Corinna plans new studio

Pick up a book from Sollas Bookbinding and you hold in your hands a complete original. 

Owner, Corinna Krause, not only binds every book herself, she also creates her own unique paper for each cover.

 "I developed my own way of making decorative papers by adapting wax paper-making to suit what I need for my covers," she reveals. The result is that no two papers are ever the same! 

Corinna describes her technique, saying: "It starts off with a plain sugar paper, to which I add layers of ink and wax.  At the end, I iron out the wax and end up with a paper that has really warm and vibrant colours.  It is sturdy and tactile at the same time - people just love the feel of it."

Corinna's work will be showcased at the Aros Centre in Portree, where she is involved in The Skye Book Festival on the 4th and 5th of September.

"I am doing two separate workshops, but they work together as a series if people want to attend both," explains Corinna.  "The first workshop will show how to make a hand-sewn notebook using a very simple sewing technique.  People will be able to leave the workshop with a memorable but simple way of creating their own books."

The second day workshop will feature the oldest form of bookbinding - coptic binding.  "The beauty of this technique is that the books lie perfectly flat, so it's a brilliant structure for artists or writers," Corinna enthuses.   Corinna's studio is based in Sollas, North Uist - from there she creates books, makes boxes and works on commissions and book repairs.  

"Over the last couple of years, I also worked on several commissions for presentation boxes for artists, which I personalise by inlaying the artist's work into the lid."   Corinna's wide range of skills means she is very much in demand - as well as selling her work, she continues to offer workshops to pass on her skills to others.  

What is Corinna's favourite aspect of her craft?  "It's exciting that, out of something that's two-dimensional, like a piece of paper, you can create an object of aesthetic beauty.  I'm really excited about teaching - people can go away with something they've made themselves that they can put to their own creative use.  That's a wonderful thing."

Does Corinna have any plans for her business?  She replies: "We are building our new family home at the moment, where I plan to have my new studio.  I hope it will be ready by next Easter.  "the Outer Hebrides has such a wonderful potential for visitors to engage in a creative holiday - there are lots of artists and craft-makers.  And, with my new studio, I can get people to engage with me and other artists."

In the meantime, you can see Corinna's work in her studio in Sollas or find it available on her website (, where you can contact Corinna for your personal one-to-one bookbinding tuition. "If you would like to explore your own creativity and learn how to design your own bespoke books, visit the Aros Centre, Isle of Skye on the 4th and 5th of September from 10am.

Top author chats with audience

Although crowds turned up to visit Alexander McCall Smith at Lochmaddy Village Hall on Friday 24 July, his warm, conversational manner gave the impression that the renowned author was speaking directly to each one as an individual, writes Roz Skinner.

"I suffer from a condition, and it's called being a serial novelist," he revealed, confidingly.  "It manifests itself in a tendency to write novel after novel." 

According to Mr McCall Smith, this started with the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and has moved him to write many best-selling series, such as the Isabel Dalhousie novels and 44 Scotland Street - the longest running serial novel in the world! 

During his talk, Mr McCall Smith discussed various subjects close to his heart, including how to silence people!  "I've just bought a concordance on Proust," he revealed, confidingly.  "Try quoting Proust to people.  They look awkward and start shuffling their feet.  If any of you are members of a book club, you'll know there's always one person who has read more or knows more than everybody else - quoting Proust will silence them quite effectively." 

The 44 Scotland Street books usually end with a poem, and Mr McCall Smith read the closing verses from The Importance of Being Seven to the audience, by way of ending his talk. 

In a voice that was both warm and melodic, Mr McCall Smith read about love of home, warmth of friendship and happiness of heart - all of which can be found in the world of his books.

Top author visits Lochmaddy

Lochmaddy Village Hall was packed with fans of author Alexander McCall Smith on Friday night after he sailed into the North Uist port to give a literary talk.

Photographs by Roz Skinner

Author sets sail for Lochmaddy talk

Most celebrities arrive at their engagements in a limousine, or perhaps even a helicopter! 

However, celebrated author Alexander McCall Smith will be making his way to Lochmaddy, North Uist to give a literary talk on July 24, in an unusual form of transport. 

