Gift Guide: Fine Art in Scotland

Make full use of the Christmas markets and specialist art and design shops around Scotland when making valuable gift decisions this year

Feature by Adam Benmakhlouf | 27 Nov 2015

Remember about this time last year? When standards were sliding as time moved closer to high street closing. Principles were compromised, and some perfume gift boxes were bought in a stress-induced overspend.

There is another way.

With the help of this gift guide, see loved ones genuinely appreciative of interesting and thoughtful gifts. At the same time, here’s how gift buying and giving can also be a means to support local artists, makers and designers.

Contemporary craft & design markets

Starting early, Hill St Design House host a series of pop-up design and maker events from late November onwards. Their Christmas Sale and Pop-Up Shop on 28 & 29 November features a selection of local designers including witty scarf designs from Karen Mabon and original festive party outfits from Rowanjoy. The following weekend's pop-up has jewellery by Patience and essential oil drenched botanical skincare from Lucky Cloud. Keep up to date with all Hill St's plans on their Facebook

Dundee Contemporary Arts will hold their Crafted Christmas Craft and Design Market event on Saturday 5 December, 12-5pm. Just like most of the special market events that will receive a mention here, there will be a good crowd of invited makers (30 at DCA) who will present works across all media – from painting to laser cut to pottery.

Dear George, for one, will be present at DCA on the 5 December, with lightweight jewellery designs that quote abstract geometry as much as they do tribal print and bright Californian hippy optimism. Or you might take an interest in the handmade gadget covers from Lollymac, all in Harris Tweed. A nice gift to warm the next iPhone cycle’s cold edge of anomie.

The next day, there’s the first of Tea Green Market’s three festive outings around Glasgow. On Sunday 6 and 20 December Tea Green organiser Joanne MacFadyen presents her own handmade jewellery in the Lighthouse, and is joined by fine artists, textile designers and makers of unique homewares. Between the Lighthouse dates, on Saturday 12 December, Tea Green will be presented in the beautiful interiors of the Glasgow Botanics’ Kibble Palace.

Over in the Briggait the same day, the Etsy team present Etsy Made Local, a pop-up market featuring some of Glasgow's resident makers. You can find a full list of stallholders for the days here – expect a range of handmade jewellery, textiles and prints. The event kicks off at midday. 

A few days later on 10 December, there is the Grey Wolf Studios Christmas Sale. On show, there will be products from 14 participants, including Risotto studios. Headed by designer Gabriella Marcella, their house style is bold and colourful, with an emphasis on bright and flat shapes. With a predecessor in Matisse’s cut-outs, they’ve got two eyes on fun.

Also participating in Grey Wolf Studios Christmas Sale is Garnet McCulloch, who can also be found more permanently in Fireworks Ceramic Studios. Located in Garnethill, Fireworks will also be holding its own Christmas sale on Saturday 19 December from 2-7pm. For this, all seven of the studio holders will present their work for sale.

Fireworks also offer classes in ceramics, from beginners' level up. For £120 (£110), six weeks’ classes are provided. In a weekly two-hour session, little classes of four receive plenty tuition and are assured to take home several usable pots.

In Edinburgh, through December there will be two market events planned by Out of the Blue studios in Leith's Drill Hall. On 5 & 12 December, they will present their Xmas Arts Market. On 5 December, studios will also be open to the public. This is a chance to meet the artists and designers that work in Out of the Blue, and see some of the spaces of those participating in the market. A week later, the market returns with a whole different line-up of makers, and will also involve an Xmas Bruncheon, with live music and tasty treats. A full list of all those involved and their work is published on the Out of the Blue website.

Books & zines

Receiving regular and worthy mentions for their healthy programme of events and exhibitions, Glasgow's Good Press have been very good all year and are well-deserving of Christmas custom. There are three main factors that make Good Press an especially good shout for gift-givers. (1) It houses a large number and range of publications and artworks. (2) These range from the very specific to more general interests, therefore there's something here for everyone. Most importantly, (3) Good Press caretakers are on hand with detailed knowledge of what is kept in the small but well-stocked Scandi-style shop.

Vintage shopping

Quite conveniently, Good Press is still near its old digs Mono Cafe Bar, where you might punctuate your shopping day with nice eats, or a well-deserved drink. Remember too the Mono record store for new and secondhand CDs and vinyls. In between the two, and as another slightly off-piste recommendation, there is Mr Ben’s. With the title of Glasgow’s first vintage shop, Mr Ben's is filled with plenty of interesting clothes, jewellery and accessories. See in particular the lover’s eye brooches, with a bizarre little image of an eye, often set in jewels and gold.

Original art & design

Staying in the capital, there’s the tidily titled Edinburgh Sculpture Workshopshop. In the ESW street front gallery, until the 22 December, Workshopshop is part shop and part exhibition. Showcasing the studio holders and programme artists, there’s a healthy attention to affordability and fair remuneration for artists. As a good sign that a workable balance has been struck, some of the pieces are already sold.

Move quickly to ESW to have the chance at a multiple, like a printed edition or bronze cast, or a unique work, like a glazed ceramic, carved limestone work or hand thrown pot. Some names will be familiar from having previously been features in these pages, like performance and poster artist Andrew Gannon. Hans Clausen too has been a regular for his sculpture and performance. In Workshopshop, he’s included an aluminum heart, in anatomical detail and with a lead core.

On Saturday 12 & Sunday 13 December, Collective are hostings an Xmas Fair in their Dome space up Calton Hill. The fair will showcase Edinburgh’s best contemporary craft, design, food and drink, and kicks off at 10am. There's an incentive to arrive promptly – the first fifty visitors will also receive a free 30 Years of Collective tote.

Located inside the Glasgow School of Art’s Reid Building, there is the GSA Shop, with stock almost exclusively designed by GSA graduates. Of particular note are textile graduate Jennifer Kent’s merino scarves. Their aesthetic is for the most part pared-down linear pattern. They are knitted and hand finished in the Scottish Borders according to traditional Scottish textile techniques. This is just one example of the stationery, homewares, books and jewellery available – and with lovely staff on hand to advise and assist.

Limited edition prints

In the Scottish Print Network, there's the aforementioned DCA, the Edinburgh Printmakers, Highland Print Studio in Inverness and Glasgow Print Studio. Limited edition prints are on sale from all of them and prices range from £100 to the upper end of over a grand – say, for a late stage career internationally known artist like Alasdair Gray

There are many more affordable pieces available in the Glasgow Print Studio, including earlier works by Glasgow luminaries such as Turner nominees David Shrigley and Ciara Phillips and 5-star reviewee Nicolas Party. You can even buy work using the Own Art scheme, meaning a ten month, interest free loan split into equal monthly repayments. 

Edinburgh Printmakers’ Christmas Shoppers’ Weekend is of particular interest. Taking place on the final weekend before Christmas, on the 19 & 20 December, they will host a two-day extravaganza, where you’ll be able to pick up beautiful pieces of artwork at bargain prices. Making a proper go of it, there will be Christmas treats, prizes given throughout the weekend, activities for all ages and opportunities to speak with the artists who use the studios.

Art supplies

Remember too Glasgow's Art Store, Edinburgh Art Shop and CASS Art. These might take care of artier loved ones’ needs, from neat boxed sets of watercolours, tins of sketching pencils to handmade papers. And as a final suggestion, if you’re organised enough, you might even find the right concoction of modroc, beads, hubris and glitter glue to handmake a present. If that fails spectacularly, consult the trained professionals – see all above.