Hutton artist’s work on display

Michelle de Bruin working on a sculptor for an exhibition about beavers in Scotland.
Michelle de Bruin working on a sculptor for an exhibition about beavers in Scotland.

Michelle de Bruin, a stonecutter, lettercutter and sculptor from Berwickshire, is currently displaying her work in an exhibition in Perth.

Michelle, who lives in Sinclairshill near Duns, has an exhibition entitled ‘Natural History: The Broom Cupboard’ on show in Perth Museum and Art Gallery until November 4.

The exhibition, in which Michelle, from Hutton, takes the role of curator, anatomical sculptor and illustrator, is primarily carved in stone and compiles a collection of misfiled specimens from natural history.

“It’s been great,” Michelle said. “It’s taken me out of the workshop for a bit which is nice. I’ve even had a couple of emails from people who have been to see the exhibition.”

The carvings include animals such as an octopus, a platypus and an armadillo, all of which are in exquisite, fully anatomical detail.

Michelle says that the title of the exhibition “refers to a notional broom cupboard in a cognitive house, and it stores the indeterminate things that are not easily categorised or else somehow, misfiled.”

She continues “By a process of researching and then through the rigorous carving of my specimens in full anatomical detail; like some sort of primitive anatomical sculptor, I try to promote a paradigm - craft of seeing - of the process by which we study the world around us, collect the evidence, and attempt to file it away despite a tendency for the true nature of things to retain its opacity.”

On August 20, Michelle will be displaying more of her work in Perth as she expands into the adjoining gallery. The second exhibition is a whole new body of work - a diorama about the return of the beaver to Scotland - and was inspired by other features in the Perth gallery.

Although an independent artist, Michelle has been working closely with the Hutton Stone Co Ltd for the past seven years. Michelle now has an apprentice working with her, Josephine Crossland, who is undertaking a Craft Fellowship funded by Historic Scotland.

In 2007, Michelle was able to display some of her artwork at the Royal Scottish Academy’s Annual Exhibition. Michelle’s platypus and armadillo from her ‘Broom Cupboard’ collection were also on display in the Royal Scottish Academy in 2009.

Michelle is also a winner of the J.D. Ferguson Art Award, which enabled her to travel to New York, Chicago and Washington to carry out research in 2012, where she investigated the bizarre fossils of the Burgess Shale. Her artist’s interpretation is now on show in the ‘Broom Cupboard” exhibition. A sculpture of a bandicoot, part of Michelle’s showcase, is based on an exhibit she saw in Chicago.

Michelle’s local work includes the restoration of the Fisherman’s monument in Dunbar, but she admits she’d like to do work in Berwickshire more often.

The Gymnasium Gallery in Berwick hosted some of Michelle’s work in 2011 and she says she has “loads of carvings all over the place” in Berwickshire, but she’s not been able to exhibit locally as often as she’d have liked. She is hopeful that her ‘Broom Cupboard’ exhibition will benefit from some home support. “The exhibition is on display until November, so people have got loads of time to get up to Perth to see it,” she laughed. “It would be lovely to display it all again locally.”