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Gillian Bridle is relatively new to Shetland and is fast becoming one of Shetland's most popular artists. We caught up with her to find out more about what inspires her bold, contemporary designs.

Her work is currently showing as part of the ShetlandMade programme this summer.

Where do you do your work?

I work from a small rented studio in Scalloway. It's a quirky little building in a residential street with a red roof and a green door.

What is your background?

I was brought up with the M25 (London orbital motorway) as the background sound and I got away from that as soon as I could. I was good at art at school so that is what I decided to study, first with a foundation course and then a degree in Manchester. I specialised in textile design, mostly knitwear.

How do you work, what is your process? What's your favourite part of the process?

My process starts with walking and sketching. Sketching allows me to really observe my surroundings, taking in information about wildlife, weather, people. The sketches don't necessarily translate directly into a piece, they might not bare much resemblance to where I have been, but, they act as the trigger for an idea for a design.

What materials do you work with?

I choose the materials I use because I like the physicality of paper and paint and fabric, of glueing and stitching and painting and cutting. Of holding things up against the light, putting things on top or beside, ripping, getting in a mess, glueing things to the bottom of my shoe, loosing the scissors under a pile of paper.

I recently did a cut paper colourful collage based on the Lodberries in Lerwick, it started off with 3 clouds in the sky, it ended up with 4 because the dog, whilst playing with his tennis ball, managed to throw it up so high it landed on top of the finished piece and put a slobbery splat on the sky. The application of another cloud was the only way to cover it!

I don't enjoy the dry, tidy frustration of sitting at a computer, although the people who do have great skills and I employ their expertise when I inevitably need to.

Do you have a favourite piece to make?

I enjoy the challenge of a commission, where I am asked to create a piece based on my clients ideas. I like the stories behind the ideas, why certain things are included. It can be nerve racking too, you never know until final delivery whether it has fulfilled the brief, but, when it does, that's a good feeling.

Do you make your art full time or do you have another job?

Since moving to Shetland three years ago I have been working at GillyB full time, I feel very lucky that I can. In the past I have always had other jobs alongside my design work. I have been all sorts of things, cleaner, care worker, lock keeper, cafe manager, but my artistic practice has remained a constant.

Art aside, what do you like to do in your spare time?

In my spare time I like to explore Shetland, I have barely scratched the surface in all that it has to offer. I like to go on sailing adventures with my husband, spend time with my children, walks with the dog and binge watch Netflix series.

If you could own another artist’s work, who would you choose? Why?

There are so many artists and craftspeople whose work I would love to have, eg, Kate Downie does brilliant, bold lively work of contemporary Scotland; I love Brita Granstrom's work, her paintings of people in a domestic setting, and in the landscape are so beautiful and full of heart. Kittie Jones does mixed media pieces directly from life on cliff tops and beaches capturing sea birds and wildlife.

I could go on and on, but, as I live on a boat I have nowhere to hang a picture anyway.

What is next for you?

I was a tutor for my first adult learning class a couple of weeks ago. Over the course of a Saturday my class looked at working in sketchbooks outside, trying to overcome fears of being out in public, and of being too self critical and to focus on just enjoying the concentrated process of sitting and looking deeply.

I'm hoping to tutor more classes, looking at outside drawing, for producing the work for its own sake as well as the mindful benefits of this quiet looking.

We are delighted to showcase Gilly's new work in this summer's ShetlandMade programme. Training as a textile designer, the progression back to fabric design was a natural one for her. Her designs have a versatility than can be applied to a variety of products, and as textiles they become functional contemporary pieces. The new work was created with the support of a Visual Art and Craft Award: Shetland 2018/19 in partnership with Creative Scotland, SIC and Shetland Arts.

Gilly has a number of original paper cuts for sale from her studio, should you wish to purchase or arrange a commission she can be contacted directly.

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