On the weekend of 6–7 December, galleries, studios and workshops across Peebles and further afield will open their doors for Rapt in Winter – a new pre-Christmas arts fair and trail. In the 12 days leading up to the event, we’ll profile each of the dozen participating venues in order of their appearance on a specially-commissioned arts trail map
There’s a little hub of creative – not to mention foodie – activity at tiny Whitmuir, just 25 minutes or so from Peebles. Set on a working organic farm, alongside a restaurant and food hall in a contemporary low-energy building, the exceptional Dancing Light Gallery has been tempting art lovers from near and far since first opening in December 2009.
“I opened the gallery after almost two years of planning,” explains owner, Helen Bell, who had moved to the Borders a few years previously and was looking to open a gallery in the West Linton area.
When the owners of Whitmuir, the Organic Place – the farm on which the gallery stands – revealed plans to build a new building there, Helen knew she’d found the right spot. “We all agreed that there would be synergy between our businesses and the building was designed to include a purpose-built gallery with high-level natural light and an open and inviting entrance,” she explains.
Fast forward five years and Dancing Light Gallery has gained a loyal following from people in the West Linton area as well as Penicuik, Biggar and Peebles. “Many people also come from Edinburgh and take the chance to combine a day in the countryside with a visit to the gallery and a snack in the adjoining cafe,” says Helen.
As a rural gallery based on an organic farm, it’s perhaps no surprise that the emphasis is on exhibiting the work of a range of young and established artists and makers who take their inspiration from the natural environment. The gallery typically displays a selection of original paintings and prints along with jewellery, glass, ceramics, wood, sculpture and textiles – often serving as an important starting-out point for young and local artists.
“We work primarily with Scottish artists, many of whom are from the local area,” reveals Helen. “We are very lucky in the Borders in that we have some very talented artists and craftspeople living and working here.”
True to form, the gallery’s new Winter Exhibition – it’s largest display of the year – features a variety of local exhibitors, including Sue White Oakes (copper and bronze sculptures), Shelagh Atkinson (oil paintings and prints), Phillipa Headley (glass), Helen Foster (ceramics), Dave Binns (wood) and Julia Cunningham (textiles).
It's an exhibition that traditionally mixes work by real customer favourites with a scattering of new names. This winter, the gallery sees the return of Dianne King, whose jewellery went down a storm last year, as well as Blandine Anderson, who has enjoyed great acclaim for her intricate porcelain and stoneware sculptures.
One of several new exhibitors is Lise Bech, with the gallery displaying her own organically-grown willow baskets, while Tom Hopkins Gibson (ceramics) has been a regular exhibitor since the gallery opened. “He’s just back from a sell-out show in Chicago [where he numbers Calvin Klein as a regular customer] and we have a wonderful new collection of his wood grain bowls as well as his new ‘white on white’ collection of parian-ware," explains Helen.
Part of what makes running the gallery such a joy, says Helen, is being surrounded by such creative talent. “I’ve met so many amazingly creative artists and makers during these five years and that has been truly inspiring,” she says.
“I’ve also found that once our customers discover us they tend to come back time and again to check what we have on show. As a result, all of us in the gallery have developed great friendships with people from far and wide.”
Venue number 11 on the Rapt in Winter arts trail map, Dancing Light Gallery is found on the A701, close to Lamancha and West Linton. Exhibition opening hours: Sat 11am-5pm, Sun 11am-5pm. Excellent café and deli on site. Live performance by InChorus, Sun 2pm.
Rapt in Winter is the latest in a year-long programme of events developed or supported by Peebles Creative Place 2014 following the town being named as the most creative place of its size in Scotland.
For much more on this special weekend, including links to all participating venues, click here. And don’t forget to check out our gallery for a flavour of the work of more than 30 artists and craftmakers involved in the event.