We had the most enjoyable day out on Sunday at the Dundee Flower & Food Festival. 


Having killed every house plant I’ve ever owned, and not done much better with the pots outside my front door (which contain more weeds than flowers), I do appreciate the skills of gardeners. 

Fortunately the lovely pots outside Starfish Studio were planted by people who know what they’re doing!! 


My daughters and I were blown away by the array of beautiful specimens on display. Just look at the size of those onions! 


It was a great event with plenty to keep the kids occupied and lots of yummy samples in the food tent! 

Loving the woodlands section.


Making candles in the bee tent.

So that was Dundee in the sunshine on Sunday.
Two days later the weather had changed dramatically, and from behind the counter in Starfish Studio I could see waves crashing over the harbour wall.  I left the cosiness of the shop to nip out and take a few photos.


Johnshaven Pier.

Hopefully the stormy weather is over now as Saturday sees the start of North East Open Studios – we have ordered nine days of sunshine!!  Fingers crossed.

A few months ago I was very suprised and absolutely delighted to receive a letter saying that Starfish Studio had been shortlisted in the bi-annual Aberdeenshire Design Awards.  We had no idea that the award existed, let alone that anyone had nominated us for it!

From 161 nominations a shortlist of 36 finalists was drawn up.  A panel of expert judges visited every property/ project.  There was no ‘winner’ in each category, but awards were given as the judges saw fit.  The awards available are




 Last night we attended the Awards ceremony in the beautiful surroundings of Haddo House near Ellon.  It’s obviously a very big occasion for architects and the council’s planning department, and it was lovely to be a part of it.

Twenty two awards were presented (10 Commended, 9 Highly Commended and 3 Distinctions), and I’m delighted to say that we won a….


Woo hoo!!!!

At the end we were given a beautifully produced book detailing all the award winners.  It will be available online at some point and I’ll add a link for anyone who’s interested in seeing the fascinating variety of projects that were also winners (Craigievar Castle being my favourite by far!!).

In the meantime, here’s a photo of our page in the book.


To make the whole event even more special, our lovely friends had the girls overnight and Ewan and I stayed in a fabulous b&b www.inverebrie.com near Haddo House.  They have just the one double room which is bright and spacious with the most stunning views of the beautiful Aberdeenshire countryside.  Breakfast was yummy, the bed was very comfy, the shower was great and the hosts were very welcoming and friendly people.  Highly recommended!

Having a wee shop full of beautiful things means that the postman often delivers exciting parcels, and I get a real thrill each time I open one up.

Today was extra special as I received 2 fantastic, unexpected parcels. 

A few weeks ago, following a suggestion from the Visit Scotland undercover-sussing-out-my-shop person, I asked via Facebook  for your thoughts on name badges for me and my staff.  The lovely Kathryn of Lazy Daisy Glass www.lazydaisyglass.co.uk/ immediately offered to make glass name badges for us, and today they arrived!!  I LOVE THEM!!

The other parcel contained a badge too – this time for the shop!!  Woo hoo!!

I’m still not entirely happy with being described as a ‘Tourist Shop’ but that’s the only category that I can fit into.  The accompanying letter says, “A very comfortable 3 star rating is applicable at this visit, however there is great potential to achieve a 4 star award,” so I’m v chuffed!!

The excitement is building – North East Open Studios 2010 is almost upon us!! 

From 11th – 19th September, artists all over Aberdeenshire (and a few further south) will throw their studio doors open and let the public see what they get up to.  Others will be getting together in groups to put on collective displays in village halls, friends’ houses , cafes etc. 

The roads will be dotted with bright yellow signs directing you to each venue, and people everywhere will be excitedly clutching their beautifully produced NEOS catalogues with details of all 254 venues.

We are very fortunate to have a lovely bunch of creative people in Johnshaven – there will be at least 16 artists & makers to meet and chat to during the event – and we pull together to produce a village map to show visitors exactly where to find each of our venues. 

