An artistic watershed

THE ART ROOM   Artist Diane Gilder with a class in the Art Room at the bottom of her garden at Barlow.     9 May 2011
THE ART ROOM Artist Diane Gilder with a class in the Art Room at the bottom of her garden at Barlow. 9 May 2011
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SOME people have sheds at the bottom of their gardens, others perhaps a greenhouse or a verandah.

Not Diane Gilder.

THE ART ROOM   The Art Room at the bottom of artist Diane Gilder's garden at at her home in Barlow.     9 May 2011

THE ART ROOM The Art Room at the bottom of artist Diane Gilder's garden at at her home in Barlow. 9 May 2011

At the end of her Barlow lawn, the 63-year-old artist has had her very own gallery built.

It was officially opened one year ago this month and, despite friends – and her husband – questioning the viability of a public-use exhibition space in one’s own yard, it has been a resounding success.

Exhibitions, workshops and art classes are held here every week, with interest growing in the £150,000 centre Art Room all the time.

“Why did I do it?” says Diane, a look of perplexion crossing her face at the question. “I’m not sure, you know. There’s certainly no business plan or anything.

“There used to be a horse stable there and I got tired of looking at this muddy meadow next to the garden so, when my mum passed away and I came into a little bit of money, I thought I’d use it to build the gallery – she certainly wouldn’t have wanted it just sitting in a bank account.”

That decision was made five years ago.

Initially Diane, a grandmother-of-two, had simply wanted a place to display her own work. “Because of the way I practise as an artist,” she explains, “I often invited groups of people into my home to view the work and I just got tired of having to worry if I’d put the washing away”.

But the more she thought about it, the more she liked the idea of creating a space for other people to use.

“I think the place you work can inspire creativity, and there just seemed an opportunity there to mix exhibiting my own work with a place for workshops and other exhibitions,” she says.

Getting planning permission wasn’t easy because the house, in Wilkin Hill, sits in green belt land, but North East Derbyshire District Council was persuaded the little wood, brick and glass block was both in keeping with the character of its surroundings and could boost prosperity in the area.

And so in May last year, the gallery – incorporating an exhibition space, workshop area, kitchen and toilets, all overlooking a newly-planted wild flower meadow – was opened with a stitching display by six local artists including Diane. The same sextet will be brought together again this month to celebrate the anniversary.

In between it has been used by groups such as the Northern Society Of Botanical Artists and hosted Derbyshire Open Arts events.

“This journey all started for me,” says Diane, who is originally from Cardiff but moved to the area when she was 23 “when I was a young mother, about 40 years ago.

“I’d never done art at college or anything like that and one day I went to a pottery class – just to get out the house more than anything – and got the bug. I’ve compulsively created ever since.”

She turned professional 20 years ago, supported by husband Peter, chairman of car dealership The Gilder Group, and is now looking forward to the adventures having a gallery by your gaff can bring.