‘Borders, Boundaries & Beyond’ at Old Low Lights, North Shields

This week  I went to an exhibition by three artists, Gillian Arkley, Chris Dixon and Rose Stanley, who show work together as a group entitled, intriguingly…


This is a touring exhibition which has already appeared at the Scottish Quilting Show in March 2017 and the Stitching, Sewing and Hobbycrafts show at Harrogate in May.  I saw it at Old Low Light in North Shields, on a bright summer evening.


The Old Low Light, which was once a lighthouse is right on the Fish Quay in North Shields, and from the building there are beautiful views out to sea.


Within the building are references to its historical past, such as the enlarged nautical map on the ground floor.


A project called ‘Flow’ is being carried on in the building which allows young people with Additional Needs to create art-work for sale – I loved this chair:


The textile exhibition which I had come to see is up on the second floor of the building, in a light and airy gallery. It is entitled ‘Borders, Boundaries and Beyond’. It was fascinating to see how the three artists had played with these ideas in the work they were showing. Here in the North-East we are border people, living near to Scotland. This hasn’t always been harmonious and the border ‘reivers’ (both Scots and English) who used to make raids on properties in the border area between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries, appeared in the show.

Chris Dixon (2)

We also live on edge of the land, at the border with the ocean, and a beautiful piece in the exhibition full of rich blues and purples celebrated some of the castles set on the north-east coastline.

One textile piece in the exhibition ‘Margins’ by Gillian Arkley, was an installation of letters and tiny fabric books set inside a print-tray. This had resonances for me, as my first job was in publishing and I remember going to a course at the London College of Printing and being shown how the hot metal cast type was selected by the printer from just such a tray and then how each individual letter was set into each line, so a page could be printed. The installation was considering borders in print and the gaps between letters and words – I loved it.

Margins by Gillian Arkley.JPG

Different again were the witty fabric dolls on display.  One, ‘The Boarder’ (clever pun) by Rose Stanley particularly caught my eye. Here was a twelve-year old (called Peaches Abigail Blenkinsop) is off to boarding school, complete with her own doll, a trunk, magazine and the tiniest scaled-down chocolate bar!

The Boarder,  by Rose Stanley.jpg


The artists: Gillian Arkley, Chris Dixon and Rose Stanley  share their sketchbooks as part of the exhibit. This is such a generous thing to do, providing much pleasure and interest for the visitors, to see the creative process at work.

This exhibition is full of delights. See it if you can. It opened on 1 June and it runs until the 2 July 2017 at Old Low Lights, Clifford’s Fort, Fish Quay, North Shields NE30 1JA. The Gallery is open from 10am until 5pm every day.

Spring Fling


‘Spring Fling’ is the title of an Open Studio and Arts festival event in Kirkcudbright, in Dumfries and Galloway in the South-West of Scotland. We first visited this area 20 years ago and have returned many times since, to enjoy the lovely countryside and beautiful coastline. I blogged about a summer stay here.

It has been a particular pleasure to come at the end of May, which for us includes a Bank Holiday Monday, so we could participate in the Spring Fling.  This year is the 15th time the event has been held. It’s like a cross between a treasure hunt and an art gallery visit. Armed with the excellent free brochure (you can see it here) and a good road map, you find your way from one artist/crafts-person to another, across the whole of Dumfries and Galloway. There are painters, potters, jewellery-makers, printers, photographers, weavers, embroiderers, furniture-makers and installation artists.  All the studios are numbered and signposted, so you can spot them as you make your way along country roads.

Some of the studios are in spectacular locations, like number 12 belonging to photographer Alistair Hamilton.


This is the view from in front of the studio.


Alistair Hamilton is particularly interested in texture and has taken photographs which feature details of a textural surface that make them look almost like abstract paintings. We loved his work and bought a piece to give as a birthday present.  You can see more of his work here.

This is the studio of Julie Dumbarton:


Inside it was this fabulous couch, and the crocheted blanket on it was as colourful as Julie’s paintings.


You can see more about this artist here.

A particular highlight this year was a public art project commissioned by Upland for Spring Fling 2017, an installation called ‘Edge’ on the beach at Carrick by Robbie Coleman and Jo Hodges. Various pieces were assembled in a line, as if they were along the tide-line. (Please note: the photos below appear with the artists’ permission.)


When you looked closer, all manner of items were ‘washed up’ on the beach, including many boxes, suitcases and other containers (even a handbag) all filled with intriguing items.


A special favourite of mine, as a lover of miniatures, was this small dining room of dolls’house furniture:


Each visitor was given a booklet of strange tales, of lost loves, sea journeys, shipwrecks and the like which had inspired the art-works. It was a wonderfully intriguing, imaginative and original work which clearly appealed to visitors of all ages who were opening the various containers and exclaiming about the contents. And this was the view from the beach: