This most surreal of days will live long in my memory as the day that shaped my future as an artist.
18th May 2013
Perhaps not the most inspirational start to a wet weekend in Paisley; cleaning the car, mopping the floors and the usual household drudgery which had been ignored during the week.
Chores complete, the rain was still falling but we had a shiny car, half a tank of fuel and a hankering for a good cup of coffee. The weather forecast hinted at clearer skies further north, but how far north is it acceptable to drive for a caffeine fix?
10 miles? 20 miles?
Nope. We drove EIGHTY miles. For coffee. And sandwiches. And cake.
It's a lovely drive, sure it was a bit dreich, but the pretty villages and increasingly elevated terrain on the Perthshire tourist route along the A822 & A826 from Greenloaning to Aberfeldy make for interesting viewing.
The Sma' Glen is a particular highlight along this road. Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for the numerous pheasants.
Our ultimate destination was The Watermill in Aberfeldy. We had discovered this place before and knew their simple, understated menu was perfectly executed. Not only that, but the beautifully converted mill has a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, perfect for whiling away a few hours on a wet Saturday.
This place really has it all. Award winning bookshop (opened by Michael Palin, no less!), gallery, coffee shop and, in the barn next door, vintage homeware and interior products.
While browsing through the eclectic homewares in the barn we got to chatting with the delightful woman behind the counter. She couldn't have been more friendly or engaging. After making our acquaintance and helping us with our purchase (a rustic set of coathooks, in case you wondered), the lady went on to offer us advice on supplying our textile design products to retailers. This was a revelation as we had only just launched Juniper and Jane a few weeks before.
Feeling appreciative and inspired we said our goodbyes, left our business card and headed off to the neighbouring village of Kenmore. The clouds had parted, so a late afternoon stroll along the banks of Loch Tay seemed the best way to absorb the information we had just gleamed from the smiley shopkeeper.
...the stillness was shattered by the ringing of a mobile phone. I didn't think we would even have a phone signal amongst the hills.
Not fifteen minutes after leaving The Watermill, owners Jayne and Kevin Ramage called to ask if we were still in the area. (Jayne was the smiley shopkeeper!)
Weird. We had just been saying how amazing their house must be, given how gorgeous their shop is.
I'm taking these shots of Loch Tay while Sam receives an offer to visit the Ramages home to discuss "a proposition".
We have literally no idea what's in store as we navigate along the winding roads to Jayne and Kevin's phenomenal cottage conversion.
Bear in mind, at this point I have only shown my work to the public once before at a fair in Glasgow.
As we sit at the dining table, sipping wine and gazing out at the rural Perthshire countryside and chatting about art, maps and geology Jayne tells us how she "had a good feeling about you pair". The couple came straight home from work to check out our website only to discover my textile artwork.
They just came straight out with it, "how would you feel about putting on a solo show in our gallery this Autumn?"
It was pretty difficult to reply, as my jaw had hit the floor!
Five months later...
...I arrive in Aberfeldy to open the show and discover that one piece already has a red dot. The afternoon goes by in a blur of wine and conversation. I even had a chat with curators from the V&A Museum in Dundee. Six of the twelve pieces I had created for the exhibition sold during the opening day, another four sold by the end of the show which left me with only two pieces to take back to my studio.
Jayne and Kevin Ramage have been the most wonderfully supportive and encouraging people. I keep in regular contact with them, in fact they were so happy with the work produced and success of the first exhibition that we held a follow up show in the Summer of 2015.
If you're an artist or maker, I can only recommend getting out and about and speaking to people. Don't force your work on people, just be prepared to show folk how passionate you are about your work. People will pick up on your enthusiasm. Oh, and keep a business card in your purse.
If you're a patron of the arts or simply enjoy a nice lunch - get a visit to The Watermill booked soon.
160 mile round trip for coffee? Totally worth it!
Click here to see my first collection: The Cloth, The Land, The Earth.
Click here to see my second collection: The Cloth, The Land, The Earth II (yeah, imaginative I know!)