Last weekend I took part in my first North East Open Studios (NEOS) tour. I say ‘took part’ because as anyone who has decided to throw themselves wholeheartedly into an open studios tour knows, it is an experience that completely takes you over.
Needless to say I didn’t get to see half of the people I wanted to. Despite only getting lost once I forgot to factor in talking time – I do like to natter and the North East welcome is nothing if not incredibly friendly. I decided to do everything on foot for Day One. I made my first stop the Gordon Highlanders Museum. A thirty minute walk from the hotel, it allowed me to investigate a little beyond Union Street where I noticed a handful of craft shops including a ceramics workshop for children. It wasn’t on the NEOS tour this year but it was a great start to catch a glimpse of kids getting ready to make stuff.
The Gordon Highlanders Museum showcase included the work of Anne Marquiss, Beverley Hutton Moore and Charles M Smith who greeted me with infectious enthusiasm whilst speaking warmly of the NEOS experience. I later spotted Anne’s work at Aberdeen Art Gallery and the Claremont Gallery.
If I lived in Aberdeen I would be at the Claremont Gallery every Saturday morning. Owned by 2D artist Tracey Johnstone the gallery comprises a place to buy, make and see art with a boutique café to boot. I was attracted to it as Tracey has worked in 3D for the first time in collaboration with Conserving Ecologies maker Anne Murray. This partnership, which in turn has allowed Anne to work in 2D for the first time, was inspired by a love of folk art.
It was also a great opportunity to catch up with Anne who shared her immense wisdom and insight on the local area and suggested new organisations for Craft Scotland to talk to. Tracey and Anne also pointed out places on the map – such as Pennan – where I wouldn’t have otherwise visited so a huge thanks to both of them.
After a quick whistle stop tour of Aberdeen Art Gallery and their shop (also a NEOS venue) and a non-open studios meeting, I pushed onto The SMART Gallery for a private view like no other.
The Oil Barons Club by John Walter (open until 21st October) is an exhibition comprising sculpture, painting, wall paper and print which leaves you humming the Dallas theme tune for the rest of the night.
I was ready and waiting for the 10am start on Sunday when I began my day in Cults at the smallest venue within NEOS. The Cabin, otherwise known as a shed at the bottom of Ailsa and Jennifer J. Watson’s garden, was a perfectly formed, intimate space. In fact Sunday was a treat for finding interesting spaces to show work.
After a drive north I came to Pennan, known as the location where Local Hero was filmed. Resisting urges to use the infamous phone box, I chatted with DIY makers at the Pennan Artists showcase. The collective includes a young wood turner of just 15 years old who is already showing an incredible gift for his craft.
Another highlight was Watergaw Ceramics in Whitehills. Normally Fiona Duckett’s studio, Fiona had opened the space up to more makers working in wood, ceramics and jewellery for a NEOS showcase. After a demonstration from Brian Cook-Shand on making salt shakers based on an 18th century design I made my way home to Edinburgh, making a mental note to put aside at least three days next year.
Take a look at my photographs from NEOS 2012 on Flickr:
Find out more about North East Open Studios
Emma Walker is Chief Executive of Craft Scotland.
Emma decides the direction the organisation will take and works with the Craft Scotland team (the staff and Board) to set the strategy and vision. Her varied role includes: fundraising; business planning; reviewing and reporting; representing the sector; developing partnerships and projects; and creating connections.
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