Thursday, 30 March 2017


New Programme of Exhibitions Launches at Designs Gallery and Café

A two-year programme of inspirational selling exhibitions showing work by prestigious artists and makers will launch on Saturday 8th April 2017 at Designs Gallery and Café in Castle Douglas.

The first exhibition which is simply called “WEAVE” brings together the talents of local printmaker and book artist Hugh Bryden, Edinburgh based fibre artist Anna S King, contemporary and traditional basket Labels
maker Lise Bech from Fife and French jewellery designer Dorine Decayeux .

This exhibition with its emphasis on the natural world is inspired by the beauty of Spring and the natural materials that surround us. The original prints of bird’s nest each with hand coloured eggs by Hugh Bryden, the subtly coloured willow baskets by Lise Bech, the desirable little vessels, some containing secret tiny books by Anna S King and Decayeux’s delicate jewellery each carry the idea of the woven in their construction or in what they portray.

“Each exhibition” independent curator Jane McArthur who is developing the exhibitions at Designs, explains “is intended to place works by the talented artists and makers living and working in the region in dialogue with others of equal national and international standing. Designs wishes to celebrate the immense local talent that we have in the region whilst bringing work by prestigious makers here, so that we all have a chance to see and also to own something beautiful, unique and special.”

 Lucy Carlow, Owner of Designs added “We have an exciting year of exhibitions lined up which include glass, textiles, ceramics and of course lots of fabulous jewellery. We will be focusing on quality craft, seeking out new talent as well as showing work by established makers.”

Each exhibition reflects the same ethos which Lucy has worked by when carefully selecting design pieces for the home, gifts, books and clothes in the shop, which in turn is translated in the food and environment of the café downstairs.

“Weave”, runs for eight weeks at Designs Gallery, 179 Kings Street, Castle Douglas,     8th April – 3rd June 2017

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Diary of a Cold Spell

‘Diary of a Cold Spell’

paintings by Silvana McLean

jewellery by Eileen Gatt

Exhibition at Designs Gallery 8th October – 12th November 2016

 ‘Diary of a Cold Spell’, an exhibition of paintings by artist Silvana McLean, opens on Saturday 8th October at Designs Gallery, Castle Douglas .

This body of work is the result of a month long residency Silvana spent in Iceland earlier in the year experiencing and documenting through her sketches and paintings the remarkable landscape of this extraordinary country.

She set off from Scotland at the end of February to live in Siglufjordur, the northernmost town in North Iceland to paint, draw and absorb the atmosphere and terrain of snowbound mountains, fjords and snowy skies, returning home at the end of March just as the spring began to arrive in the far North.

While away, she kept a journal and blog of her experiences. Taking along her notebooks she absorbed herself in the surroundings, her observations and sketches of  a northern landscape  translated into these remarkable paintings.  

Freezing temperatures, powerful windspeeds, the gathering light and the sounds of ice and snow made a deep impact on her senses the further north she travelled.

The exhibition at Designs is timely as we have now passed the autumnal equinox and are heading for our winter. In Iceland the first snows have fallen on Mount Esja, not far from Reykjavik and clearly visible from it. Birds will be leaving for the South and many will have already left.

On a previous trip to Iceland Silvana  recalls ‘One of the most moving sights I’ve seen was one early October on the south coast of Iceland, one hundred or so swans were flying over the mountains on their way to Caerlaverock and other sites in Dumfriesshire – as it turned out.  Their arrival was important enough to feature on the news, serendipitously and oddly timed with my own arrival home five days later to watch that news and find out I’d seen them leaving. The sound of all those wings is unforgettable.’

 A reminder that Iceland is a northerly neighbour.

The exhibition runs from 8th October to 12th November and also features jewellery from Eileen Gatt.

Eileen spent time in Alaska working with Inuit artists whose way of perceiving art was very similar to her own, creating three dimensional interpretations of an idea which is imaginary.

Eileen’s jewellery and silversmithing makes references to these traditions, interpreting how these myths and superstitions are perceived today.

Those familiar with her work will recognize the simplicity and understatement of her silverwork with designs which include polar bears, arctic hares, and new creations - penguins, all creatures of our frozen polar regions.




Monday, 4 July 2016

CERAMICS- the influence of Japan


9th July- 27th August 2016
Designs Gallery summer exhibition opens on Saturday 9th July with the work of three potters, Archie McCall, Andy Priestman and Russell Coates .  All three are British makers whose work has been heavily influenced by the Japanese ceramic tradition.

  At first glance their work seems unrelated, however as one looks more closely  the simplicity of the form, the attention paid to the pattern and surface glazes of their pots creates a sense of the simplicity and strength of the Japanese craft. Teabowls, lidded jars, decorated platters and pots are on display in the exhibition which runs until 27th August.

Archie McCall’s interest in ceramics began out of curiosity after first seeing Japanese tea bowls. He served a 3 year apprenticeship with John Davey of Bridge of Dee, near Castle Douglas whose work was largely influenced by the ‘East meets West’ philosophy of the potter Bernard Leach and then in 1974 he travelled in Japan and Korea before establishing his first pottery in Dumfries & Galloway. He spent a number of years as Head of Ceramics at Glasgow School of Art where he introduced the innovative part-time BA(Hons) degree programme which is delivered through residential schools and on-line, distance learning. He now works from his studio in New Abbey where he produces teabowls and larger pieces, thrown in stoneware and richly decorated with glaze, pigments and luster.

