Louise Blamire may be one of Scotland’s most exciting arts talents, but she is also a woman of many parts – artist, potter, seamstress, photographer, mother of three, rugby internationalist and friend of nature. How she met and finally settled with her partner Paul is also a love story that would surely grace the finest romantic novel.
Where to start? Probably, when she was a single mum with two daughters. This is when Louise applied (successfully) to Edinburgh College of Art – emerging a few years later with a 1st Class Honours in Fine Arts Photography. At the degree show, Louise was picked out for a special commission for the Royal College of Surgeons, in association with the University of Edinburgh. “The theme was surgery and elite athletes, says Louise, and it was an opportunity that took me far and wide – providing me with a great personal learning journey. I had originally trained as a nurse so I had a bit of prior knowledge to bring to the project.”
After this major photographic commission, Louise started out on a new course – creating her own art from material sourced from nature and throwaway fabrics. Repurposing is something that excites Louise. “When I found a pile of yellow and green bank bags languishing in an antique shop, I found use for them as linings for a series of wax cotton bags I made.” To describe Louise as resourceful would be to indulge in the art of understatement. Her first foray into pottery started with a home-made kiln and a reconstructed fireplace. Now, not only has she found some rich sources of what she calls ‘wild clay’ around her home, she uses wood ash from a local Biomass Plant, to glaze her handmade pottery. “It is and will remain handmade. So while, I now own an electric kiln, there is not a potter’s wheel in sight.”
Hailing from the Scottish Borders where girls were encouraged to take on traditional female roles Louise, like many of her contemporaries railed against such stereotypical expectations. “You had to be strong because you could so easily be side-lined in a male dominated environment.” It is an experience that has clearly served Louise well and probably explains her involvement in a real Borders passion. “After the birth of my first child I had sciatica. Instead of filling me with painkillers the doctor recommended that I take up running - an activity I hated but took up for the sake of my health. Then running past the Greenyards in Melrose, I saw women playing rugby and that was an epiphany moment for me. I wanted to carry that rugby ball – this was running with purpose. I took it up and progressed quickly to senior level. Making the Scottish National Team was a tremendous achievement and took me to tournaments across the World. I was even asked to join the Great Britain and Ireland women's Rugby League training squad as they prepared for the World series in 2000. I attended one training session after playing for a rugby league Scotland select team but, at that stage, I felt I had enough to contend with.”
It was at a rugby festival in Belgium that Louse first spotted her now ‘bidie-in’ Paul, a Frenchman and also a rugby player. He was watching Louise from the touchline.
“When I spotted him it was a Diet Coke moment. That weekend we spent every waking hour together. We got on really well and when it was time to go home it was with a heavy heart. But, I had responsibilities and so did he so. It was an unlikely starter for both of us.”
“Imagine my surprise when weeks later he turned up on my doorstep in Scotland – he had cycled all the way from his home in France. Bedraggled and exhausted his opening words were: “I will give up everything to be with you.” But the time was not right for Louise and Paul was essentially sent packing back to France. He was devastated. Over the next 15 years the couple had no contact. “I didn’t know where he was or what he was doing. Then out of the blue, Paul made contact again. He asked me if the time was right now.”
It was. Now Louise and Paul, who have been together for five years, are frequent visitors to the Scottish Design Exchange where her work is on display.
“The Scottish Design Exchange has been such a blessing. It is the first place that I have ever said: ‘Oh, this is a comfortable space for me.’ The people at SDX take the pressure off you. Marketing and sales drain your soul. I would much rather spend my time making the work.
When I saw the first month’s sales figure I was pleasantly surprised – it’s such a great model and the staff will tell you what’s being talked about. Isn’t that the best market research money can buy. “
You can see Louise Blamire’s work at the Scottish Design Exchange shop in Ocean Terminal in Leith or go online at louiseblamire.co.uk