Two artists have set out on a voyage of creative discovery aboard – exploring the remote and beautiful coasts, islands and seas around the Inner Hebrides.

Geraldine van Heemstra will be turning the physical experience of sailing aboard the 50ft yacht Whimbrel into artworks.

She will be making wind harps (known as aeolian harps) that will respond to the sea breezes and using a device she made using driftwood, and which responds the movement of the boat and the air, to create etchings.

“It will be like trying to conduct an unruly orchestra of wind, rain and sea. A lot of my art is about our relationship with nature, and this really emphasises how it’s not something we can control, we have to collaborate, it’s very humbling,” she said.

Geraldine, who learned to sail growing up in Holland, is based in London but for the past 20 years has spent substantial amounts of time working in the Hebrides and much of her work is inspired by its wildness.

Geraldine, and fellow artist Clare Dudeney have been awarded a week’s residency aboard the Bluewater catamaran thanks to a collaboration between Visual Arts Scotland (VAS) and Whimbrel’s owners. 

The voyage began at the weekend when Whimbrel set sail from Ardfern, south of Oban, and has been funded by Marchmont House, in the Scottish Borders, as part of its wider work to nurture contemporary artists and celebration of nature, art and creativity. 

VAS are funding the travel expenses, providing in kind support with mentoring and will be showcasing the artists’ work at an exhibition afterwards.  

Clare, a qualified sailor from London, spent many years working as a climate change policy expert but retrained as an artist following a life-changing voyage to Antarctica – often using her work to focus attention on sustainability. A weaver, wood carver and painter she hopes to produce artworks that will reflect the time aboard and the experiences it brings. 

She said: “I love wilderness and I love the Scottish land and seascape, and the time I have spent visiting places and working with other artists, in places like Mull has always been an inspiration to me.

“This voyage will really allow me to feel connected to the environment – the wind and the waves and also the geology.”

Whimbrel skipper Ben Merritt knows the waters well and says the artists will have the chance to find inspiration exploring wild and seldom-visited spots on the islands of the Inner Hebrides, a relatively short hop from Oban. 

They might also get close to magnificent marine wildlife including whales and porpoises.

Sarah Calmus, VAS President, said: “VAS are excited to be partnering with Marchmont House to support artists on this exhilarating residency, particularly in what has been a hugely challenging year for creatives. I

“It’s a delight to welcome new VAS members Clare and Geraldine into our community and are excited to see what they create aboard Whimbrel. 

“We look forward to showcasing their work, alongside other selected residency artists, at our Annual Show at the Royal Scottish Academy in January 2022.”

Former tech entrepreneur and Director of Marchmont House, Hugo Burge, regularly sails on Whimbrel and felt there were superb opportunities for it as an artists’ retreat and for private charter. 

It’s an idea that builds on the work of Hugo’s team at Marchmont House, a 1750 Palladian mansion in the Borders, which they have restored and are turning into a home for artists, makers and creators that celebrates innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. 

Hugo said: “The experience of seeing the coasts and islands of Scotland from the deck of a yacht is one of the most magical that I have ever had. 

“So it’s wonderful to be able to offer artists the chance to find inspiration aboard Whimbrel and for them to have that rare sense of freedom and inspiration from nature that comes from being at sea.”

A company called Whimbrel Ltd, managed by Ben Merritt, has been set up to realise the boat’s potential, offering a special way to see the beauty of the West Coast of Scotland. 

Whilst it is available for private hire, Marchmont House corporate guests and partners will have priority for chartering Whimbrel.

– Ends –

Notes for Editors

For media information contact Matthew Shelley at [email protected] or 07786 704299.

Photo by Julie Howden.

About Whimbrel charters

About Visual Arts Scotland

  • Visual Arts Scotland (VAS) is a leading platform for national and international contemporary fine and applied artists. Originally an organisation for women artists, founded in 1924, the society since the 1980s has championed craft makers, designers and applied arts practitioners. Supporting multidisciplinary creatives in contemporary practice is at the heart of Visual Arts Scotland’s mission today.
  • VAS boasts a vibrant, active and participatory membership of over 800 practising artists, for whom we provide a platform – primarily for the showing and developing of new work through year round exhibitions, events and creative opportunities. Members and non-members alike are welcome to submit work for selection at our prestigious annual exhibitions, to show alongside invited artists and emerging talent, at the imposing Academy building on the Mound in Edinburgh. Our membership categories cater for artists at all stages in their careers, whether new graduates, emerging artists or established practitioners. All are welcome to contribute to the continuing development of Visual Arts Scotland.

 About Marchmont

  • Marchmont House is a 1750 Palladian mansion near Greenlaw in the Scottish Borders.
  • It was awarded the 2018 Historic Houses/Sotheby’s Award following a seven-year restoration, which was described by the jury as “stunning”.
  • The house has one of the finest Georgian and Arts & Crafts interiors in Scotland.
  • It is open to the public for a limited number of days each year, for tours and special events. 
  • The Marchmont team is dedicated to bringing the house alive as a home for makers and creators, celebrating innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship
  • The Creative Spaces project is entirely privately funded by Marchmont Farms Limited and has not called on grants from the public sector or charities – which are facing immense demands for their limited resources.
  • The studios and workshops have been created by the conversion of a series of 19th-century outbuildings round a courtyard near the house and its spectacular walled garden.
  • The project’s value has already been demonstrated by the establishing of The Marchmont Workshop, which has saved the great 19th-century tradition of Arts & Crafts rush seated ladder back chairs for a new chapter in the Scottish Borders.
  • Visit for more information.
  • For information about The Marchmont Workshop see

About Hugo Burge

About the artists

  • For more about Clare see and insta: @claredudeney
  • For more about Geraldine see and Instagram @geraldinehvh