Artist makes waves with Portobello gallery

Rosalind Walker's dog Ella takes a close look at an exhibit in her mistress's gallery. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Rosalind Walker's dog Ella takes a close look at an exhibit in her mistress's gallery. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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ARTIST Rosalind Walker fondly remembers the warm buzz of excitement she felt when her first piece of work went on display in a gallery.

Perhaps it is hardly surprising – it was only three years ago. Now the ambitious social worker by trade is making waves in Portobello with her own gallery The Velvet Easel.

Its colourful and eclectic range of modern art by local, Scottish and international artists has been warmly received since she opened its doors just a week ago. Rosalind hopes it will give many local artists the same opportunity she enjoyed – as an outlet to show off their talents.

“When I first got a bit of work accepted by a gallery I was over the moon, then when I sold it, I was ecstatic. I wanted other artists to have that same feeling,” she says.

“I think the art scene has always been here and Portobello is a very artistic community. I would certainly like more local artists in here.

“My hopes are that it will be a very good outlet for artists once it has been established for a while. I would like it to become known for exhibiting locals in particular, though.”

While her foray into the art world has come after an established career – latterly specialising in the field of fostering – Rosalind says art was always in her blood.

She was offered a place at Glasgow School of Art in her youth but turned it down to travel Europe, living in Rotterdam and London, before putting these ambitions on hold again to have a family.

But her interest never waned and when Rosalind saw premises on Portobello High Street were becoming available, she gave up her job and embarked on her dream.

Her gallery represents a broad range of media including painting, sculpture, pottery, ceramics and handmade jewellery from established artists to first-time exhibitors.

Rosalind, 56, who aims to assist artists at all stages of their careers, selected many of them after seeing work at other galleries across Scotland.

“I made a note of artists that I liked and approached them,” she says. “I’m really chuffed that people have said yes as I’m a social worker, not someone that has worked in art for a long time, so people have taken a leap of faith.

“I know as an artist you can face rejection so it’s a two-way street and it’s nice to be able to exhibit other people’s work.

“I think the gallery has a fairly unique collection of work, some by established artists and some exhibiting for the first time.

“Some of the artists have had quite a bit of success selling their work throughout Britain and the world, whereas others haven’t exhibited much at all so it is a really interesting mix.”

The local influence is immediately evident with a painting of Porty Promenade by Morag Muir being one of the first pieces to sell at the gallery, but is also beautifully represented in more subtle forms. Jen Cunningham, who trained for four years for her degree in jewellery and metalwork design, also specialises in landscapes and offers a unique collection of bracelets and cufflinks that cleverly silhouette Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags.

Individually hand-crafted glass beads, inspired by the travels of Helen Chambers and designs by renowned Edinburgh potter Janet Adam add to the eclectic feel and ensure there is plenty of variety.

The gallery opened to the public last weekend and the initial noises are good. “It was fantastic to hear the gallery is giving people what I hoped it would,” says Rosalind.

“Visitors are saying it is a warm and welcoming place, that they found it relaxed and not intimidating.

“It has a nice atmosphere and vibe about it and because of that I don’t think people are scared to come in and take a look around, which is obviously important.”

Fans already include local Councillor Maureen Child who describes it as “a beautiful place and well worth a visit”.

Artists are encouraged to get in touch via the website if they would like to be considered for exhibiting work of all kinds.