I am taking part in North East Open Studios again this year. It will be the third time I have done so. It does what it says on the tin - artists and makers in the northeast of Scotland open their studios/galleries/work-spaces to the public. There are over 300 participants this year, with venues from Banff to Johnshaven, and Finzean to the centre of Aberdeen city. You can see a wealth of talent in a range of disciplines, from textiles to ceramics, painting to photography and glass work to jewellery. Most places will have work for sale; some may provide teas and coffees and there are even demonstrations of how work is made.
This year, for the first time in its ten year history, the Open Studios event is taking place over three weeks, from 7th-29th September, with the northeast of Scotland being split into 3 areas, North, Central and City & South, with each area being open for a week (with overlapping weekends, so no-one misses out on anything).
Future blog posts will be about my preparations for the event, which starts two weeks today. And about the event itself, once it is underway. I love getting the chance to go and see what other artists and makers have been busy creating. You may find, after such visits, that you too are inspired to be more creative!
In the meantime, here is a link to the online catalogue; there is also a paper version, which is a year-round directory to artists and makers in the area. So now you can start planning where to visit.
A slideshow of the postcards is now available.
The exhibition is nearing its end; tomorrow is my last day at the GALE centre. It has been a great experience, meeting a huge range of people. Locals, visitors, semi-locals and foreign travellers, they have all been in, asking an even wider range of questions.
From "where is the nearest cash machine" to "what are those purple flowers growing beside the path on our walk into the hills?" to "how long does it take to drive to Inverness?"
I have been asked if I work here - feels like I do now, as I knew the answers to these questions : "At the Wildcat (McColl's) Shop just along the road", "heather and bell heather" and "an hour and a half". Maybe I could get a job here.
The remaining seven postcards arrived today. They are now pinned up, as part of the exhibition, connected via red thread to the location on the map where they were posted.
This part of the exhibition has attracted quite a bit of interest. Visitors have been recognising the letterboxes near to where they are staying, or even ones they have spotted while out and about.
Clockwise from top left, the postcards in the photo are of the letterboxes at : Cove, Mellon Udrigle, Aultbea, Inverewe, Badachro, South Erradale, Opinan, Red Point (below), Port Henderson (above), Big Sand (left), North Erradale (right) and Melvaig.
Three postcards arrived at the exhibition today. From Aultbea, Melvaig and Mellon Udrigle. That's five so far.
There have been visitors from Surrey, Hawick and Germany. I have had conversations about playing the mandolin, mending sheds and coal stones which surround London.
There is great interest in the postcards - I will be putting them in a gallery of their own very soon.
Two postcards arrived at the GALE centre today - one from the Inverewe letterbox (left) and one from the one at Cove (below).
I've had interesting conversations so far today with a gentleman from Virginia, a bus driver from Surrey and a couple of friends who travelled all the way from Aberdeen to visit the exhibition! To be honest, they are on holiday in Kinlochewe, so didn't have to travel quite so far.
I like to be busy. That's probably just as well, as I just added a whole new layer to what I am doing around my "Local Letterboxes" exhibition, which opens tomorrow in Gairloch.
Yesterday, I painted twelve postcard-sized sketches of most of the letterboxes which will feature in the exhibition. A photograph of six of them is shown on the left. Later in the day, I drove round the letterboxes and posted the corresponding postcard in each one.
So postcards from all these rural letterboxes are now wending their way towards the GALE centre in Gairloch. I had an interesting conversation with the postmistress at Aultbea, as the post office was open when I was there. I learned a bit about how the post is collected and distributed in the area.
I'm looking forward to having more conversations about letterboxes, post offices and the mail system in general, as well as art, of course, during the coming week. I am sure I will learn a lot. There is a great deal of local knowledge around in the area. I have had great responses from folk so far, when I have told them what I am doing.
I have been putting together my first ever solo exhibition. "Local Letterboxes". This sounds exciting and it is, but I have this constant nagging voice at the back of my head saying things like :
1. "What if nobody comes to see it?"
2. "What if they do come and they don't like your paintings?"
3. "What if they do like them, make positive noises about them, but nobody buys anything?".
The rational, sensible, scientific part of my brain can sometimes respond - but not usually at 4am - with something along the lines of :
1. "You have put up lots of posters, there's a piece about it in the local paper and you've been posting on Facebook and Twitter for weeks now - what more can you do?".
2. "If they don't like them, they will probably whizz round and then leave. They are not terribly likely to come up to you and say they think it's rubbish. They have not paid to view the exhibition. They will not be demanding their money back. Not everyone will like your paintings. Fact."
3. "Make the most of the feedback. Don't stress about selling - if you do, it will be obvious and probably put people off. It's more important that you're getting out there and showing the world (well, a small part of the world) what you do."
All artists have to find a way of living with the fear of rejection. I have read about this on many artists' blogs; the above is simply a distillation of my thoughts on the subject. It is very simplified; there are plenty other things to worry about. But I intend to try and keep things in perspective and stick to these three. It's remembering the rational replies that's the tricky bit!
My "Local Letterboxes" exhibition of watercolour paintings is on from 6th-11th August at the GALE centre in Gairloch, Wester Ross.