Coburg House Christmas Open Studios

So there’s a simple joy,  and the hope of a  certain Scottish parsimony,  in buying Christmas gifts direct from the maker.

Nowhere better to start this weekend than at Coburg House studios in Leith, whose denizens have a refreshingly engaged attitude to the whole enterprise and where artists’ egos, and sensibilities, are disarmingly lacking.

“I work in wood and metal and I make boxes,” declares Mette Fruergaard-Jensen, who trained in Copenhagen.   Her boxes come in varied but thoroughly Scandinavian shapes and sizes   – in mahogany and oak, copper, resin, brass, and aluminium.

Coburg House Scottish artists studios Christmas shopping

Mette Fruergaard-Jensen at Coburg House Studios

“I think I’ve brought my past with me very much.   Sometimes when you live in another country you become even more Danish, in a way,” she said.

There are over 80 artists in Coburg House, from painters to weavers. silversmiths to sign writers, and even one architects firm, Woodside Parker Kirk, who were constructing the tables to greet guests with the Christmas drinks stand.

The Christmas Open Studios run from 6pm on Friday night through Saturday and Sunday.   Summer hall’s Christmas market next weekend is another date for the calendar in artistic home-mades.

This blog comes out of simple enthusiasm for last year’s outing, though not buying from chains does not mean buying cheap.

Artist David Schofield  is working near the building’s front door on a large commission for a client in Arizona – of a chase scene out of Tintin, set against Arizona’s Camelback Mountains, and painted using colourful clusters of little people, a certain kind of pointillism.

David Schofield, Coburg House, Scottish art

Homage a Tintin… David Schofield

His works on sale include prints of  The Reluctant Spaceman, a take on launching unprepared into new fatherhood, and Last Over Before the Rain, inspired by cricketers on the Meadows.   There’s Coming Home, one of his illustrations for a forthcoming book; he trained in illustration at Duncan of Jordanstone College in Dundee.

There’s a generous enthusiasm about the way makers  of different disciplines engage with each other and with visitors at the event – about 2,500 last year – at Coburg that other more shy and retiring studio collectives could well learn from.   “People have no egos here,” said Schofield.  “There’s a sense of collective, to work towards something.”

Bryony Knox has been a silversmith for 20 years.   The open studios, she said, “are especially inspiring for people who work on their own.   Getting the opinion of the public on the latest thing you have finished is amazing.  I pick up lots of stories and ideas as well.

“I tidy up a bit but not very much because half the joy is walking into a studio and seeing the tools.  People do like having a nosy.”

Bryony Knox, Coburg House, Christmas Scottish artists

Bryony Knox, silversmith, Coburg House studios

Knox’s high end offerings are glass and silver sculptures that run from about £1-5,000.   She has just been a silversmith in residence at Edinburgh Zoo.     On a lower price point are pendants and rings using old sixpences.

Bryony Knox, Coburg House, Scottish artists

Bryony Knox’s sixpence pendants and rings

A highlight of the Joan Eardley exhibition that has just opened at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art are the artist’s late abstract seascapes.     In her studio Joy Arden’s landscape abstracts were also wonderfully and gently compelling.

Trained at Nottingham College of Art, in Edinburgh after a working as a printmaker in Ireland, she is represented by the Tatha Gallery in Bridge of Allen.       She is selling monotypes and prints but also this stand-out painting,  like many of her works untitled, and her most recent piece.

Coburg House, Scottish artists, Joy Arden

Untitled by Joy Arden

A particular favourite from last year is weaver James Donald, with his company  , who produces hand-woven scarves from linen, cotton and merino lambswool inspired by Scottish land and sea scapes.    He is launching a couple of new collections in this event, aiming for a more graphic approach with simple pared down colours.

“You get to meet the makers, see how they work behind closed doors or just give you an insight,” he said.    “It’s a bit like going into somebody else’s shed.    Each space represents an individual.   We have different influences, different aesthetics, different inspirations.”    His studio includes the 12 table looms he uses in workshops.

Coburg House, Scottish artists, Christmas

Scarves by James Donald of


The denizens of the studios range from long-time professional artists to those who have come later to the trade.   Alan Cameron is a former architect who only moved into Coburg House at the beginning of the year, from his old base in a former mill in Selkirk.   He is offering The Long Wall in Winter, at around £1,300; you can get a good view of the spot from the Borders railway.   You’d be forgiven for assuming these are oil paintings (particularly with the reflection here); Cameron works in soft pastel.

Coburg House, Scottish artists, Christmas

Alan Cameron’s The Long Wall in Winter

Two jewellers, Kaz Robertson and Donna Barry have shared a studio  for 14 years since they left college.   Robertson works in resin, selling bangles this year with magnets to link them together, as well as black and white looped necklaces.   Barry uses silver and gold and semi-precious stones, fusing petals of metal together; the work is sturdier than it looks.  She recently participated in the Elements show at Lyon and Turnbull; she stages wedding ring workshops, in which bride and groom learn how to make rings for each other.

Donna Barry's fused petals of silver

Donna Barry’s necklace from fused petals of silver

Wrapping up this quick survey of just a few of the arts and craft makers, is Astrid Trügg, a  Dutch artist who has been ten years at Coburg.   She is preparing   work including still lives and seascapes for a big show at the Richard Hagen Gallery in the Cotswolds next year, but is also among the artists featured in the Christmas show in the Fidra Fine Art Gallery in North Berwick, to where she recently moved.

The standout pieces include pen and ink drawings of North Berwick harbour and a charming still life, the Black Kettle.   “I just like simple old objects that have been used, for the shape and simplicity and the life they have led,” she said.

Astrid Trügg, Scottish art, Coburg House

The Black Kettle by Astrid Trügg.