Coll Pottery in Back on the Isle of Lewis is being brought back to life as a craft centre business by the Whittle family, based for years in Stoneybridge, on the Isle of South Uist, where they ran studios creating glassware and ceramics, Solus Studio and Alan Whittle Ceramics.
The Coll Pottery building –unused for several years and once the national base for Scotia Ceramics - is being extensively remodelled. with new café and gallery areas.
The Whittle family also combine musical skills with a variety of craft accomplishments. Aidan Whittle, aged 22, is a fluent Gaelic speaker, who studied at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and plays the fiddle and pipes. He attended Fèis Tir a Mhurain and Ceòlas for many years as well as the former Taranasay Fiddle Camp, Alasdair Fraser Fiddle week, and Charlie McKerron Fiddle week. As a part owner of Coll Pottery he is setting up as artist blacksmith.
The last house…on the right of the main road. No, really…that’s Tom Hickman’s address right up at the north end of New Tolsta on the road from Stornoway towards the ‘Last Bridge’ and Lord Leverhulme’s unfinished dream of an island circular road to Ness.
And Tom Hickman is an artist whose work is worth travelling up this road to see…combining skills and talents in different spheres of artistic endeavour to create complex artworks in paint, wood and textiles.
Over the decades. Tom’s studio has been wherever he happens to be; on a long haul flight to Western Australia where he has many friends; camping in the cramped confines of his car in the wilds of Scotland; in the calm of his 17th century Breton farmhouse or – now – in his newly created, but ancient-feeling studio, amidst the stone buildings of a croft.
He worked with locally-based builder Steve Adams to take the new studio through from conception to completion, slotting it in between the remains of a former blackhouse and the former lambing shed, both of which have been partially rebuilt by Tom. Tom bought the house in 2005 and over the years has moved between his homes in Brittany and Lewis as he created his new artistic base.
By Eilidh Whiteford
There is a quiet thrill for visitors stepping into Gallery 5 – a light, cosy, welcoming studio space created by Lewis artist Margaret Stevenson in the small township of Tolsta Chaolais, on the west side of Lewis.
Converted from an old blackhouse seven years ago, and with views across Loch Roag to Bernera and the Uig hills, entering her own gallery studio gives Margaret great pleasure.
“The blackhouse conversion was a big undertaking; we only realised how big since renovating,” Margaret said. “It’s a big commitment that you make to yourself, but it’s also a real thrill walking through the door every day.”
Featuring Margaret’s oil paintings, prints and greeting cards, the opening of Gallery 5 also marked a moment in the artist’s long career, as she added: “It’s a commitment to yourself and in a sense it makes you take yourself more seriously as an artist.”
From September 2017 all four years of the BA Fine Art are being delivered at Lews Castle College UHI, Taigh Chearsabhagh campus in Lochmaddy, North Uist.
The provision of opportunities to study art on Uist has evolved over 20 years, instigated by local demand.
Buoyed by this enthusiasm for learning opportunities, the National Certificate and the first two years of the BA course were established.
A strong and committed cohort of current students have successfully driven UHI approval for Lews Castle College to deliver the full BA course.
Students on the course are delighted with the news.
Holly Moffat-Hardy said: “To put it very simply; I love it. Utilising local knowledge and integrating with such an artistic community, despite the small size, has huge benefits…there is something incredibly unique about having the opportunity to study here, that can really only be understood and enjoyed by those who get the chance to do so.”
By Eilidh Whiteford
In 2015, Susan and Austen Dancey brought Benbecula's old Post Office building back to life, transforming the well-known premises at Creagorry into Puffin Studio Crafts gift shop and gallery.
And since opening its doors in November 2015, the 'new shop' has proved a hit with both the local community and visitors to the isles.
“We had a lot of support locally when we were refurbishing and we feel like we've been well accepted and we're getting a lot of the local community coming in, they like the product lines that we carry,” said Austen.