Sunday, 25 May 2014

A Visit To East Neuk Open Studios and Birchwood Cottage Gallery and Tearoom

We had a very enjoyable family day out around the East Neuk of Fife yesterday.
It's not that far from where we live. Just a bit of a drive along a warren of country roads lined with cow parsley and wild campion and we find ourselves in the picturesque village of St Monans. The East Neuk has a plethora of these charming little fishing villages. We often visit Elie as we like the beach there and Pittenweem has its world famous Art Festival but yesterday we headed for St Monans and visited some of the artists taking part in East Neuk Open Studios.

Having just taken part in our own Open Studios North Fife event, I really enjoyed being a visitor and getting a sense of what is like for our visitors going around an event like this.
Part of the charm is of course the location but we really enjoyed visiting the artists as well.

My favourite was Ann Watson. Ann's studio is right on the harbour and although she had tidied up in order to display as much work as possible, she had a work in progress with the materials she was using on display. This definitely gave a sense of 'Open Studio' rather than just seeing a display of finished work.

I really love Ann's use of texture and colour (we both love the same shades of turquoise!) Not only does she paint these local scenes but she had some fabulous pieces inspired by the Island of Iona as well as some flower studies and other seascapes.
I think one of the most important aspects of an Open Studios event is the opportunity to meet  the artist and for the artist to meet the public. It's not all about selling at these events. If you have seen work that you love and really enjoyed meeting the artist, you're much more likely to buy that artists work in the future and rave about it to your friends.

We also visited Duncan MacLeod whose mixed media collage paintings were really beautiful and atmospheric.

Amazingly he has no website! You can see more of his work and find contact details on the East Neuk Open Studios website here 

We enjoyed a packed lunch down by the waterside then popped into Carol Paterson whose work is a fascinating process of painting and print. She had a nice selection of merchandise with her art applied to it which was perfect for children looking to spend their pocket money.

After St Monans we drove along the coast to Cellardyke and made a 
b-line for Jill Calder's studio. We would have loved to visit more studios en route but we had our 16 year old son and 9 year old daughter with us and there are only so many venues you can take in with children in tow.
I particularly wanted to visit Jill as I knew my daughter would be inspired.

Again we got to see into the actual studio and Jill had a lovely selection of cards and prints for sale as well as stunning originals all along the hallway and into another room. Jill's use of colour and shape really drew us in as well as whole stories unfolding the longer you looked at her images.

After Jill we popped into another couple of venues but everyone was flagging a bit so we drove up to Balmungo, just south of St Andrews and enjoyed a very restorative tea stop at Birchwood Cottage Gallery and Tearoom.

This is the home of artist Walter S Watson and his lovely wife Margaret. Walter takes part in Open Studios North Fife and built this extension onto his home to accommodate the gallery and tea room last year.
The tearoom has the most fabulous uninterrupted view down into St Andrews and across the estuary. I failed to take a decent photo as I was so busy blethering but you get the idea.

The gallery is a lovely bright and open space exhibiting the work of a wide variety of artists, including many local to the area. Walter sits and paints in the gallery as well and it's always interesting to see a work in progress. We were made to feel very welcome and will definitely be taking friends and family there on days out in the future. 

I didn't expect to feel inspired myself from yesterdays visits as it was mostly painters we saw and we chose people we thought would inspire the children and my husband who has just taken up painting. But I do feel inspired. Sometimes just talking to other artists can spark off an idea that you can apply to your own work and I definitely thought of some suggestions to make for our own Open Studios event next year.

East Neuk Open Studios is on again today, Sunday 25th May and next weekend Saturday 31st May and Sunday 1st June.
Birchwood Cottage Gallery and Tearoom is open Friday-Sunday 10 - 4pm.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Open Studios - Over For Another Year.

Phew, I can see why busy businesses have 'people' to do their online 'stuff' for them! I have not had a spare minute in the last week to update my blog to tell you all how it went at Open Studios North Fife 2014!

First of all I'd like to say a big thank you to everyone who came along! My venue in Ladybank was packed out the door again this year! I had a few minutes at the start of the day on Saturday to take a few photos and then it was pretty steady with visitors. We counted just over 400 over the 3 days this year!

I really enjoy this event as I have much more space to display my work as well as space to show ongoing projects and some of the materials I use in my work.
I have expanded my range since last year though and still struggled to make shelf room for everything. I resorted to hanging some of my new Heart Pendants on the wall. A handy piece of fishing net came in useful for that!

These new designs were very popular but I made lots so these are now available in my Etsy shop.

My work corner was brightened up by 'Tabitha' my tailors dummy showing how the brooches can be worn to keep cardigans and shrugs closed at the front. She was also a great model for my new larger pendants and I sold all my flower shaped ones.

My little Textile Trinket Boxes stole the show again this year with the big one with the row of harbour cottages selling first thing on Saturday morning. My lovely customer let me keep it for display over the weekend though. This was all that was left by Monday and now there are only four available.

The largest boxes measure 12 x 12 x 7 cm and are £46. This one below measures 10 x 10 x 6 cm at £38.

The next size down are 7 x 7 x 7 cm at £32

And the smallest measure 5 x 5 x 5 cm at £26

These four are all still available here

I had some Bits Bags for sale over the weekend which went down very well. I bagged up all the hand dyed fibre in the colours that I tend not to use and sold it so that I can buy more in the colours that I do use.

I also had some Felt Soap Rock Kits for sale which were popular. The kit comes with a lump of soap, loose merino fibres and full instructions. Basically you wrap the merino fibres around the soap, wet it, rub it and roll it and you end up with it looking like a pebble made of felt. The soap is still inside it and you can use it for washing with the felt layer acting like a scrubby. Great little project for children. 

My larger felt pictures made a great display in the back room of the studio. I sold a few but still have some left.

'Crofter's Cottage'
£245 Framed
£195 Mounted with no frame.

'Fisherman's Bothy'
£245 Framed
£195 Mounted with no frame.

'Low Tide at Willowherb Bay'
£245 Framed
£195 Mounted with no frame.

'At Peace By The Sea II'
£145 Framed
£95 Mounted with no frame.

'Daisy Cottage'
£95 Framed

'Heathery Knowe Cottage'
£95 Framed

'Purple Haze Cottage'
£75 Framed

The larger frames cannot be posted and are only suitable for local collection or delivery which is why I have given the prices for unframed as well. I can post  the pictures anywhere unframed.
The smaller pieces are fine for posting. Full details are in each listing in my Etsy shop.

I now have a pile of commission pieces to work through and orders from gift shops to fulfill so I'm actually still just as busy as I was before Open Studios! It's great to be busy though. 
If you have any questions about anything you have seen here on my blog, please feel free to get in touch with me at

All contributed content © Aileen Clarke