Two visual artists have been awarded the Marchmont x Wasps Residency, giving them the opportunity to practice their craft at one of The Borders’ most culturally important estates this summer, Marchmont.

Emerging from a partnership between Wasps and Marchmont Estates, two artists who take nature as inspiration, textile specialist Laura Derby, and Helen Flockhart, an artist whose chosen medium is oils, will join the growing artistic community at Marchmont in August as fully funded residencies. Helen Flockhart (pictured left) is a Wasps tenant at the Briggait, Glasgow, and Laura Derby (picture right) is a Wasps tenant at Cannonwalls & Claverhouse Studios, Kirkcudbright.

Director of the Scottish Borders mid-18th century Palladian house, Hugo Burge, is creating a hub for creators and makers in the region. Marchmont is expanding its mission to support artistic vision, and since building renovations began in 2011 the estate’s stables have been converted to artist studios and the former garage is now a workshop space. Marchmont is currently home to six artists and creators with more joining the community later this year.

Part of Marchmont Estate includes the former studio of one of Scotland’s most versatile creative figures of the last century, polymath Rory McEwen, a leading figure in the folk music scene from the late 1950s and a pioneer of botanical and multimedia art. During the residency Laura Derby will be working in Rory’s former studio in the village of Fogo, three miles from Marchmont House.

Despite having received no formal graduate training in art, Rory McEwen became one of the most gifted botanical artists of the 20th century. Taking his inspiration from the surrounding landscape and countryside Rory’s artwork can be found in the collections of such institutions as the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, The Tate, the National Gallery of Modern Art, Scotland and MOMA, New York.

Artist and winner of the Marchmont residency Laura Derby:

“Lucky me to get to spend a month to live and work in Rory McEwen’s studio. His botanical works seem to glow with awe at the miracle of life and I hope that some of the embodiment of appreciation he has enabled rubs off in my work.  Ideally I would like to impart appreciation of this gift of life we have, and what a great opportunity for me to try through this residency at Marchmont.”

Co-winner of the Marchmont residency, artist Helen Flockhart:

“I’m delighted to have been given this opportunity.  This is a new experience for me – my first residency – and having just worked through four consecutive years for three solo shows, I’m excited to see what work will ensue as a result of immersing myself in all the visual, historical and creative stimuli that Marchmont has to offer.”

Anthony Hughes-Onslow, General Manager, Marchmont Estates:

“The Marchmont Residency programme was created in partnership with Wasps to enable artists to explore and understand their art in a stimulating but different environment. If it delivers progress in the artists’ work then it succeeds in its ultimate purpose.”

Wasps Chief Executive Officer Audrey Carlin:

“This is a fantastic opportunity for artists to immerse themselves in an inspiring, historic location, with a developing creative community in what must be one of Scotland’s most picturesque areas. The Borders has a long tradition of supporting the Arts, and with the addition of Marchmont as champion it promises to be a vibrant future for the region. Congratulations to Laura and Helen. I’m sure they will find the experience rewarding and enriching.”

Stay tuned this August for updates from the artists during their residencies at Marchmont Estate.

Artists Helen Flockhart, holding her painting of a woman with leaves surrounding her, and Laura Derby, holding her tufted rug with abstract shapes and two geese, stand looking at each other smiling on the garden steps of the historic Marchmont Estate
Helen Flockhart (left) and Laura Derby (right) at Marchmont Estate

About the artists

Helen Flockhart

Having gained a first class BA Honours degree from the Glasgow School of Art in 1984, followed by a post-graduate year (Highly Commended), Helen received a British Council Scholarship to study at the State Higher School of Fine Art in Poznan, Poland from 1985-86. Since then she has lived and worked as an artist in Glasgow. With 20 solo exhibitions in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews and Poznan, and contributions to group shows and art fairs in Europe, Canada, New York and Singapore, Helen’s work is in collections such as Flemings, Glasgow Museums and Smith Art Gallery and Museum. Helen has won awards such as First Prize in the Noble Grossart/Scotland on Sunday Exhibition, Lyon and Turnbull Award at the RGI and a grant from the Pollock Krasner Foundation, New York.

Helen remarks: “I have always painted in oil. I like a surface rich with detail and colour on which to feast the eye. I also like a twist in the beauty and there is often something to puncture the idyll. A keen gardener myself, my paintings reflect a fascination for plants and the natural world, often featuring figures engulfed in a fecund tangle of vegetation. They are all rooted in the human condition though and in recent years have taken a look at stereotypes and tropes of figures in history, mythology and in lived experience.”

Arusha Gallery states: “Hers are works which break with established convention – a blend of portrait and landscape, Flockhart’s paintings are verdant, fantastical paeans to that particularist genre of British myth making centred on pastures, mountains and divinity. Indeed there is something Blakean about her work – a warmth of vision borne of what appears simultaneously ancient and modern.

Laura Derby

Laura creates hand tufted wool pile textiles as artful, practical furnishings for walls, floors and upholstery. She likes the idea of her work inviting connection with the true nature in a deeper way by inviting people to relax, reflect, and rejuvenate through use of mindfulness/meditation mats, stools and art rugs. Her palette of wool, presently, is upcycled and repurposed from carpet industry surplus enabling the wide range of colour she likes. She uses photography, drawing, painting digital art, memory, fantasy, dreams to capture ideas and creative visual work to translate into textile. Sharing appreciation of the natural world is the object of her work and longstanding interest in health/mental health. Consciousness, archetype. One of her influences is the work of Friedensreich Hundertwasser – painter, architect, ecological activist and philosopher. Laura hopes to foster more interest and insight into the benefits of connection, re-connection with the natural laws of earth, not as commodity, as complex subtle ally the benefits of which are woven into the very essence of our wellbeing.

Laura has a BA Honours degree in Industrial Design (Woven Textiles) from the Scottish College of Textiles. She worked in New Zealand briefly, as artisan creating highest quality indigenous artist designed rugs. For the last 20 years she has worked in social care to support people towards the recovery of mental health issues. Laura is committed to strengthening the fabric of life. Laura aims to achieve the Quality Charter Mark of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere by working with them and other partners to produce works of textile are made and designed purely from and within GSAB.