FOR quiltmaker Pauline Burbidge creativity is a way of life and the home she shares with her husband, sculptor Charles Poulsen, reflects this with works by the couple scattered in the various nooks and crannies of their converted steading in Duns.
The higgledy-piggledy arrangement of the various farm buildings means both artists have generous-sized studios in which to work. What’s more, the studios transform themselves naturally into exhibition spaces and ever since Pauline and Charles finished the conversion 18 years ago, they have held an Open Studio event for the public to view their work on an annual basis.
Pauline laughs as she recalls the first year they opened their doors to the public 18 years ago, not long after Charles had put the finishing touches to their Borders home. “The first year we made more from selling tea and cakes than anything else, but over the years things have built up and we now have hundreds of people visiting from all over Scotland, and as far afield as London and Europe to look at and buy our work.”
This summer’s Open Studio exhibition will be something of curtain raiser for Pauline’s long-awaited retrospective - PB Retro: Interpretations in Cloth. Therefore, this year she will not have any large Studio Quilts on display but will instead exhibit her 2012 collection of Stitch Drawings.
Each year Pauline selects a theme which often draws on imagery from nature. This year there are two influences to her work, both geographical locations: the mudflats in the causeway between Lindisfarne island and the mainland, and Puglia. Every year Pauline and Charles run drawing workshops in the Italian town where as well as working with small groups of other artists, they have the opportunity to develop ideas for future work.
Travelling to Puglia each year is one of the few breaks Pauline, a self-confessed workaholic, takes away from her daily routine. “I normally get up at 6am and walk until 7am, so my working day starts at 8:30am and apart from a break for lunch I work until 5pm, have dinner, then go on into the evening until around 9pm. When it comes to stitching the quilts on my old Bernina, I like to get a good rhythm going and I often have Radio 3 on, or if I’m using the sticking machine, which can be noisy, I’ll maybe put on some contemporary jazz.”
Pauline has been making quilts for 35 years and her “one-off” individual quilts and wall-hung textiles feature in museums throughout the UK including the Victoria and Albert museums, Glasgow Museums and in major collections in the United States such as the International Quilt Study Centre at the University of Nebraska. Her work is distinguished by the continuous lines of stitching which she makes onto silk before hand-painting the material with acrylic fabric paint. The quilts, which can take six to eight months to complete, are then heat sealed and laundered at Galashiels College.
The “stripy” nature of her work is a theme that has spread onto furniture and furnishings throughout the rest of the house and even outside onto the guest caravan, wheelbarrow and even some of the outside walls, explains Pauline. “At first it was unconscious, then I realised there were a lot of stripes in here and it suddenly became a conscious thing to work with stripes in the house. Once we started, it was easy. Whenever we were repainting something I would think, ‘Where can I put stripes on this?’”
Bright turquoise and rusty red colours dominate the large kitchen area with the floor and window frames coated with sadolin wood stain. A coat stand makes an ideal vehicle for displaying Pauline’s impressive collection of hats. She used to make them, but now just collects them as objects. Charles made and painted the bookshelves in a matching tone, while Pauline bought the red, blue and white contemporary Turkish rug for £80 when she was teaching in St Ives 18 years ago.
Spending so much on one thing is something of a luxury as most of the furniture and furnishings in the house have been made by Charles either from scratch or by repairing and renewing found or old objects. For instance the barrels in the kitchen he found discarded outside the Chinese restaurant underneath his studio in Nottingham, the armchair he fixed after finding it broken in a London skip, while the bench seating he repaired after finding it abandoned in the Allanton village hall.
Pauline and Charles rarely take time off from their artistic endeavours, but occasionally spend a Sunday wandering along the east coast beaches where they collect the shells and rocks displayed on a bedroom cabinet alongside hand-painted warships by artist Leonard McDiarmid.
The couple also like to relax by working in the garden which also doubles as an outdoor gallery for many of Charles’s sculptural objects and Growing Sculptures. During this year’s Open Studio event the garden will also provide a colourful backdrop for guest artist Nigel Ross who specialises in carving pieces, particularly very large seats, out of a single piece of wood.
• Open Studio 2012, Allanbank Mill Steading, Allanton, Duns, Berwickshire TD11 3JX, 3–6 August from 11am–6pm
PB Retro: Interpretations in Cloth at the Festival of Quilts at the Birmingham NEC, 16–19 August, and Quilt Museum in York, 7 September–1 December
(www.paulineburbidge-quilts.com; www.charlespoulsen-sculpture.com; www.nigelross-sculpture.com)
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east