Dumfries & Galloway’s Spring Fling Kicks Off On Thursday

From pagan hunting gods to traditional tapestry weaving and pottery decorated with images of wildlife – this weekend’s Spring Fling promises an amazing array of contemporary visual arts and craft.

Scotland’s premiere open studios weekend takes place this week from tomorrow (Thursday 2nd June) and will see nearly 100 studios, all across Dumfries and Galloway, open their doors to the public  until Sunday 5th June.

Sixteen of the specially selected artists and makers have never taken part before, including slipware potter Mary Gladstone of Craighlaw, Kirkcowan, Newton Stewart. Her pieces are decorated with powerful contemporary images mainly inspired by Galloway wildlife.

Also new to Spring Fling is Gyllian Thomson, of Corstorphine Road, Thornhill, who creates vibrant and colourful tapestries using cotton, wool, linen, acrylic on her upright scaffold loom.

Silvy Weatherall, who specialises in creating art from items that have been used, forgotten or thrown away, will be welcoming visitors into her new studio at Mallabay Steadings, Irongray.

A while ago a champion target shooter gifted her a bathtub full of spent bullet casings and challenged her to use them to create artworks. The results are spectacular – new pieces intended to encourage people to think about human relationships with nature, food, hunting, history and religion.

Silvy said: “While these bullets were only used for target shooting they made me think about hunters and hunting, so I used them to create sculptures of the ancient gods of the hunt.
“I made one of the goddess Diana, using a dressmaker’s dummy that has a very curvaceous, feminine and sexy shape, and a head like a roe deer.
“I also made one representing Cernunnos, the Celtic god of wild things, who has a human form and a deer’s antlers.”

Silvy has also created a series of artworks using keys set in resin to form the shape of a heart which were inspired by ideas of love and belonging.

She said: “The key represents so many things. With migrants and refugees for example, the last thing they do when leaving is lock the door. They will keep the key but it no longer has a function. It becomes an amulet, a symbol, a memory of love and home.”

This year’s Spring Fling is particularly special as it is the 20th event and also marks its return to being in-person after two years when COVID dictated that it went digital.

The event was started in the aftermath of foot and mouth as a way to use the arts and culture to help in the recovery of a rural region where the economy had suffered badly.

Between 2003-19 Spring Fling attracted 162,600 visitors who made around 487,000 studio visits. In 2020 and 2021 the event was online and attracted 26,000 visits to artists’ and makers’ websites. From 2003-21 over £3.3 million of art and craft was bought from studios or online. The event has brought in over £16 million to the local economy.

This year the organisers hope that this Spring Fling will begin the event’s own recovery and will once again see it bring in visitors and economic benefits to Dumfries and Galloway.

Jane McArthur, former Galloway Council Visual Arts Development Officer who was a founder of Spring Fling, has been hugely impressed with the development of the event over the years.

She said: “One of the strengths of Spring Fling is that it supports artists and makers at every stage of their careers, from those who are emerging to the well-established.
“And it’s different every year, with new artists and different studios, and an enormous variety of art and craft, which gives visitors lots of reasons to keep on coming back.”

This year’s event has been specially extended to four days this year to coincide with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

Joanna Jones, Assistant Director of Upland which delivers Spring Fling, said: “This will be a very special year for us, the 20th ever Spring Fling and our return from digital to physical after COVID.
“There’s an incredible variety of art and craft to see, and we have lots of new artists and new studios as well as long-established participants who people love to keep visiting.
“So we are really looking forward to welcoming visitors back to Spring Fling as we begin rebuilding after the pandemic.”