From framing work on her kitchen table, to finally opening a purpose-built studio and gallery overlooking Scapa Flow, it has been quite a journey for local artist Ingrid Grieve.
Throw in the complications caused by a global pandemic and her path to this point has been challenging to say the least. But now, with the doors open to the public just as summer starts to appear on the horizon, Ingrid can reflect on the last few years with a well-deserved sense of satisfaction.
“I desperately needed more space to work in,” says Ingrid from the new-look Toumal Art Studio in Orphir. “I wanted a welcoming space where people can relax and enjoy the ambience while they view my artwork. We’ve looked on it as an investment – it offers me a space where I can work all year round, but it can easily be adapted too.”
It’s a big step for Ingrid, but she’s used to making major decisions. She painted regularly in her teens but drifted away from the easel until she discovered some old work gathering dust under her bed in 2006. The find sparked a burst of creativity that led her to Orkney College UHI and a space on the Art & Design portfolio course.
“It was very much a heart-over-head decision. I just felt really strongly that I had to do it,” remembers Ingrid. “I gave up my full-time job and went on to do an HNC and HND, passing both with merit. In 2009 I built a small studio in my garden and combined work and painting for a few years, then in 2014 I started concentrating fully on my artwork. I set-up Toumal Art, joined Creative Orkney and the Creative Trail, and here we are today!”
Ingrid’s work is all inspired by Orkney. Her paintings evoke the elements and are full of big skies, wild seas, and the incredible light you can experience here. “Being Orcadian, I feel a special connection to the islands, and my work just comes from a ‘feeling’,” says Ingrid.
Her portfolio has certainly proved popular, with steady sales from local customers and clients further afield, all keen to bring a beautiful piece of Orkney art to the walls of their homes. Although COVID did have an impact, Ingrid still sent paintings out around the world, with some heading to households that had to cancel their planned holidays in Orkney due to travel restrictions.
The ongoing influx of orders caused logistical problems for Ingrid though – her tiny garden studio was becoming too small, with frames, canvases, and equipment all stored in a spare room.
“I could paint in the garden, but then the framing process was done in the kitchen,” says Ingrid. “We just ended up with too much stuff in the house, and not enough room left anywhere for me to actually paint, so we knew something had to be done.”
Planning for her new studio began in earnest after a chance meeting with a local development officer from Orkney Islands Council highlighted available grants that could help kickstart the project. A successful application led to architect drawings and eventually planning permission in early 2021. Building work officially started last summer and the project has been relatively plain sailing, despite the ever-looming threat of COVID.
“I didn’t really have any major apprehensions about building the new studio, despite the pandemic. I knew it was important to have a more welcoming space for customers, and if the restrictions were going to last then I’d definitely need the space to develop an online shop,” says Ingrid. “Now I can have everything under one roof, from painting to framing, and even admin work, so it’s much easier to manage.”
The new studio also opens up other avenues for Ingrid. She has plans to offer painting classes and workshops, and now people can come and see her as she works and observe the different stages of her process. The studio also has full wheelchair access and a disabled toilet so everyone can take advantage of the space.
As the spring sunshine sparkles over Scapa Flow in the distance, Ingrid gets ready to pick up her paintbrush once again. Her new studio is full of light and it’s clear to see where her inspiration comes from. The walls are full of her paintings, all ready for visitors to arrive once again.
“I’m really looking forward to welcoming folk back in this summer,” says Ingrid. “They can just pop in, enjoy the views, and have a chat and a browse. That’s what I’ve always wanted, and I can’t wait to open the doors each day.”
Visit Ingrid’s Toumal Art Studio every Wednesday to Saturday between 11am and 5pm. Contact Ingrid to arrange a visit at other times.
Visit Ingrid’s website to see more of her work.