Exhibition to celebrate Montrose artist and potter

Syd Walkers daughters Kirsten and Fiona are pictured with some of his work which will be on show at the forthcoming exhibition at Montrose Museum.
Syd Walkers daughters Kirsten and Fiona are pictured with some of his work which will be on show at the forthcoming exhibition at Montrose Museum.

The life and work of Montrose artist and potter, Syd Walker, who died last year, is celebrated in the latest exhibition at Montrose Museum.

Retrospective provides a unique opportunity to view paintings and pottery spanning almost 60 years and also gives insight into Syd’s wartime roles as ARP officer and Bevin Boy.

Born in Birmingham, Syd taught art in various schools and colleges in England and Scotland before setting up his own business in Montrose – his wife, Elizabeth’s hometown – in 1957.

His first shop was in Bridge Street, with a gallery and pottery nearby where he produced a distinctive range of studio pottery, often using local natural materials to create his own glazes.

Examples of pots and ceramic jewellery from these early years will be on display, along with butter dishes which formed part of Syd’s biggest order for the Co-op – 12,500 identical dishes to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the SCWS.

Graeme Cruickshank, of Scottish Pottery Studies, said: “Syd Walker was not a potter who can be readily slotted into any pre-formed niche.

“At a time when the once-great Scottish pottery industry was in its twilight years, he worked hard to create a range of small goods which were at the same time both functional and attractive, and often decorated by the skilled brushwork of an artist of true merit.”

Using photographs and newspaper cuttings, the exhibition documents how in 1968 an articulated lorry jack-knifed into the shop, completely destroying it.

In the search for new premises, Syd and Elizabeth bought a newsagent’s shop at the Ballhouse which they turned into a shop and Coffee House in 1969.

Three years later, they converted an old coach house in the Queen’s Close into The Stables Art Centre, which ran successfully for more than 30 years, providing a showcase for Syd’s pottery and paintings.

The wide range of paintings and drawings on display include Syd’s ‘trademark’ images of Montrose scenes, such as the Steeple and Kirk Steps, as well as Angus landscapes and paintings from his many paintings trips in Europe.

Although there is not enough space to display Syd’s panoramic panting of Montrose Basin – which broke all visitor records when shown at Montrose Museum in 1996 – images of him working on it will form part of a film being shown at the exhibition.

Syd’s great passions included making art accessible to everyone – he was awarded an MBE for his services to art in the community – and gaining recognition for the Bevin Boys, who helped to keep Britain supplied with coal during World War Two.

The helmet and lamp he used while working down the mines will be on display, along with his ARP uniform.

The exhibition opens on Saturday (November 19) and runs until January 14 at Montrose Museum.

The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday 10am and 5pm. It is closed on Mondays.