Cowal Open Studios weekend (23-26 Sept)

Cowal Open Studios weekend (23-26 Sept)

The spectacular Cowal peninsula in Argyll, just an hour or so west of Glasgow, is where the sea lochs shape reality and the mountains get big! It’s also an area that’s played a pivotal part in Scottish history with landmarks aplenty. 

Entirely apt then that a growing number of artists from across Scotland, the UK and further afield are choosing to call this place home and taking inspiration from the all-enveloping vistas.

The Cowal Open Studios (COS) network represents many of this burgeoning community of creatives and is supporting the establishment of this part of Scotland’s west coast as a real hub for artistic endeavour.

As over 50 artists who make up COS gear up for their annual Open Studios weekend (September 23rd to 26th), Jenny Phillips, vice chair of COS, explained more, “We are a group of artists and makers living and working in Cowal and cover the length and breadth of the peninsula.

“COS members practice many art forms including painting, jewellery, pottery, glass, textiles, printmaking, photography, woodturning, tapestry weaving, collage and metalwork. Over the years we have expanded to include exhibitions, events and activities as well as social media to showcase the art of our members, plus an invited artists’ exhibition which runs in parallel to the Open Studio weekend.

“The Open Studios weekend in September is a great opportunity to visit our artists in their natural habitat, their studios, and find out what makes them tick.

“We also encourage creativity in the area by involving local schools and young people in an annual art competition,” added Jenny.

It’s clear that there’s a real sense of exhilaration from the overwhelming feeling of space when talking to a few of the artists to have recently made the move to Cowal.

Fibre artist Mhairi Scott, who moved to Toward near Dunoon from East Ayrshire in January 2020, reflects those sentiments perfectly.

Mhairi commented, “The landscapes, nature and history of this part of the world have always interested me.  We holidayed here as a family for many years before we were in a position to finally move and call Argyll home. With the pace of life here you are more able to hear and listen to that voice inside of you that wants to be expressed through what you create.

“I love that there is a vibrant and ever-growing community of artists across Cowal with the COS network providing support for both established artists and new arrivals. We are all constantly growing in some way or another and I’m delighted that the pure and untouched beauty of Cowal together with the nurturing nature of COS has played a part in my increased artistic and personal confidence and creative direction.

“This is a wonderful place to be an artist and I can only see more creative souls deciding to call Cowal home,” added Mhairi who has recently added another successful ‘string to her bow’ with the launch of fibre art workshops.

Katie Edge Mellor, based in Kirn, is another artist to have made the move to Cowal’s shores from the steel city of Sheffield.

An established graphic designer by trade, Katie also designs and hand screenprints a range of eco-friendly, contemporary products including prints, patches and homeware.

“My work is inspired by the outdoors. There’s so much inspiration to be had in this part of the world. I often come up with my best ideas when I am out walking the dog, climbing a mountain, riding my bike or sat on a train. These are the times I come up with my ideas or become inspired by people and my surroundings. I have learnt how important it is to take time out to allow your creativity to boom,” added Katie who has just produced a few new patch designs for the local area and is working on a Cowal map design.

“Cowal is so full of wildlife and stunning mountains as well as boasting close to links to Glasgow and Loch Lomond. I would recommend it to any artist who is looking for a slower pace of life, friendly people, fantastic scenery and outdoor activities.”

“I’ve got involved with Cowal Open Studios, a fantastic growing network of artists who live here on the peninsula. I’ve been lucky enough to work closely with the team designing the Cowal Open Studios 2022 marketing materials and will be taking part in the open weekend in September by sharing my work alongside ceramic and print artists at Seadrift Pottery located in the marina by Holy Loch,” concluded Katie.

Landscape painter Becca Thorpe is another artist who’s finding inspiration in the scenery that defines this part of Scotland’s west coast. Based in the west of Cowal on the shores of Loch Fyne, Becca made the move in the summer of 2020 after being furloughed from her previous job with an architectural consultancy in Nottingham.

“Cowal Open Studios really helped me get started and I feel I would have been lost without their help and direction,” explained Becca whose work can be seen in the Oystercatcher restaurant at Otter Ferry as well as the Tighnabruaich Gallery.

“The scenery around me truly inspires my artworks with its ever-changing light. The waters of Loch Fyne play a big part in my paintings as do the layered hills of mid-Argyll and Kintyre in the background,” added Becca.

Jenny concluded, “COS aims to nurture and assist artists across Cowal and our community is constantly growing in size with arrivals aware of its growing reputation.

“Our Open Studios weekend is the perfect chance for Becca, Katie, Mhairi and many other Cowal artists to showcase their talents. We look forward to welcoming many people into our studios to discover what makes our vibrant, artistic community tick,” she added.

Cowal is clearly not just a gateway to the Highlands but also home to a wide range of artists and artistic styles who reflect its natural majesty perfectly.

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