Glassmount Gallery project

This is a project to create a two roomed gallery space in the stable block here at Glassmount. The catalyst was the inclusion of the garden here in the tour itineraries of the cruise ships which dock at Rosyth. Since I built the new studio, visitors have been as equally interested in the work I've created there as they are in the garden. The studio has windows on all four sides and no possibility of properly exhibiting work, so the conversion of the vacant stable store buildings into an exhibition space makes practical sense.

I'm going to make a wooden floor and glaze the doorways. I will line the walls with material to suspend paintings from and install some decent lighting. When the woodshed adjoining the south facing side is empty, I will remove the remaining structure allowing more light in. As there is a chimney, I will more than likely install a wood burning stove too.

Where to begin?

I cleared out the south facing space and was surprised how much of the afternoon autumn natural light found its way in. The one door that was opened obscured some but in summer much more will flood in directly for more of the day. Certainly that is my experience with the studio on the other side of the woodpile.
The challenge ahead is that the floor slopes in two directions. To maximise the window area the floor needs to be as low as possible. I will have to lift some of the cobbles to lower the floor at the high corner. As much as I like the texture and mellow colour of the lime plastered walls, hanging pictures against them may be tricky. The stable block is Victorian, the rainwater from all the roofs was guttered then canaled to a couple of huge water tanks in a separate building across a cast iron canal shown in one of the pictures. It was then gravity fed down to the house, garden and greenhouses from there.

Clearing the space

I've managed to lay the joists to support the south facing gallery floor. As I anticipated it would be tricky with the sloping floor. It's worked well. I will need to clear everything I moved into the north facing gallery and lay the joists there before I can floor it, then start glazing the door apertures. Still, it's progress.

Joist laying

I set to clearing out the north facing space this morning. It's linked to the south facing space by a wide doorway.  There is a brick built henhouse in the corner which steals some room. The nesting boxes are reached through an exterior door. Although the space is smaller, the opening into the stable yard is full wall width, which should allow a lot of natural light in.

The two doors that face west lead into a byre and then into the barn. If things work out I may develop these too.  The cobbled floor slopes less dramatically than in the other space, so I shouldn't need to remove any of the stone.

I've decided to preserve the lime plastered walls rather than line them with board. I will repair the damaged plaster and give it a few coats of lime wash.

Clearing the space

Despite a runny nose and incessant cough I've laid the joists to support the floor in the north facing gallery space. It was more straightforward as the floor was almost level so I didn't have to lift any of the cobbles. I will need to build a step to link the spaces. Once that is done I will lay the floor boards and make a start on glazing the doorways.



Joist Laying

Progress has been sporadic as I've been painting some new work for an exhibition in London.

I've managed to get three coats of lime wash on the walls of the stable yard space, it needs one final coat. Lime wash is a centuries old form of 'paint'.

You mix the hydrated lime powder in a vat with water to about the consistency of single cream. It's a tricky product to use as it goes on almost transparent. Once it dries it appears as a  chalky white. You can add various oxides and earth pigments to tint the colour, I've even heard of Damson and Beetroot juice being used too. Unlike a modern synthetic paint, it creates a breathable porous whitewash. It both reflects light and is translucent.

I can cut back through the lime wash to sharpen the margins between the plaster and the tooled sandstone reveals and remove the splashes and drips.

I've decided to embrace the distressed surface of the pitted plaster, stone and brickwork. The limewash compliments the space rather than lining the walls with something more clinical and modern.

The lime is a bit caustic and I've burned my hands so I will need to review my own health and safety procedures.

Limewashed Space

This morning Paul came over to frame the door. I had precut the wood to form the arch. with two pairs of hands and Paul's experience, we had the door posts and arch up in no time. As we worked away it became apparent that the space above the horizontal rail could be glazed too. It'll mean some tricky glass cutting but it's too nice a detail to panel over.

There will be a door in the centre and a pane either side. 

Door Framing

My brother is coincidentally making a gallery space at Maspie House in Falkland, next door to the Palace.  The space he is creating is pristine and clinical, sharp white walls and a sky's the limit budget.

The lighting he has had installed is a mix of swanky LED and halogen. I asked him about the costs thinking I might try something similar. When he told me each light unit was over £250 I was stunned. So when I was at Screwfix ,  I asked the guys there what would give me a floody light adequate to light the space and to pick out the paintings I intend to hang. Their suggestion was a £5 halogen security light unit. Lots of floody lumens which might be more expensive to have on all day compared to an LED. That's not too big an issue as I'd only have them on when I had visitors or I was working there. I don't want to spend a fortune on something that at this stage is just a toe in the water experiment. I can always upgrade later reusing the existing wiring.

So I spent the day fitting the lights and wiring them up. The reflected light on the walls is excellent, there should be less reflection on my paintings which I always glaze. Once the varnished floor and glass is fitted to the doorway more light will be reflected too. The last picture shows a single coat of limewash on the walls of other space. I've found a suitable woodburning stove which will should be easy to pipe into the existing chimney.

