From Highland cattle cushions and Scottish shortbread to tweed for toddlers and kilts made from recycled cartridges and cloth, the tradestands at this year’s Blair Castle Equi-Trek International Horse Trials and Country Fair, have something for every taste…
Val Barr ~ Stand 130 block 10
We challenge anyone to walk past wildlife artist Val Barr’s collection without popping in to take a peek. The stand showcases her beautiful paintings and illustrations, mostly of Scotland and its animals.
“If it’s windswept or has fur, then I’ll draw it,” laughed Val, who works from photographs to capture a true likeness of her subjects.
Born and brought up in beautiful Perthshire, Val studied illustration and printmaking at art college in Dundee before setting her sights on a career in the business.
“I grew up surrounded by shooting and fishing, so started showcasing my work at The Game Fair,” explained Val, who works in her studio “aka my garden shed” with her dogs, Mylo and Murphy, at her feet. Her bestsellers are her beautiful prints of stock ponies – the larger-sized prints on her stand take between six and seven weeks to complete.
“We are also selling cushions for the first time this year, with Scottish animal motifs on them,” she added.
JOEY-D ~ Stand 89 block 8
If you’re hankering after something totally unique, head to Edinburgh fashion designer Joey-D’s stall and check out his range of vintage clothing and accessories made from recycled materials and unusual artefacts.
From handbags with straps made from old horseshoes to belts adorned with old gun cartridges, this is urban style women’s fashion with a swagger in its step.
“I use any materials I can lay my hands on to create something that marries country fashion with a rocky edge,” said Joey-D, for whom this is an eighth year at Blair. Check out his handbags with bit attachments – you’d be hard-pushed to find these on the high street.
PERDIE & BOO ~ Stand 123 block 11a
What’s not to love about dogs and tweed?
Amalie Harper Gow worked for 10 years in costume for film and TV before deciding to switch paths and indulge her passion for all things canine and cute. She started her company, Perdie & Boo, after the birth of her daughter, and now makes an array of matching jackets for dogs and children, plus myriad other accessories crafted from beautiful soft, Scottish tweed.
“The business is named after my dog, Perdie, and my daughter, Boo,” explained Amalie. “They are my inspiration and rigorous testers of my products!” Our particular favourite – and a bestseller, according to Amalie – are the Highland cow bibs and t-shirts for toddlers – “people seem to love the Highland cows.”
This is Amalie’s third year at Blair Castle Horse Trials. “We love it here and, luckily, my mother and another friend are coming to help this year, so I’m looking forward to getting out and watching some of the action,” she said.
Chrystal’s Shortbread ~ Food Hall
No Horse Trials tradestand tour is complete without a trip to the Food Hall and today we found the pull of homemade shortbread just too strong to resist.
Rory Mackinley knows a bit about shortbread; his wife, Chrystal, has been making the sweetest of all Scottish biscuit treats for around 16 years. The secret to top quality shortbread, he says, lies in the quality of the ingredients. “Chrystal uses a recipe that has been passed down through generations; it originally came from her great grand-mother,” said Rory.
Nine years ago Rory and Chrystal decided to see if there was a market for Chrystal’s shortbread, which had just been shared among friends and family until that point. “We took it to the Loch Lomond Food Festival and it went down a storm,” recalled Rory.
The couple have been coming to Blair since 2009. “We love it here,” he said.