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.


  1. Hi Aileen - many thanks for your kind words about your visit to us here at the Birchwood Cottage Gallery & Tearoom. Just one wee thing - we don't open on holiday Mondays, just Fridays to Sundays although the gallery is open by appointment Mon to Thurs inclusive. Thanks again, Walter

    1. Thanks Walter. I'll edit that. I took if from the About section on your FB page. Thanks again for a lovely visit :)

    2. Thanks Aileen - FB page now amended

  2. What a lovely trip you've taken us on. I don't really know that part of the world and it looks so pretty and picturesque. I thought it was Cornwall when I spotted the first two pictures.

    1. It's a lovely area Jackie. You'd love it. Really quaint with lots of artists living and working there. That whole stretch of coastline from St Andrews down through Crail, Anstruther, St Monans and down to Lower Largo is dotted with beaches, lovely walks and all the villages look like this with crow stepped gables, red pan tiles and the houses all higgledy piggledy down to the waters edge.

  3. It looks like a wonderful place, Aileen - aren't we lucky to live on such a beautiful island! Thanks for introducing us to Ann's super work, I've taken a look on her website and I love her paintings, the colours are gorgeous, aren't they!

  4. Oh it's been ages since we had a stroll around the East Neuk of Fife Aileen - thanks for the tour :)
    I don't know if you're interested, but I've nominated you, via my blog, for a Liebster award - a way of introducing you to different people .... Take a look and see if you'd like to take it up. Lots of love
    Fil’s Place - Old songs and Memories

  5. Hi Aileen, Thank you for the lovely reminder of St Monans and the East Neuk - although I am Australian and currently live in Cairns in QLD, my husband and I (he's Scottish) lived in St Monans for 3 1/2 years - we left in 2006... it is the most lovely little seaside village and we were so lucky to have a house right near the sea.. its was a wonderful place for our children to grow up and mess about on the beaches and everyone was so friendly... I do miss it and your photos show just what I loved about it. I used to also visit the open studios as well throughout the East Neuk - such inspiring work. As is yours..

    1. Hi Alexandra, thank you fr leaving such a lovely message. How lovely to have lived in St Monans! All the villages along the neuk are so charming, we love visiting when possible. How amazing to now live in Cairns! I'm happy to have given you a little reminder of your time spent here. All the best, Aileen.


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