The house of a pioneering Scottish artist has been saved for the nation after a last-ditch funding appeal saw mystery benefactors come forward. 
The Tim Stead Trust had almost given up hope of raising the £450,000 needed to buy the late artist’s home in the Borders. The house, which is filled with the Stead’s experiments in wood – even a wooden sink – had gone on the open market when the anonymous benefactors stepped in.

Tim Stead, founder of Britain’s first community woodland and the artist behind works such as the National Museum of Scotland’s Millennium Clock, died of cancer in 2000 at the age of 48. His widow, Maggy, wished to return to her native France but could not afford to keep their home – The Steading, near the small village of Blainslie – as a cultural hub.

It was due to go on the open market after a fundraising campaign struggled to meet the huge amount needed but the Tim Stead Trust has announced that with a “significant number of major pledges and donations”, finished off with help of a Crowdfunder campaign, the target of £450,000 has been reached. 

The funds will allow the Tim Stead Trust to purchase The Steading for the nation and begin an ambitious programme of restoration, renovation and development.

Now, phase two of fundraising is about to begin in order to turn the home into a cultural and education centre.

The good news comes as the culmination of a roller-coaster journey for the Trust, which began a major fundraising campaign over a year ago. In November, following the refusal of The National Heritage Memorial Fund to award a major purchase grant, the Trust’s hopes were severely dashed. However, within days a major benefactor stepped up and offered matched funding up to £250,000. This was swiftly followed by a number of major private donors and trusts, and within a few weeks the majority of necessary funds had been secured. The Crowdfunder campaign, launched only a week ago, raised £20,000 with donations from over 240 individuals.

The Tim Stead Trust has ambitious plans to develop The Steading as a major international centre for “wood culture” which embraces Tim Stead’s all-round vision for the environment, art, literature, wood-working and architecture. The Steading is envisaged as a centre for education and creativity, reflecting its unique place in the Scottish Borders, but with a global reach.

Maggy Stead, Tim’s widow, said “It is a huge relief to me to know that my Tim’s work will now be preserved and used in such a creative way. He would have loved that.”

Unlike his public work, such as the North Sea Oil Industries Memorial Chapel in Aberdeen created in 1989 and the chair made for Pope John Paul’s visit in 1981, this was a private family house where the couple brought up their children Sam and Emma. But it is also a shrine to Tim’s work and his experiments in wood.

Sam Stead, Tim’s son and a Trustee, said: “It is fantastic that we have managed to get to the point where The Steading can be bought by the Trust and start working on opening it up for the public. The amazing support from friends and fans of my father’s work has been truly heart-warming.”

Stead, originally from Cheshire, came to Scotland in 1975 as a post-graduate at the School of Art in Glasgow. He met Maggy, also studying in Glasgow, four days before she was due to leave Scotland – they fell in love at first sight and were married a year later.

Nichola Fletcher, Chair of the Trust, added: “We are overwhelmed by the speed of this response, and with the enthusiasm that our project has sparked. We are so grateful to our supporters, who have given so generously. The past two months has turned me into a fund-raising junkie so I’m not stopping now!  We have urgent restoration work to do and of course we have ambitious plans for The Steading. So now the real work begins, of fundraising for Phase 2 of the project, which will allow us to realise our dream of developing The Steading into a major centre for creativity and education.”

His style of working with wood, celebrating its natural beauty, is so fashionable now, it was actually pioneering at the time.

Initially he used pieces salvaged from a Glasgow hardwood importers – the bed in the couple’s bedroom, complete with a knobbly, multi-coloured topped chest, is from wood destined for a bonfire –  but a move to the Borders ignited a passion for native wood.

Café Gandolfi in Glasgow was one of his first public works, the Millennium Clock one of his last, created in conjunction with several artists including Eduard Bersudsky, who now runs the Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre in Glasgow but who lived in a nearby cottage when he first arrived from Russia in 1993. One of Bersudsky’s characteristic pieces – ornate shelves – graces the house, a testament to the time when the house buzzed with art students and collaborators. Stained glass around the house was made by local artists, the kitchen table was created by Tim from a slice of a massive stump of burr elm spotted by the couple’s chimney sweep while up on the roof.

To find out more about the house and the ongoing fundraising, visit www.timsteadtrust.org

%d bloggers like this: