Thistle Sculpture, Gynack Gardens Project


The recent modifications to the Gynack Memorial Gardens incorporate provision for a sculpture/art project. The pre-planning process has taken well over a year, including considerable research to look at options and to request feedback from community representative groups and public sector stakeholders. On the strength of the feedback received a planning application has now been submitted.

What’s proposed?

What is being proposed is a public artwork as part of the transformational town centre initiative. As a community group we believe this will provide a strong visual focal point that will help put Kingussie on the map. After much debate within KCDC and taking into account community feedback we are proposing to commission nationally acclaimed Scottish sculptor Kevin Paxton of Artfe.

Why this design?

This will be an aesthetically attractive sculpture, which will make a strong visual impact at the north end of the garden and for those driving through the town. The Thistle design has a strong association with the Highlands, but more importantly the sculptor will incorporate Shinty Camans into the design itself making it very specific to Kingussie. 

The sculptor Kev Paxton from ArtFe is a Scottish based blacksmith using centuries old blacksmithing techniques; ArtFe creates beautiful bespoke sculptures for private buyers, commercial businesses and public commissions. The sculptures are primarily made from mild steel, though occasionally other mediums such as recycled plough metal, wood and glass are incorporated. Modern techniques like galvanising and acid washing create individual and enduring finishes. The artist has suggested we use recycled metal collected from in and around the vicinity of Kingussie, giving the piece an even stronger association with Kingussie. 

What’s next?

Planning permission is next critical stage, allowing further development of this project. We recognise the importance of taking our community with us and look forward to sharing developments and taking on board feedback as we develop the indicative design into a final sculpture. We have also yet to receive formal permission from the landowner: Highland Council.

We have also contacted Kingussie High School art department who are keen to get involved with the project. 

An example of an ArtFe thistle sculpture is shown below:

An example of an ArtFe Thistle Sculpture

4 thoughts on “Thistle Sculpture, Gynack Gardens Project”

  1. I really like the idea of an art installation but do not feel the thistle idea is the best option for Kingussie. My suggestion would be to leave the newly paved area for pop-up events and community activities. Creating a flexible space with no obstructions will I am sure be more useful to the community now and into the future. As we already have the memorial standing in the centre of the gardens I reckon consideration should be given to creating some interactive installations in and around the whole garden to encourage visitors and the community to relax, sit a moment and wonder. Finally, I really like the bird feeder on the ArtFe website so maybe interaction could be between humans (including shinty) and nature. Happy to discuss further if required on [number provided]. Kindest regards, Jillian

    1. Thanks Jillian. It’s great that our new website is working and anyone in the community can comment. These comments are very welcome . The back ground to this is that the design always had a place for a sculpture and ideas were discussed at the original community consultation. I am sure we would have mentioned it to you at the time. The most popular idea was based on the Wolf of Badenoch theme , but this is already earmarked for a sculpture outside Talla. We then considered all sorts of ideas and decided to propose a Thistle. We wanted to create a visual impact for visitors and also a photo opportunity that would have a strong Highland and Kingussie theme . We shared our thinking with both community representative groups and public sector stakeholders. We did not get one negative comment , in fact we were so pleased to get such strong support for the idea we decided to apply for planning. The planning process is now live 20/05033/FUL. You will see we have also received some very supportive comments on this application. Of course getting 100% consensus for an art project is just unrealistic . if the planning application is successful there is still a long way to go. We need permission from the Council as it’s their land, we also need to raise over twenty thousand pounds although the Sustrans Artroots fund have already pledged five thousand pounds on the basis of the proposal , and of course we need to commission the artist. Non of this is a done deal.

      On the general design of the gardens we are building in several new sit and dwell places as you suggest and also will have a small sculpture of a deer in the woods beside the river to create interest. We are also making provision for an Indian war memorial , but that will very much depend on external funding by those interested in this. Even with the Thistle sculpture there is still plenty of space for pop up events etc and this was another very important aspect of the design we have built .

      Thank you once again for sharing your thoughts on this, happy to discuss further.

  2. I’m ok with the thistle design; the sweeping leaves making them look wing like, like dancing cranes. Perhaps a more challenging commission for the blacksmith might be to create a sculpture themed on the birds of the Insh marshes – peewits perhaps? Scotland is not short of thistles, but we are short of peewits and they perhaps link Kingussie to its surroundings more than thistles might. Just a thought. Look forward to being in the gardens soon!

    1. Thanks Piers. Lapwings are yet another great idea . We have had literally dozens of proposals from people in the community: Salmon, Highland Cows, shinty arches, even a thrown that could be used as a photo point for the “King” of Kingussie , at the other end of the spectrum the idea of celebrating The scientist Brewster who invented the Kaleidoscope, plus many many others. All brilliant ideas. We therefore gave ourselves some criteria; we decided to look at what could work, what we could realistically commission and what would be acceptable to a wide audience, without watering down some of key criteria: This is to be a piece that makes a statement, is aesthetically pleasing, can be used as a photo backdrop, has a clear link to this place, for visitors without additional interpretation, is special to Kingussie (hence the incorporation of shinty Camans) . This has led us on a journey that has arrived at Artfe.

      One of the other many projects we are beginning to look into is to update our interpretive strategy in Kingussie and I agree that Lap wings should be included. I also think there maybe other opportunities to provide points of interest both in the gardens and round the town. Maybe we should be really ambitious and create a sculpture trail. One step at a time , I think once we get planning permission and find the funding for this initial piece , who knows where it could lead.

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