Functional art …

Functional art, statement interiors, colour accent or a talking point – or maybe all of the above?  What am I talking about? Lampshades!!! The standard lampshade is often exactly that, very ordinary, understandably many shop bought shades are neutral or a single colour, yet they don’t have to be – or at least not in my house!These words by William Morris, the 19th Century celebrated designer, are often used in the world of interiors, and with good reason!   I love this quote and as one of life’s hoarders, our home is exactly that, a family home that’s rarely spotless and pristine for long, and yet I do love having beautiful things around me, most of them have a reason or a story as to why they’re still in situ. Some are gifts from long ago or purchased on a memorable trip away, some self-bought birthday treats or perhaps they appealed to my inner magpie, and some are just downright useful.  I enjoy having beautiful quirky bits and bobs and there’s no reason why a lampshade can’t be in that category. Hence the term ‘functional art’, it is what it is, both useful and beautiful.

That is the starting point for my work, I see the lampshade as my canvas (with a purpose), and using a number of different techniques, all vary depending on what will be the best for creating the design, so it begins.   They do result in being something different, and yes they can be ‘statement’ pieces or a source of conversation, but always functional.They may be hand screen printed, hand painted, stitched, stamped, or collaged, all are handmade and original in design, some are one of a kind or one of only a few.  They appeal to those who know their own style and create their own interior story over time,  mixing and matching designs, colours and textures along the way.Come along during Perthshire Open Studios (1-9 Sept 2018) to see what there is, find out how it was made, or just to have a good look around.  I’m on the Plum Route, venue No.55. on the B8062 just outside the village of Dunning heading towards Auchterarder.  There’s a great selection of artists in Dunning alone.  It’s always lovely to have visitors pop by during Open Studios.



September can only mean one thing ….

Perthshire Open Studios (POS) has begun!  The orange signs are up, studio tidied, new work on display and ready to welcome visitors and friends old and new.

Dunning is situated on the Plum route, just one of 7 routes throughout Perth & Kinross with over 200 artists taking part in 143 venues.  It’s a 9-day event which does at least allow a couple of weekends to hopefully get to see as many as you wish.

Taking part is a brilliant way to meet folk who are genuinely interested in a creative process, take some time whilst studio bound to work on a new project, and share what you do with anyone visiting.

You often hear people say that it feels odd coming into someone’s workspace, please don’t,  we choose to take part because we want to welcome you in and share what we do,  and please never feel obliged in any way to make a purchase, it’s just a great opportunity to showcase what we work on throughout the year.

The one-off lamps are the main feature of my work this year, both as a table lamp and when put with the fabulous wooden bases which I commission through another Perthshire based maker Sylvan Wood Design.  The mixed media shades combined with a base are what I’m calling ‘functional art’, each one genuinely different and individual.

Hand painted & digitally printed table lamps
Each base & shade are hand made – each an individual artwork – with a purpose!

I don’t have to look too far afield to be inspired with new ideas, the amazing skies & views quite literally from the garden have inspired the mixed media hand painted designs, and hard to believe, but this image is as it was, no filters applied – honest!

If you have a view or a favourite skyline you’d like to capture on a lamp then commissions can be created if you supply a photo.

A beautiful abandoned walled garden which I drive past regularly inspired the artwork for the foxglove design which has been digitally printed onto 100% linen.

There are some route blogs posts on the POS website which have been put together to help visitors get the best out of their time out and about, worth checking out if you’re not familiar with the area, in addition to the studios you’ll find there are mentions of where to go for coffee, lunch and any points of interest etc.

I’m Venue 66 on the Plum Route, open 10-5 daily until Sunday 10 September (except Mon 4 Sept), 5 Millhaugh Steadings, Dunning, Perth, OH2 0DW.  Easily found on the B8062 just outside Dunning village, look out for the orange signs to help you find your way.

If you go down in the woods today …

There’s a fabulous line up of 34 artists taking part in the exhibition In the Garden with Friends which begins this Saturday 13 May and I’m delighted to have been asked to join them.  In addition to several of my printed designs it was a great reason to develop some new designs with a retro botanical flavour.

I’ve extended the theme of being ‘in the garden’ to being in the ‘wild garden’ and used the flowers that pop up in the woods, the snowdrops which bring hope that Spring will come, the bluebells which have to be the most joyful of wild flowers, and inspired by an old nearby wild walled garden, a fabulous display of wild foxgloves.  Hope & joy – just two great reasons why we love being in the garden.

I set about creating some one off designs which could be used to create a feature homeware piece, a piece of functional art.

Further developing the mixed media textiles techniques I’ve been playing with over the last few months, the final designs encompass hand printing, machine free hand embroidery and hand sewing.

To complete the lamp I wanted to develop the wooden bases which I’d used for the Christmas Tree shaped lamps, to create the woodland feel.  In a collaboration with Sylvan Wood Design, Andy developed these beautiful one off lamp bases.  Individually hand turned, two of the bases are made of apple wood collected from the Carse of Gowrie and one is elm collected from Fife.

Functional art!