I've also found some flush floor sockets with flip up lids to bring power in without having to raggle conduit and boxes into the walls.


I've been busy working on some paintings for a couple of exhibitions in London in the new year so progress in departments has been slow. However there has been some significant stockpiling of materials for the final push and I fitted some glass.

A few years back I bought a salvaged gymnasium floor with a view to using it for another project I have in the New Town over in Edinburgh. I looked out the boards and was surprised how many there were. I laid them out in the stable yard gallery and found there may just be enough to do both floors. It is a rich mahogany coloured hardwood. Its a sprung floor meaning the ends of each board have a tongue and groove too. It means that the boards need not be joined over a joist, this gives the floor it's sprung feel. The markings on the boards are most likely from a Badminton or Netball court. I'm in two minds whether to keep them or not. Once laid I will have a better idea.

I bought a wood burning stove and the necessary flues, armoured power cable for the new electrical supply and flush floor mounting power sockets. Paul came over and we framed the South facing doorway. I ordered new laminated glass as the salvaged glass I had wouldn't fit in any configuration. I'll use it elsewhere, perhaps for a framing workshop. I fitted the new glass without any drama.

So, the next tasks are to organise the underfloor wiring, then lay the floor, make and glaze the doors, sort out the lighting and install the stove. I should have a clear run through January. Panter and Hall in London sold the work they had exhibited in their 'On a Grand Scale' exhibition and have invited me to have a one man exhibition in June. So I will need to get back into the studio quickly.

Glazing the doors and stockpiling material.

I borrowed a floor nailer, a nifty device which hits a nail into the tongue of the board at 45 degrees. This has two functions. It leaves no trace, a so called invisible nail, and the angle stops the boards springing out of position. Trying to nail directly through the top of the boards simply bent the nails. Every day is a school day.

Before I could lay any boards I had to clean the varnish and congealed dirt which had fossilised into the tongue and groove of each and every length. This would ensure that every board would seat perfectly against its neighbour. It was a huge job with dozens of boards. I wore out two chisels and almost both hands.

Floor Laying Begins

The process was initially slow. I wanted to get it right. If the boards ran off line from the beginning it would be impossible to lay it properly thereafter. There were lots of fiddly bits to shape boards around. Awkward angles to cut. I had laid the electricity cables beneath the boards, so I could recover them later to install the power points.

It was a bitterly cold spring. I worked into the evenings. It was rewarding work. Without a scheme, a bit like dealing a pack of shuffled cards, little by little a pattern appeared where the badminton, basketball and netball court markings rearranged themselves.

A quick wash revived the colour in the varnish and I was half way.

First floor finally laid

Heartened, I set to laying the second floor, never quite certain if I had sufficient material to complete the job. I had to create a step which was a challenge, but laying the joists earlier I was confident that both floors were parallel to each other.

South facing gallery floor.

I ran out of boards with about a yard to go. Fortunately I found an architectural salvage yard which had some similar boards.

This wasn't quite as miraculous as it would seem. A small company in the Perthshire village of Dunning, manufactured flooring for every village hall, church and schoolhouse in Scotland. The company was called McAinish. The boards are milled with the legend McA1nish on their undersides.

The boards I found were a slightly different colour but their dimensions were identical. They even had court markings.

I set to laying them and installing the socket boxes for the power supply.

Extra boards and wiring

Until now I had been working with no doors into the building. I had rigged up some tarps to keep the worst of the wind and rain out.

I set to making a pair of doors. Paul came over to help me hang them, it's a real skill.


I chiselled out a hole for the stove's flue to reach the chimney, slid the stove into position and in no time had a blaze in the firebox.


I glazed the doors and finally the space was weatherproof.

I could store my paintings where I could actually see them.

For the past fifteen years or so I've taught a two groups of really motivated students at Gleneagles (The House not the Hotel) and up on Speyside.

As a long overdue promise, we agreed to host a couple of classes here at Glassmount. The garden and grounds are full of challenging subjects to paint. A Fife Spring is no deterrent, and the class turned up in oilskins, wellingtons and woollens. The snow drops were out. We painted en plein aire until sleet then torrential rain drove us into the warmth by the stove in the studio.

We set a table and had lunch in the new gallery space.  


As the year progressed I used the space to frame work for a solo exhibition with Panter & Hall in London.  The show went well. The largest painting was bought by a Mexican collector who had it shipped to Paris.

As well as private collectors, we had a visit from the Friends of the Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery who commissioned me to paint a landscape picture for their collection.

Up and running for the summer of 2014

As a project it was great fun. I've revived and reused a space that for years I knew had potential. My only regret was I hadn't made a start sooner.

There is another space which is accessed via the two doors into the byre. If I have time this year I hope to lay a wooden floor in there and to perhaps put a couple of skylights in the roof.

I wont plan too much.

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