Press Release: Northern Irish Artist Selected for Scotland’s Top Open Studios Event10th May 2017
Gail’s delightful images of rural scenes printed on Irish linen impress selection panel for the 15thannual Spring Fling weekend
An artist from Northern Ireland has been selected to take part in Scotland’s premier open studios visual arts and craft weekend.
Gail Kelly will be exhibiting at the 15th annual Spring Fling in Dumfries and Galloway from 27-29 May.
The event will see 93 artists and makers, most of them from south west Scotland, throwing open their doors to the public.
Gail is only the second participant from Northern Ireland and is taking part through Spring Fling’s Neighbours Scheme, designed to involve artists and makers from bordering areas.
Her brightly coloured, hand-stitched collages caught the eye of the event’s selection panel for their distinctiveness and high quality.
Gail is a printmaker and her linocut designs, printed on Irish linen, show scenes from rural life and she takes great pleasure in mixing and matching elements she has seen during her travels.
She said: “I have always made images of the countryside. I travel a lot around Ireland and the UK and collect ideas along the way. It may be a cottage on Skye or a gate in Cornwall.“
Even though the finished works are made up from different elements and places sometimes people are convinced they can identify the scenes.
She said: “I had someone swear that one of my collages showed a farm they knew in County Fermanagh even though it was actually nowhere specific. I love that, when people feel a connection to the work.”
Gail is often in Scotland – which is how she came to know about Spring Fling and attended as a buyer.
She said: “I really enjoyed it, the sheer range of people and places. I love visiting other people’s studios as well and seeing how they work, and they are all so different. One would be in the middle of a town and the next was way up a narrow, winding track in the hills.”
Gail studied fine art at The Ulster College of Art and Design and did a masters degree in Louisiana before deciding to return to Northern Ireland. After having various jobs over the years she decided to go self employed in 1995 and hasn’t looked back since.
She said: “My last ‘proper job’ was in an office and I realised this was never going to work; I didn’t want the uniform and I didn’t want the time card. I wanted to do something that I looked forward to when I woke up each day, I wanted to drink tea when I liked and not have to wait for official breaks. I love being self-employed. Every day is different and I spend it as I want.”
Her first initiative was having some greetings cards made from her original prints depicting stone circles and other ancient sites. But business really took off when she started creating images of trees and country scenes printed on linen. This has recently diversified further into her colourful linen collages.
Gail’s studio is in the barn of the old farm where she lives in County Down. She has a love of animals and there are five pet hens (including a light Sussex and an amber star), five ducks and an elderly guinea pig. Patch the horse also spends the summer holidays in her field.
“I barter the duck eggs for recycled packaging materials – or on occasion for wine. I have a friend who thinks a dozen duck eggs are worth a bottle of red – the great thing is we both believe we’re getting the best of the deal.”
The travel to shows gives her a real buzz, but equally pleasurable is the return to peace and quiet. She also has a vegetable garden and lots of roses – gardening runs in the family.
Joanna Macaulay, Events and Exhibitions Manager for Upland Arts Development, which runs Spring Fling, said: “The Neighbours Scheme is a great way for us to get really talented artists and makers from surrounding areas involved with Spring Fling.
“As soon as Gail’s submission came in it was obvious that her work is very special and we are convinced that it will be a real hit with visitors.
“We very much want to build closer links with the arts and craft community in Northern Ireland and hope there will be many more applications to participate in future years. After all, we are only a ferry ride away.”
Gail is one of two artists and makers who will be exhibiting at the Mill on the Fleet, a converted water mill in the picturesque small town of Gatehouse of Fleet. The town is close to Kirkcudbright, which has a long-established artistic tradition, and where there are a further nine participants.