Andy Priestman’s high fired porcelain and stoneware pieces, whilst being perhaps influenced by a more Northern European tradition have glazes inspired by the stoneware and porcelain of China, Korea and Japan .  Room 95 in the British Museum, which houses a magnificent collection of Chinese ceramics with pots from the earliest years of high fired pottery, is an inspiration for his work.

 He has been making high fired pottery, both porcelain and stoneware, for over forty years at Minniwick, near Glentrool.
Russell Coates’ unique style is influenced by Kutani Ware which he studied in Japan, He  won the Mombusho scholarship to study enamelled porcelain under Professor Fujio Kitade of Kanazawa College of Art& Design in Ishikawa prefecture in Japan in 1971.He has lectured and taught pottery, including courses in Japanese enamelled porcelain ,since 1975 and works as a potter in Somerset. Russell has always been deeply interested in Japan and realized that ceramics/pottery was one of the most highly regarded of the creative arts in Japan and there was a long tradition of creative diversity.


Friday, 20 February 2015

‘Out of Africa’ new paintings by John Threlfall
at Designs Gallery Castle Douglas
opening  Saturday 21st March 2015

We are pleased to be opening a new exhibition of paintings by Rockcliffe wildlife artist John Threlfall, on Saturday 21st March at Designs Gallery which were inspired by his recent visit to Africa.

John will show a portfolio of his sketches and give a short talk about his trip and the paintings in the exhibition on the morning of Saturday 21st March at 11am.

 It was the fulfillment of a lifetime’s ambition, twice over, when Rockcliffe based wildlife artist John Threlfall visited South Luangwa National Park in Zambia back in October 2014, with pencil and sketchbook in hand.

John is a recent winner of the Swarovski Bird Artist of the Year Award but the chance to draw and paint Africa’s large mammals from life was a dream come true. This was in fact John’s second visit to South Luangwa in recent years and the results of both trips can be seen at Design’s Gallery.

It had taken over 50 years to get there so the determination to make the most of every single moment was burning strong. John travelled with the company  ArtSafari for whom he is an occasional tutor and guide, but on these occasions was free of all responsibilities and could just keep his head down and draw and draw; hippos, monkeys, baboons and birds around the riverside lodge or large cats, zebra, giraffe and elephants from the back of a vehicle in the park.

South Luangwa is one of the premier wildlife parks in Africa and though September and October are among the hottest months to visit, it does mean that the wildlife congregates around the few remaining areas of water to be had, the fast shrinking lagoons and the Luangwa River itself. Such large concentrations in confined areas make for some wonderful opportunities to observe Zambia’s iconic wildlife.

John is well renowned for his wildlife paintings, particularly in Dumfries and Galloway where many will know his paintings of shoreline birds. This exhibition, while immersed in a different, African landscape, manages to capture the essence, light and movement of the natural world for which his paintings are known and loved. An exhibition not to be missed.

‘Out of Africa’ runs from 21st March -9th May 2015 at Designs Gallery  – opening times Mon-Sat 9.30-5pm. Talk 11am Saturday 21st March.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Xmas Exhibition 2014 Jewellery & Tableware

For our Xmas exhibition this year at Designs Gallery we have added to our jewellery display with  tableware by Nick Munro, Shimara Carlow and Tom Dixon.
Jewellers include Eileen Gatt, Alan Ardiff, Dorine Decayeux and Angela Cuthill.

Hare Napkin Ring by Eileen Gatt

Jeweller & silversmith Eileen Gatt is based in the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands. This location provides her with the perfect environment in which to work as she is inspired by the mystical interaction between man and the sea. The beautiful frosty finishes that adorn her work echo the cool wintery landscapes. 
Eileen’s new collection is a range aimed at the high end of the children’s giftware market. The pieces are unique and enchanting, every piece telling a story, making them the perfect gift to 
commemorate a special occasion, timeless keepsakes that will be cherished for years to come. 
Eileen uses stories and customs as a starting point, creating her own visual interpretations, abstracting them in such a way that the pieces portray an air of mystery and intrigue. A number of her pieces incorporate elements which have been cast from rowan trees, it was believed that the rowan protected you from the “sidh” (wee folk or fairies), so it became a symbol of good luck. The hare is also prevalent in Eileen’s work, an animal surrounded by myth and superstition. It was believed that witches could metamorphose themselves into hares. Therefore hares were often feared. However they were also symbolic of fertility and therefore were also considered to be lucky. Eileen also makes reference to the seal, known as a “Selkie” in Scottish folklore. Tales of people that could transform into seals and live under the sea as well as on land were very common around the shores of the Black Isle, as they were throughout Scotland. 
Eileen specialises in highly individual gifts for children, such as cups, spoons, animals and charm bracelets. She also has an extensive range of jewellery. Her recent ‘Tall Tale’ collection is a charming mix of old traditions and contemporary aesthetics. She works predominantly in silver but 
often incorporates 18ct gold and semi-precious stones to highlight certain aspects of the design.