Stenton Gallery

The picturesque village of Stenton, with its red pantile-roofed cottages and traditional stone-built houses lies 5 miles south-west of Dunbar. In its heyday Stenton, like many other villages, was a close-knit community. Many residents were employed in agriculture or had their own craft, which supplied the villagers with all their requirements. Times have changed and even though the fabric of the village remains, inhabitants are no longer employed on nearby farms, but commute to work. The village shop is no more, and the village pub closed. However, the village school still remains and with the village hall is the focal point for many local events.

So why, in what appears to be a very quiet village, with limited public access, is there a thriving art gallery? That was one of the first questions I put to gallery owner, Barbara Christie, who made me feel so very welcome to what has become a great love of her life.

'It's amazing, isn't it,' said Barbara. 'A thriving gallery in a rural area, but it was popular before I became the lucky owner.'

Sitting in front of a log fire, enjoying a coffee, Barbara explained how she finally found her dream. 'Like many people, I enjoy art of all forms, and had always dreamt of owning my own art gallery. My husband Andy and I had already visited the Macaulay Gallery, as it was then known. How we discovered it, I can't remember, but the previous owners, Angus and Gwenda Macaulay, had established a gallery of good repute which attracted "big names" and had achieved an excellent reputation.' The gallery became a firm favourite of Andy and Barbara's, 'it was quite simply one of the nicest we knew of. We visited the gallery often and it was through a chance conversation we said to Angus and Gwenda how we would love to own a gallery like theirs. Make us an offer, came the reply.' After they confirmed they were serious, further discussions took place, the Christies' offer was accepted and they became the new, proud owners in 1997.

'It was a very smooth transition. Angus and Gwenda were extremely helpful and we continued with the programme they had in place,' said Barbara. 'As we loved the gallery the way it was, we made no physical changes at all. Andrea, our right hand, also came with the gallery and is a great asset, a tremendously good person to have around. We did computerise the admin. side and illustrated our invitations.'

Holding twelve completely different exhibitions per year can be very demanding. However, Barbara loves every minute. 'The variation is very stimulating and I get as much satisfaction from exhibiting the work of 60 mixed artists as I do putting on solo shows.'But don't be misled, Barbara always invites at least two artists to exhibit their work at the same time, as the layout of Stenton Gallery lends itself to this arrangement.

Exhibitions run an average of 3-4 weeks and prices range from £150 to £6,000. Paintings are very popular, but so is the craft work which comes in a variety of media, from woodcarving to bronze, from pottery to glass. 'We focus on Scottish art and work coming out of Scotland, and only occasionally feature an artist invited from abroad. There is so much good talent in Scotland. We visit degree shows throughout Scotland and are lucky enough to have been twice selected to take part in the Glasgow Art Fair. We have no hard and fast rules. Our range takes in everything from recent graduates to established names.'

Whilst speaking with Barbara, I was amazed at how far people travel to visit Stenton Gallery and how busy and popular her gallery is. Much of this, I feel, is due to Barbara's lovely disposition, friendliness and openness. 'I have built up a very good relationship with clients. People often visit when I have been in touch with them via e-mail. We have increasingly good local support, as well as from people who live further afield.' Edinburgh, Glasgow, I queried? 'Oh yes,' said Barbara, 'but we also have customers from Kent, London and the South Coast, as well as overseas. They are regularly informed of what is on at the gallery and pay regular visits to Stenton.' A great promotional tool for East Lothian and other businesses? 'I have a strong sense of commitment to Stenton and East Lothian and am delighted East Lothian can benefit from our customers. Plus our website (www is proving to be very popular and it is interesting to see how we can boost sales through the website.'

How does running Stenton Gallery affect other members of her family? 'Well, my husband Andy and son Neil have thoroughly enjoyed computerising me and Neil is the family Internet expert. Hamish, my younger son, is studying dance music but we all realise how lucky we are to be involved in such a creative and inspirational way of life. Yes, it's hard work, but it is amply rewarded time and time again. Seeing the delight of artists having their work acknowledged, admired and sold is tremendous. But so is watching customers fall in love with a piece of work which they treasure and which will enhance their home.'

Stenton Gallery has great appeal. It is very much part and parcel of village life, helping to sustain the fabric of village life into the 21st century and of course capture the artistic beauty of Scotland and her artists.