As part of the design developments I started to experiment with an alternative foxglove design for digital printing, I ran out of time to have it ready for In The Garden with Friends, however plan to continue and sample the design and maybe have it available ready for Perthshire Open Studios in early September

Design developments underway for a digital print

In the Garden with Friends opens at The Barn Gallery, The Bield, Tibbermore, Perth, PH1 1PY on Saturday 13 May and runs until Sunday 4 June, open daily (except Mondays) from 10am – 5pm.

Messing around with mixed media

Having eventually vacated the spare room as a workroom (now in a dedicated creative workspace in a garden building), it was time to freshen up and decorate the spare room, and that meant a perfect excuse to create some unique fabric!

Work commitments over recent months meant that creative time had been limited, so I jumped at the chance to spend a few happy winter weekends literally messing around with some mixed media textiles which involved printing, hand painting, hand sewing and machine embroidery – the result being a piece of fabric I could turn into a new roman blind and some fabric for a lampshade & bed cushion.  It was fun playing again and always love the idea that these designs are a one off.  Now ready to welcome guests with a proper spare room once again!

Mixed media detailHandpainted lampshade & cushion

Finished roman blind


A lamp for life – not just Christmas!

I had a notion of creating a table top ‘Christmas Tree’ lamp for life, so with a vision in my head set to researching a rough cut wooden lamp base and getting a template made to create a cone ‘fir’ shaped lampshade.  The latter part was easy enough and after the usual internet trawls discovered the site of and I knew that their up cycled oak beam bases was the rustic look I was after.

Then the fun part, playing around with designs and this time I was wanting to continue experimenting with painting directly onto the fabric to create the painterly watercolour effects and using some freehand machine embroidery and applique  techniques, whilst retaining a nod to both the mid century look and Christmas at the same time.

Selection of different designs roughed out in sketchbook
Upscaled spruce branch detail
50’s style Christmas baubles

The finished result was a lovely lamp which loosely represented a ‘Christmas Tree for life’.  My plan is to design alternative shade designs which can be swapped around during the rest of the year, although the customers who bought them were adamant that they were happy to keep them in situ all year round.

Final chosen designs (and other designs which could well appear for next Christmas)

All images and designs © Caron Ironside Design 2016 – All rights reserved



An ‘honest’ addition!

Admittedly it’s mid December (already!!), however taking a moment to try and understand just how these last few months seem to always literally disappear, it all begins when summer fades into September, Autumn appears and that means Perthshire Open Studios, an annual event which starts the first weekend of the month and runs for 9 days.

2016 was my 3rd Perthshire Open Studios, but my first in a studio, and it was great to welcome folk into my creative space!  It was part display of all my work and part chaotic work space.  Perthshire Open Studios is an extremely successful event, 2016 was the 9th year and it’s grown enormously in that time, with over 200 artists in 139 venues spreading across every part of Perthshire, it’s a delight that anyone chooses to come and see what you do, a chance to focus on how your work has developed in the last 12 months and of course meet and chat to visitors, many who also create in one way or another, always inspirational.

Open Studios is also the ideal opportunity to develop new designs and this year I added to my seedhead collection with a new ‘Honesty’ design, one which has been in my head and in sketchbooks for the last year and having stumbled across some on holiday in France, decided this was the perfect stimulus to make it happen.  I played around with a variety of mixed media techniques to create the black/white artwork which would work for screen printing, it’s proved to be a popular design and a plant/seedhead that’s loved by many.

As my work is mostly commission based, it’s great to be able to offer this design in any colour combination, I’ve chosen to use charcoal grey and saffron yellow on the natural linen background.



Space! Glorious Space!

studio 1It’s been 3 years in the waiting, 6 months in the planning, 2 months in the building and finally I’m more than excited to say that I now have SPACE – Creative space, in the form of a garden studio!

Since embarking on my creative adventures 7 years ago when I first started back at college I’ve worked from the kitchen table and latterly the spare room, which in turn has spread throughout any available space there’s been and back to the kitchen table again.  Having a dedicated creative work space was always the plan and this year, and thankfully and excitedly, in time for Perthshire Open Studios, I have a proper grown up studio.

Wary to promote this – just in case it wasn’t up and running in time, I’m now ready to say – come and say ‘hello!’ – Perthshire Open Studios starts in a weeks time (Saturday 3rd September – Sunday 11th September) and by then I’ll be organised and ready to show you around!  Slight exaggeration, it’s not that big, although you will be able to not only see samples of my work, but get a feel for how the process works and what’s needed to make it all happen.


I’m located on the Plum Route, Venue No.62  in Dunning off the A9, very easy to find, the orange signs will be up and map location  detailed on the Perthshire Open Studios website.

POS 16 FB HeaderI used the services of Paterson Garden Buildings Ltd in South Alloa and can highly recommend their service and craftsmanship.  We visited their workshop back in January and got the chance to see many examples of their work, select options for walls, roofing, windows, doors, colours etc.  They make to your specification which meant I could decide where windows, doors went etc to ensure that I got maximum light and maximum space.  Gary and his team work very efficiently organising the project from start to finish, just keep the tea and biscuits coming!  You can see images of their work on their Facebook page.

I’m looking forward to being able to juggle the many projects, creative and otherwise, more easily in my studio and also to having the novelty of a spare room again!