It also features places of interest within the village and suggestions for where to go for a walk.  As an added bonus, there’s a free entry in a prize draw to win a Starfish Studio voucher for anyone who visits every venue in the village!

NEOS is run by volunteers who all have their own busy lives to get on with, so in order for the event to work for each individual, I firmly believe the key is in self promotion and collaboration with others where possible. 




At the recent Fish Festival in Johnshaven I set up a gazebo outside the shop to promote the NEOS event, and it generated a lot of interest. 

At the weekend we took a drive out to the lovely Platform 22 www.platform22.co.uk/ in Torphins to have one of Emma Patullo’s famous chocolate brownies and pick up more boxes of catalogues.


I would have taken a photo of the brownie if it had lasted a wee bit longer!

So now, with just a few weeks to go, I plan to keep up with the publicity and I seriously need to get some new, small paintings done.

I recently treated myself to some new paintbrushes, but it wasn’t until they arrived that I realised just how much I needed them!!  These are exacty the same size and shape of brush from the same manufacturer (Rosemary & Co) but one is brand new and one, er, isn’t!! 

 The new ones are an absolute joy to use.

Making the most of my few days off during the summer holidays, yesterday my girls and I went over to Banchory for a lovely day out. 

Unfortunately we visited a small, independent shop with the most incredibly grumpy owner you can imagine.  I’ve been in this particular shop before and she has been lovely and friendly, but yesterday she was actually really unpleasant.  I can only imagine that she doesn’t like children, but my girls are well behaved and aged 10 and 12 – hardly toddlers with sticky fingers!  The girls looked around excitedly, and she glared at them at every opportunity.   

It probably does us shopkeepers good to have the occasional experience like that as it strengthens your resolve NEVER to do that to your own customers!!  Maybe she was having a bad day, but I really do think that customers should always come first and bad impressions always stay with people for a long time. 

Anyway, we enjoyed a lovely lunch at Raemoir Garden Centre, a trip to Meg’s Attic – great needlework/ craft shop –  and a long play in the park before rounding off our day with a visit to The Chocolate Shop http://www.thechocolateshopbanchory.co.uk 

They serve the yummiest hot chocolate – your glass is lined with melted milk chocolate, filled with hot milk and then topped with a milk chocolate disc which then melts into the milk.  Absolutely divine!!!

Last week my family and I enjoyed a fabulous holiday in beautiful Worcestershire.  It’s such a lovely part of the country – all lush and green with some great places to visit.  

Great view of Worcester Cathedral.


So, after a week of relaxation, we’re back and raring to go again!  I’m still working on completely changing the Starfish Studio website and am continually frustrated at my lack of understanding of all things web related.  The site is built and ready to go, but it’s the transferring from one host to another, transferring of email addresses etc that is holding me up.  Hopefully it’ll all happen later this week.  

I was born a few years too early to have had any computer-related education.  By the time I left secondary school, there was one BBC computer in the building.  It lived in the school library and I’m not really sure that it was actually used for anything!  How times have changed. 

Away from the frustrations of the computer I’m working on some new mixed media ideas. 



The inspiration came from various elements of paintings I’ve already done.  It’s hard to tell from the photos, but the hills are 3D with lots of texture. 



Now for the really hard part – choosing a frame and deciding on a price…

The school holidays got off to a great start yesterday when we popped into Montrose to have a wee look at some of the new shops.  It’s great to see a bit of life being injected into the town, which has been looking decidedly sad since Woollies closed down.  We found a new sweetie shop and a new homewares shop amongst others. 

Then we went down to the beach.  It was warm but a bit overcast – great for the girls to have fun in the sea without worrying about them getting burned.  I settled down with a good book and let them get on with it!

There were a few other people on the beach but the girls had loads of space to themselves.

Looking towards Johnshaven in the far distance.

