Regular readers of our magazine will know that our amazing recipe section is curated by the crazy talented Gill Murray, food photographer and stylist and our go-to woman for all things beautiful and foodie.
Last summer Gill realised one of her business dreams when she opened Violet Studios, named after her mother-in-law and nestled into the beautiful gardens surrounding her home near Bridge of Earn.
As is often the way with our most passionate plans, the idea for Violet Studios stemmed from necessity. Gill’s food photography business had really taken off (no wonder – have you seen those pics!) and her talents for styling had captured the eye of many a producer. She had simply outgrown her little makeshift studio by the washing machine and dryer, and needed a dedicated space that could house chefs, PR people, video cameras and her lovely self!
Being the gung-ho gal that she is, Gill was determined to make this move at once; she called on the talents of local family owned firm The Design House, who designed a stylishly clever kitchen-studio that was flexible enough to host dinners, run workshops and give Gill options that at that point she never even knew she wanted!
The result is this stunning space; light, airy and with an air of creativity that inspires endless ideas, Violet Studios is everything you’d want in a studio and more. Add to this the most breathtaking views – a mini-Murray was perched atop a hay bale the day I was there - stretching for miles across fields to the Ochil Hills and beyond and you will begin to appreciate why renovating the old log shed in this exact spot became so important to Gill.
“I feel really lucky to have had this old shed, and to have found people who helped me realise my plans. The renovation was a real labour of love, with everyone mucking in to get me open. I just love coming down here and relaxing or pottering about in the kitchen doing my recipes for Small City or working with a client – it’s been incredible.”
The renovation was a real labour of love, with everyone mucking in to get me open.
The walls of the kitchen area are lined with heavy oak shelves, heaving with pretty dishes, quirky pots and bowls, and any choice of coloured glass! There are flowers and herbs lining planters at the door, and accessories a-plenty in her walk-in cupboard. A mezzanine level is home to a flat day bed where Gill enjoys her research and ideas; you get a real sense of this creative, warm woman here and I just want to unpack my bag and move in!
“People do really seem to warm to it – the workshops were such a natural progression that sometimes it feels as though that’s why I did it all!”
The workshops! I am at Violet Studios on a sunny Sunday in September, those hay bales glistening golden in the sun, and the smell of Bean Shop coffee wafting up the path to meet me. I’ve booked in for a Wooden Spoon Carving Workshop hosted by Violet Studios in partnership with local artist, Louise Forbes, who you may know from Tayberry Gallery.
Louise is one of a handful of carefully selected creatives that Gill works with to deliver workshops. She also runs her own photography days and half days, showing people how to take great photographs on their mobile phones, as well as food styling and shooting tips for chefs and amateur foodies craving an insta-worthy feed! If you like the sound of this, check out our ‘Learn New Skills’ section where you’ll find all of her upcoming dates including one next Tuesday 8th October.
Back to my workshop! I really had no idea what I was signing up to but as a huge fan of both women, I was confident it would be a fun way to spend my Sunday. Louise is an incredibly talented artist and I’m lucky enough to have a few of her creations dotted about my kitchen. Her wooden spoons are not to be confused with the £1.99 jobs that have been made with swathes of rainforest by six year olds earning 20p a day.
These are individually hand-crafted from repurposed or sustainable hard woods and are beautiful, unique pieces of art that you can use every day to make your life a wee bit happier! Are they worth the £30 - £50 price tag? Having spent a day scooping wood shavings to form a small cm wide bowl for my own handmade coffee-scoop I can confirm emphatically – yes. Yes they are!
The first thing you should know is that I am not an artist. I am quite creative, I like to think I’ve got a wee bit of style, but I am not a drawer / painter / crafter. So when Louise asked our group of six to draw out our design onto our wooden block, I had no idea what I was doing. I drink a lot of coffee – I supposed a scoop for that would be ideal!
I am, of course, in peak FOMO as I strain to see what everyone else is doing and as I’m sitting opposite a retired engineer who has constructed a beautiful bridge-like design from a ruler and a circle, my own freehand efforts on a fat, chubby scoop seem terribly inelegant. Not to worry – although I am stealing the wee stand idea from the woman three seats down.
I am soon elated with my wee scoop and can’t wait to get it into the bandsaw and watch my handle take shape.
Scooping the bowl of your spoon is trickier than you’d think; I’ve skint my knuckles and been plastered by Louise in the first 10 minutes. However, it is also strangely satisfying and ever so relaxing: you eventually get into rhythm and with Louise circling our group of six with all the gentle encouragement and fun guidance of a cub pack Akela, I am soon elated with my wee scoop and can’t wait to get it into the bandsaw and watch my handle take shape.
A stop for lunch is every bit as wonderful as you’d expect at Violet Studios; homemade bread and soup, fresh pots of coffee and tea and big jugs of water flavoured with foraged brambles and fresh herbs. The atmosphere is wonderful and we are quickly comparing techniques and scrapes like an old tribe of carpenters.
The afternoon zooms by; Louise gives group and one-to-one instruction - which is how Gill likes all of her workshops to run – and is generous with her time and knowledge. It was important to Gill to find authentic, working creatives like herself for delivering Violet Studio workshops, and her pickiness has paid off - Louise is a perfect pairing for such an incredible space.
As the day approaches an end, you can see everyone’s spoons start to take shape. Gill has been busying herself in the background, keeping us refreshed and shooting a Gin Cocktail for that week’s Small City recipe! As the spoons come to life one by one, the excitement from both women, and the wider group, is palpable. So genuine is their enthusiasm for my chubby little maple scoop, that I honestly feel like I could pack in the writing and run off to the country to carve spoons for a living!
If you’re looking for a creative outlet, want to know how to use that fancy-schmancy camera on your £1000 phone, or just feel like learning how to style an image into something appealing, then check out Violet Studios and my talented friend Gill – I promise I’m only a teeny-tiny wee bit biased.
As well as booking Gill herself for styling and photoshoots, Violet Studios can be hired by chefs, food producers and videographers who want to turn up, set up and go. Workshops run once or twice a month and take a maximum of eight people per time – so book quick! Vouchers are available.
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