New beginnings for Scottish sculptor’s home after campaign to save it for the nation

An iconic house built by an acclaimed Scottish sculptor and furniture maker has been handed over to a new trust set up to preserve his legacy and open up his life’s work to the public.

Tim Stead created hand-crafted furniture for galleries, castles, cathedrals and even for a visit to Scotland by the Pope.

He died aged just 48 in 2000, leaving behind a vast wealth of artistic works.

These include the unique home he shared with his family in Blainslie, near Lauder, in the Scottish Borders.

The Steading, in the Scottish Borders, was the family home of acclaimed sculptor and furniture-maker Tim Stead, who died in 2000. Picture: Alan Dimmick

The A-listed Steading, which features entirely original sculpted fixtures and fittings, was saved for the nation after a major fundraising drive secured more than £500,000 to buy the property and set up a charity in his name.

Now the artist’s wife Maggie Stead has officially handed over the keys to the Tim Stead Trust, which will act as guardian of his legacy.

It has been a rollercoaster ride to get to this point, with the house on the brink of transferring into private hands, and has sparked a mixture of emotions for the widow – compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.

But she believes the Steading can soon be “a place of inspiration and fun” once again.

Tim Stead created a unique home in Blainslie, fitting it out with stunning hand-crafted furniture and interior features. Picture: Alan Dimmick

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“I had not imagined a handover like this,” Mrs Stead said.

“I had imagined a marquee in the garden, a pig roast, fireworks, a big party to say a big goodbye to all.

“As it is, because of the virus, it feels a bit like leaving by the back door.

The Steading was saved for the nation after a last-minute fundraising appeal secured the £500,000 needed to buy the home and turn it into a museum and visitor dedicated to Tim Stead's work. Picture: Alan Dimmick

“But I know that the Steading, with its collection and archive, is in good hands.

“And I look forward to the developments that are going to take place here at the Steading to allow it to continue to be a place of inspiration and fun.”

Tim Stead’s best known works include Café Gandolfi in Glasgow, the Millennium Clock at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and the oil industry memorial chapel in the Kirk of St Nicholas in Aberdeen.

He was also a keen environmentalist, raising funds to create the UK’s first community woodland in the Scottish Borders and helping form the Carrifran rewilding project at the turn of the century.

Tim Stead was known for a number of high-profile commissions, but his own home is considered to represent the finest examples of his outstanding craftsmanship

But his own home is widely regarded as his single most important work, standing as a tribute to his love of wood and his astounding craftsmanship.

It will form the centrepiece of a new visitor hub and museum dedicated to his life’s work, hosting educational facilities, activities and experiences in areas such as arts, crafts, poetry and music and the environment.

The ethos beyond the new centre comes from the sculptor’s own views on the human need to interact with and connect to nature.

Nichola Fletcher, chair of the Tim Stead Trust, said: “I have dreamt so long of this moment over the past five-and-a-half years – the day when we would be able to receive the keys to the Steading and carry on for Maggy her work of promoting Tim Stead’s work and everything he stood for.

“At times we have despaired, but we got here in the end.”

Fixtures and fittings inside the Steading, even this washbasin, were hand-crafted out of wood. Picture: Alan Dimmick

The trust is now aiming to secure further funding to realise longer-term plans for the property. Further details can be found on the charity’s website.

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