Many Spring Fling artists and makers take inspiration from nature – but for Sue Thomas and Jennie Ashmore the plants, flowers and seeds they gathered in the Scottish countryside have become the art.

And Sue, from near Dalbeattie, has used her art to put climate change issues quite literally under the microscope, creating short films highlighting the vital role of seeds within the environment.

Jennie spends much of her time in her garden in Auchencairn, or the surrounding countryside, where she gathers leaves and flowers. These are then pressed beneath some of her 80 old, inch-thick volumes of the Yellow Pages before being used to create intricate collages celebrating the natural world.

Both are among the more than 80 artists and makers from all across Dumfries and Galloway taking part in Spring Fling – an online edition of Scotland’s premiere open studios event – which runs until Monday 12 October. 

Sue, who works in a variety of media, said: “One of the issues that concerns me is climate change and its impact on seeds. It’s crucial. No seeds, no birds, no plants, no animals – nothing.

“I wanted to stimulate people to think about it. As part of the project I gathered some seeds, put them under a microscope, pointed my camera down the barrel and sent the video to my laptop. The patterns they created were absolutely beautiful.

“The end result is a series of films that are meditational and take the viewer out of the rush of daily life.”

The natural beauty and the pace of life in rural Dumfries and Galloway are what attracted Sue to the region from England 11 years ago. 

She and her husband rented a house in the area for six months but ended up selling their home in England and putting down roots in south west Scotland.

Sue said: “We were tired of city life and the pace was ridiculous. It was gorgeous here – we were surrounded by a natural world that was unsurpassable.” 

Likewise Jennie fell in love with the region after living in a number of parts of the UK and settled there in 2003.

She said: “Coming to Dumfries and Galloway was one of the best moves I ever made. When I came here I found ‘home’.

“It’s an absolutely ideal place for my work. The skies are wonderful, completely different almost every day, and the landscape is magical.

“I love being able to spend time in the garden, where I grow things like silverweed, cornflowers and borage, and out in the woods or in the fields and along the hedgerows collecting the flowers and leaves I work with.”

Had Spring Fling not been delayed and moved online due to Covid-19, Sue would have been showing her films on a large screen at Gracefield Arts Centre and Jennie would have been welcoming visitors to her village studio.

However both are welcoming people to join them digitally by viewing some of their work on Spring Fling’s specially created studio pages.

Spring Fling artists with a keen interest in flora and fauna include Pamela Grace, a painter and printmaker looking at the changing hedgerows and Janet O’Donnell whose recent work has focused on Australian Scribble Gum Trees and the country’s bush fires. 

Others, working in various mediums, create work that reflects and documents the important issues of climate change and our environment.

Joanna Macaulay, Assistant Director for Upland Arts Development CIC, said: “Dumfries and Galloway is renowned for the number of artists and makers who come to live here – and the reason they do is frequently because of its unspoiled natural beauty.

“Many, like Sue and Jennie, reflect its special qualities in their work. And we hope that while people aren’t able to visit Spring Fling studios this year, they will be inspired to join us in future by the quality of the art and craft on our studio pages.”


Notes for editors 

Picture by Colin Hattersley.

About Spring Fling

  • Last year 74% of visitors had been to a previous Spring Fling, 26% were new, and 99% would come again.
  • 98% rated Spring Fling as excellent or good.
  • 57% of visitors were from outside Dumfries and Galloway.
  • Visitors spent close to £1.4 million in the region.
  • More than half Spring Fling visitors spend one night or more in the region.

About Upland

Upland CIC (Community Interest Company) supports artists and makers based in, and with connections to, the region. It will delivers, events, training, networking, support and opportunities as part of a year-round programme to benefit the region, its artists, communities and economy. Upland CIC runs the annual Spring Fling contemporary visual art and craft open studios weekend in Dumfries and Galloway. It will work closely with other arts bodies in the region to further-strengthen the sector. Upland is based at Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries and exists to:

  • produce and deliver festivals, events, and experimental projects of the highest quality
  • nurture an environment where artistic excellence thrives and grows
  • inspire and educate a wide range of audiences, customers and clients to understand, celebrate, be actively engaged in and supportive of visual art and craft practice
  • raise the profile of visual artists and makers locally, nationally and internationally fulfilling a crucial role in the culture and tourism of Dumfries and Galloway
  • build strategic partnerships at regional, national and international level
  • maintain a financially sound and adaptively resilient organisation
  • use, and encourage the use of, innovative and emerging digital technology
  • work to the benefit the local economy and the sustainability of local communities.

Its funders are Creative Scotland, D&G Council, The Holywood Trust, The William Grant Foundation, The Heritage Lottery Fund, ASWT, Barfill. 

For media information contact Matthew Shelley on 07786 704299 or at [email protected] or call Upland on 01387 213 218.