Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Day 4 Edinburgh

Friday 24 April
Dovecot Tapestry Studios sports a dynamic new location. A few blocks off the Royal Mile and just down from the Museum of Scotland, the city pools sat decaying since the 1990’s. The Victorian building, designed by Robert Morham, was constructed in 1885 and housed two pools, one for ladies and one for men. After a complete renovation designed to retain the Victorian architectural features, the building now houses two galleries on the ground floor, Dovecot Studios and offices on the first floor, and two additional floors of rental office space.
Except for a break during WWII, the studios have been weaving tapestries for commission since 1912. After the war, they began collaborating with well-known artists, a tradition that continues through today. One walks into the weaving studio flooded with natural daylight and colors of yarn cones vibrating from the walls and is dazzled. A viewing gallery rings the perimeter of the large open studio at second story level. Work of past and present Dovecot weavers is displayed here. The studio/gallery, former site of the large pool, feels like a warm, inviting sanctuary.

Three of the four Dovecot weavers were in the studio today. All generously spoke with us. Douglas Grierson, head weaver, has been working at Dovecot for 48 years. A masterful weaver who is drawn to geometric forms, Douglas believes that “the (artistic) translation of tapestry only comes by the weaving of many, many tapestries.” A humble, soft-spoken man, his many tapestries hanging in studio, attest to his love and mastery of the art. Each of the weavers have been asked to create a piece to commemorate the new studio space. Douglas’s piece, “Bath and Bathers” depicts bathers from famous artworks in history. David is writing a book about the history of the studios for the 2012 centennial.

David Cochrane is working on speculative piece, a sample that hopefully will gain the studio a new commission. He showed us how he sews up the slits between the woven motifs while he weaves. David was an apprentice at Dovecot for five years and has been weaving tapestry there now for twenty-four years.

Jonathan Cleaver just joined the workshop in August. He studied at Edinburgh College of Art and did textile conservation before coming to Dovecot. Douglas and Jonathon are working together on Jonathan’s piece, which has the working title “Pool Sounds.” Often the weavers work side by side on a piece. Each tapestry woven at Dovecot has the weavers’ mark and the Dovecot symbol woven into the piece. Naomi Robertson was not weaving today but has been with Dovecot almost 20 years. By 2012, the 100th anniversary of Dovecot, the four weavers will collectively have one hundred total years of weaving experience amongst them.

This new venue will allow for classes to be offered and gives tapestry a much wider public exposure. The public can watch the weavers from the viewing gallery the first Tuesday of the month. http://www.dovecotstudios.com

The two galleries on the ground floor are open to the public Wednesday –Saturday. The small gallery is showing an exhibition based on the paintings and graphic works of Barbara Rae. The tapestries and tufted rugs express the energetic, colorful, and outspoken character of the artist. She particularly likes her paintings translated into the rugs because the rugs both absorb and reflect the light. Douglas creates these tufted rugs with a machine that looks like a hand drill. But the tool both punches the yarn through a polyester canvas and cuts the yarn creating the pile surface. Power tufting is a much faster process than tapestry weaving and allows for fluid motion and expression.

The large gallery currently hosts, the “Age of Experience”, a collection of textiles, glass, ceramics and jewelry by mature artists. The show includes woven work of the late Peter Collingwood, basket maker David Drew, and Ikat hangings by Mary Restieaux. The exhibition is brought to Dovecot by Innovative Craft, a new Edinburgh based organization for the promotion and understanding of contemporary craft.

Travelers were turned loose in the old town of Edinburgh for the rest of the day after a wee overview city tour from Richard our veteran driver of the past two tours. We bid goodbye to him tonight so he could return home to be with his wife and 17-week old son. Here is John, the hiker of the group, at the top of Arthur’s Seat. He's looking out over the Firth of Forth with the city in the background.

Annette and Max of Hotel Ceildh-Donia have hosted us during our Edinburgh stay. The beds are very comfortable and hospitality top notch. The house restaurant serves up tasty Scottish fare prepared by their chef/son. I lick my plate clean for his Sticky Toffee Pudding ! www.hotelceilidh-donia.co.uk

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