After we’d been there for an hour or so , some grey clouds started gathering, and it got me thinking about how Montrose Beach would look if we had guaranteed warmth and sunshine.  I didn’t like the picture it conjured up one little bit.

Aaaaaargh! No thanks!

OK, so I’m not very good at drawing stuff on the computer, but you get the idea!


We are so lucky to have miles and miles of beautiful sandy beaches around our coast, unlikely to ever be spoiled by overdevelopment thanks to the climate here. 

Looking the other way - Scurdie Ness Lighthouse

Anyway, the grey clouds got closer and closer and started dropping big fat drops of rain on to my book, which was clearly a sign that it was time to go.

Next week we’ll be away down to Worcestershire for a family holiday, leaving Starfish Studio in the very capable hands of Morag and Hilary.  I’m hoping to launch an exciting new website when we return… watch this space!

Starfish Studio is closed on Mondays and I always try to make the most of the day by going out somewhere.  Yesterday was my last Monday off before the school holidays start, so I was determined to have some decent ‘me’ time!

I had arranged to collect some stock from a new supplier in Finzean (pronounced Fingen but you don’t say the ‘g’) near Banchory/ Aboyne so I had a lovely drive up into the hills in glorious sunshine.  Having collected candles made of rolled beeswax and scented with organic essential oils, my car smelled divine!

I took a wee trip to the Butterworth Gallery and had a lovely chat with the very friendly lady there – we’re doing a leaflet swap to help promote each other’s businesses.

Then I headed to the Finzean Farm Shop for lunch.  I had heard that it was good, but it exceeded my expectations. 

Finzean Farm Shop

It’s owned by the Finzean Estate and sells a lot of home produced food – particularly venison and beef, if that’s your kind of thing ( it’s certainly not mine!).  My lunch was beautifully presented and very yummy.  There’s a gift shop with top quality stuff, not handmade unfortunately but nice nonetheless, and there’s artwork on the walls.  It’s in a beautiful setting and the views from the patio towards the hills are lovely.

I was puzzled to see a small area of the carpark cordoned off.  It was on the gravel and I couldn’t imagine that anything could have been planted there.

Cordoned off area - spot the Starfishmobile!

So I went over for a closer look and this is what I saw!!

So where’s the nest?

 No oystercatchers in sight.    I was about to walk away when something caught my eye – did you spot them?!   

Two eggs

So that was my last peaceful Monday for several weeks, and it was fab 🙂

I have to tell you about the new range that just arrived.   gOOglie-eye is a range of adorable owls, birds and fish all made from recycled materials by Catherine Redgate, a student at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen. 

I can’t tell you how impressed I am with this young lady!  She has set up a wee business, has a part time job and is a Brownie leader – all whilst still a student.

Her professionalism is excellent – everything from her initial approach to me as a potential stockist to the finishing touches on her work show that she is serious about making a success of her venture.  She has had fabric labels made to stitch into the owls, and bright, attractive labels printed on to good quality card to accompany the badges and keyrings.

A selection of Catherine’s work.

gOOglie-eye owls are now roosting in Starfish Studio – come and see them before they all fly away!

I feel like I’ve spent all week staring at the computer screen.  I’m working on a brand new website for Starfish Studio which will have an online shop as well as the info about the bricks & mortar shop that’s already on the existing site.  I’m aiming to make it live sometime during July… watch this space!

During the course of last week all the members of South Aberdeenshire Abstracts took their work along to Cowden Studios so by the opening on Saturday my paintings didn’t look so lonely any more!

We had a fantastic turn out at the private viewing on Saturday evening. 

On Monday I visited the Gray’s School of Art degree show and was well impressed.  I bought a small, one off, highly textured print by Audrey Jane Dargie and it got me thinking (again) about whether Starfish is big enough to host exhibitions by other artists.  Hmmm… jury’s still out on that one, but any thoughts or suggestions would be gratefully received.

'Lagoon' by Audrey Jane Dargie

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