"I keep a Fisher 34 - a very hardy boat," the author explains.  "Last year, we sailed to Canna to Lochmaddy, then back up the mainland, so we are going to sail across the Minch for my engagement.  I love the idea of sailing in - I do a lot of touring, but this is a unique opportunity to combine a sail with literary activity!"

Mr McCall Smith will be speaking in Lochmaddy as the guest of Comann na Mara (Society of the Sea).  This was a result of a meeting last year with Gus Macaulay who heads the group. 

Mr McCall Smith relates: "He was very welcoming and said: 'You must come and give a talk here at some point.'  Lo and behold, he sent us the invitation and I was delighted to accept it.  It will be a general discussion of books.  It will be a general discussion about my books and it should be a lovely event.  We love the islands and, for many years, we always took the children once every year." 

Mr McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe, had a childhood spent in Africa, an adulthood in Scotland, a short period in Ireland and a year in Botswana...  in his own words, he has "been around a bit!"  He goes on to say: "I was a Professor of Medical Law at Edinburgh University, but I always used to write in my spare time.  Gradually, when the books took off, I decided to become a full-time writer."  Producing around four or five books a year, Mr McCall Smith transports readers to the warmth of Botswana in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series, to the streets of Edinburgh in his Scotland Street series and Isabel Dalhousie books, as well as writing stand-alone novels and children's books.

Recognition has recently been received for one of those stand-alone works: Fatty O'Leary's Dinner Party, which chronicles the comedic adventures of an American on holiday in Ireland.  This book earned Mr McCall Smith the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse prize.  Describing the style of Fatty O'Leary's Dinner Party as similar to his humorous Professor von Igelfeld books, Mr McCall Smith says: "I just sat down and wrote a ridiculous story and I had great fun!"

Whether they are light-hearted or serious, Mr McCall Smith's books are gentle, warm and amusing - and each of his titles hints at the personality behind the book.  "I have a basic idea for the title, then discuss it with my New York editor, Edward Kastenmeier.  He has a box of additional adjectives in his office, and he often suggests one to me!" Mr McCall Smith says.  One of his upcoming books has a particularly delightful title - The Revolving Door Of Life, which is the latest Scotland Street novel, due to be released in August.  This book promises another brief glimpse of freedom for put-upon Bertie when his overbearing mother goes to Dubai.  "His grandmother, Nicola, comes and she buys him a kilt and lets him eat pizza and is terrific fun," Mr McCall Smith says. 

In October, the latest Mma Ramotswe book will be released, entitled The Woman Who Walked In Sunshine.  Younger readers can also enjoy Mma Ramotswe's adventures as a girl in the newly-released  Precious And The Zebra Necklace.

In a world where bleak events do occur, Mr McCall Smith's books are like pocket rays of sunshine.  How does he maintain his optimistic writing style, but, at the same time, face up to everyday problems?  "People say I'm a utopian writer, but I don't think I am," he says.  "I dwell on positive aspects of human nature, because the vast majority of people are well disposed towards other people.  I think it's possible to be aware of the ways in which the world can be a vale of tears, but one doesn't need to make that the prevailing key of one's work.  Philosophically, you can make a case for adopting an optimistic view of things on the grounds that nihilism doesn't actually help." 

Mr McCall Smith will be speaking on July 24 at Lochmaddy Village Hall from 7:30pm and you are welcome to attend. 

(Interview by Roz Skinner.  Photograph by Alex Hewitt.)

Borgh Pottery reopens

Borgh Pottery has reopened after a massive development project which has seen the roof replaced and the inside entirely remodelled – despite delays imposed by the worst winter in years.

Borgh Pottery has been established for many years off the road between Barvas and Port of Ness in North Lewis in the village of the same name.

Owner Sue Blair welcomes people to her new retail zone – while the final touches are put to the transformation of her pottery-making area and to new studio facilities at the rear of the building.

Once work is completed, the pottery will be integrated into the garden surrounding it, with a chance for people to enjoy the plats, shrubs and wildlife as well as the original pottery work and a whole range of other products from home and away.