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Mel Shand Talk on 20 February 2015

Updated: Dec 11, 2018

Having just spent a very pleasant social afternoon with like-minded people listening to a talk given by Mel Shand I thought I would write a short ditty on what some of you may have missed.

For those of you who don’t know Mel, she is a fine artist who graduated with an honours degree from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art. She is fortunate to live on one of the traditional local sporting estates with her family and works from her studio in the Forest of Birse.

Mel has a big personality with a lot of character, once met she is not forgotten; a very animated and entertaining speaker she infuses her audience with her enthusiasm for her subject matter of the moment. 2014 has proved to be a very busy year for Mel and as she treats us to a photographic whirlwind tour of her year, one wonders how she managed to fit it all in with family life. (Makes me feel a little inadequate!)

She starts by informing us of the very successful “Wild Dolphin Project” held in Aberdeen to raise funds for the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital and to protect the local dolphins. You may remember seeing the streets of Aberdeen come alive last summer with giant sculptures of dolphins. The dolphins were on show for ten weeks, designed and painted by local artists, creating an arts trail around the city. The final auctioning off of all the dolphins raised a staggering total of £531,000 a truly remarkable figure for a great cause.

Mel named her dolphin Adeona, after the Roman goddess of safe travel; She explains that her dolphin is a “metaphor for migration and return". "The meandering squiggles of the rivers Dee and Don originate from her mouth and as the rivers flow down her body so they are accompanied by associated birds and mammals.

2014 also saw the long awaited fruition of her book “a portrait of the river Dee”

and her associated Exhibition of Ghillies Portraits. This project started in 2012 when she was invited by the Dee District Salmon Fishery Board to help find a way to mark their 150th anniversary in 2013. She came up with the idea of capturing the people whose lives and work revolve around the river, and spent the next 18 months travelling the 88 mile length of the river from the west at the source at the Linn of Dee, to the harbour mouth in the east in Aberdeen. Along the way she met and photographed all 51 fishing ghillies employed on the river in 2013 and other folks who live and work along the way. She states, “It's not just a book about fishing but also the lives and work of people who I admire and respect!”

She goes on to entertain us with associated humorous anecdotes of her chance encounters, namely the swimming hare, and the inquisitive stag, proving we should always have our camera phones at the ready.

In between the above she has taken on commissions, participated in the artist swap box, designed and painted an information board for the display frame at Potarch bridge, exhibited her first piece of bronze - a small head of a brown hare, painted "Slainte Salar" which appears on the label of the new ‪#‎DeeDram bottle, in addition to her commission to design the label of a delicious limited edition beer soon to be launched by Deeside Drinks Emporium, been involved in community art! –In a lovely project with Finzean primary school where the children identified all the important things and places they see on their journey to school - and they drew them in this 8ft map that now sits on the side of the school building.

So as you can see she has been anything but idle. Which I believe reinforces the old saying “that if you want something done, ask a busy person.”

She winds up her talk with news of her next project - a river of ceramic salmon at four life stages from parr to smolts, a bar of silver and a whopper! With lots of opportunities for community participation, business sponsorship and even a charity element! It’s collaboration with two of her favourite artists Hilary Duncan Ceramics and Helen Jackson - Baskets more details can be found on the “Heckleburn quines” face book page.

But my lasting thought as she comes to a close is that she courageously takes on all new projects and opportunities that present themselves to her. Fearless of the what if questions and have I got the time for this? These don’t appear to be deal breakers for Mel, she focuses on her goal and doesn’t let others opinions put her off, working to tight deadlines seems to be something she thrives on. Which makes me look at my own life and wonder what I could be missing out on, if only I had the courage to say yes and jump straight on in.

If you want to find out more about Mel’s projects check out her website or her face book page.

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