Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Pauline and Charlie's Open Studio

I have liked Pauline Burbidge's work very much ever since I got interested in quilting over 20 years ago. Her quilts have changed in that time, becoming even more linear and less reliant on areas of bold colour, with machine stitching playing a big part in her current work.  Every year, she hosts an Open Studio event at the beginning of August with her husband, sculptor Charlie Poulsen, at Allenbank Mill Steading in the borders. I've wanted to see their famous workspace for years, so this year I made sure I'd marked the date in my diary well in advance and we went on Sunday 2nd August.  They moved to the steading in 1993 and have been turning into their own arts space ever since.

'Before the four day event, we prepare – cleaning – clearing – painting – refurbishing – gardening – hanging and installing the artwork throughout the whole Steading, inside and out, turning it into an exciting exhibiting arena.' 

We started in Pauline's main studio, a space about three times the size of my workroom.  I can appreciate the amount of work that goes into turning a workspace into a gallery.

Sketchbooks and quilts.

Cyanotype prints.



The main building with Pauline's studio upstairs.

This amazing cylindrical wooden building has replaced the famous stripy caravan that used to be the guest accommodation.

The beams are gluelam.


There were a lot of visitors and it was interesting talking to them.  Many have been coming for years.  I am sure this will not be our last visit.

Some of Charlie's cast lead sculptures.

This year's guest artist was basketmaker Lizzie Farey.

Charlie's drawings.

Cast concrete draped over walls.


Living sculpture - willows.

The building used as the longarm studio.

The Avante machine is at one end of the long room.

Lead sheet sculpture.

A compass.

Pauline and Charlie have produced a book about the steading and the open studios over the years, so we had to get a copy.

Later in the afternoon, Pauline showed us the longarm and we had a go.  I wasn't as impressed with the Avante machine when I first saw them at Festival of Quilts, but this one was set up on a very solid base and moved perfectly.  Pauline uses it entirely freehand.

It is an amazing place and functions as a total artwork (gesamkunstwerk) for Pauline and Charlie's art.  Having seen the steading, it is hard to imagine their work being created anywhere else. Visit next year if you can!

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