile artist, Aileen Clarke.  I have some of her beautiful work in Starfish Studio - only a very little is listed on the website so you'll have to come in to see the rest!

I first heard of Aileen a few years ago when I bought one of her beautiful shimmering landscape pictures for my bedroom.  Some time later, when I was getting ready to open Starfish Studio, I got in touch with her to stock her work.

I have wanted an embellisher (felting) machine for a long time, and having now seen Aileen giving a demonstration, I want one even more!  Methinks I may have to raid the piggy bank!

Aileen creates the most beautiful pieces through fusing together lovely fibres in gorgeous colours. She was very happy to answer everyone's questions and we were made to feel extremely welcome. 

It was a day of periods of extremely heavy rain and then glorious sunshine, which fortunately didn't seem to put people off - almost every venue we visited was busy. 

At one point during a torrential downpour we were huddled, along with 6 other people, into Bobbie Coleman's tiny garden shed - too squished together to move or look at the glass work around us!  The plus side of the weather was that between the showers there were great views like this.

Only four months until our very own North East Open Studios but in the meantime I can't wait for the first ever Angus Open Studios which takes place at the end of this month.