Gala passion inspires Kirstin’s prints

etched prints depicting events from 2012 Braw Lads' day. The artist is border based Kirstin Johnston who is in her second successful year of degree study at Edinburgh Art College.
etched prints depicting events from 2012 Braw Lads' day. The artist is border based Kirstin Johnston who is in her second successful year of degree study at Edinburgh Art College.
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She was unaware of the importance of the festival to the people of Galashiels until one of her work colleagues was made Braw Lass.

But just over 12 months on, art student Kirstin Johnston has had a first edition of her prints of last year’s Gala Day bought by Scottish Borders Council, and picked up an A for her project.

Her etched prints are now on display in Old Gala House until October 31.

Kirstin told us: “I needed a project for the end of my second year at Edinburgh College of Art and I was working with Nicola Mackay at Asda who was last year’s Braw Lass. The enthusiasm she had made me think ‘There has to be something to this’.

“The passion that came through meant I wanted to put that into the pictures.

“When I was speaking to other people from Galashiels I realised this day was almost as important to them as Christmas.”

The project involved plenty of work for Kirstin, who immersed herself in the Braw Lads Gathering last summer. In the end, after sifting through photographs, she produced six prints covering the main events of the June festival.

Among them is a depiction of Nicola during the emotive Mixing of the Roses ceremony along with the poem The Lass of Richmond Hill.

There is also a scene of horses charging through the mud, with the words of Braw, Braw Lads forming part of the picture.

Others include the Braw Lad and Lass leading the cavalcade up Scott Street, the Braw Lad laying a wreath at Lindean and the Burgh Flag being dipped at the War Memorial.

Kirstin added: “Historically there is a thread that comes through and I tried to depict it by threading them through my work.

“I don’t know whether they will be here or moved around after October, but we hope people will come along in the build-up to Gala Day, as the interest grows.

“It is remembrance of last year, but also years before that. The horses don’t change, the architecture doesn’t change, the only thing that does is the people and that is why I try not to be too specific.

“I engrossed myself in it. There were loads of photographs taken and I talked to various people for research.

“It was then a case of knuckling down and drawing and coming up with the images which would best represent that day.

“It is such a patriotic event, it is amazing. It seems to have evolved and everyone gets excited for it where I work.”

Alongside the prints, Kirstin has made up a decorative book, which features an image of horses in Bank Street, the sounds of the cavalade racing up Scott Street on a CD and a poem by Violet Anderson.

Kirstin added: “I was looking for a verse and told Nicola Mackay this and she said ‘I know the one’ and sent it to me.

“It was the perfect thing to put on the book.

“I wanted to make something that is decorative that would be pulled out every year for the Gala Day.

“Bank Street is architecturally very interesting and that is why I used that backdrop. I want the book to transport people.

“I would love to do another Borders festival. I have considered following all the others and would absolutely love to do something like this again.”