By Eilidh Whiteford
A passion for knitting and crafts, and a gap in the supply market at home in North Uist, led Kirsty Macleod to establish Kirkibost Craft Hub – providing not only a wide range of materials and supplies, but also a variety of workshops and tuition opportunities to help islanders get creative.
Growing up with a mum from Harris, from a long line of Harris Tweed weavers, and a grandmother from Unst, Shetland, Kirsty learnt her knitting craft early, schooled in Fair Isle patterns particularly by her granny.
“I see these two connections I have with these islands and their traditional craft skills as an opportunity to combine and create a unique brand of craft products and knitwear,” she said.
Craft supplies, gifts and knitwear are plentiful in Kirkibost Craft Hub, but Kirsty wanted more from her business and, as such, presents a series of workshops and short courses for beginners to those more experienced.
Stepping into Gallery 5 is like entering a joyous still-life - a vivid lime-green chaise longue, sunshine on a pine floor, the smell of oil paint. Artwork lines the long, smooth sides of this unique light-filled studio.
Converted from the remains of a blackhouse, Gallery 5 is just a short hop off the West Lewis visitor route, in the crofting township of Tolsta Chaolais. Home spun yarns spiral down a wall, art books jostle on a high shelf, daubs of paint shine like sweets, waiting to be tried.
Featured in the gallery are Margaret Stevenson’s stunning oil and watercolour paintings. Working entirely from sketches and studies, she looks for shape, line and pattern to give an impression of her subject and then paints from these studies to capture the mood of the islands, its forms and life, its ever-changing light.
“When I need a break I head out with my sketchbook and draw,” she says, waving towards the heathery hills rolling down to Loch Roag, dotted with working crofts and drystane walls - a source of endless inspiration.
By Eilidh Whiteford
Pull off the main road in the north Lewis village of Borve and down a small wooded valley with a gently trickling stream, a small slice of near paradise can be found at Borgh Pottery.
The recently refurbished Borgh Pottery is owned and run by potter Sue Blair and offers not only a vast selection of unique, hand-crafted, high-fired stoneware, but also a chance for refreshments with teas and coffees in the pottery's well-established gardens.
Sue moved to Lewis from Lancashire with her husband Alex in 1973, first setting up Stornoway Pottery just outside the main town, before moving to the current premises in Borve in 1978.
Over the following years, the pair saw their pottery business grow, supported from the off by friends, family and the local communities.
By Elly Welch
It’s a beautiful March morning when I cross the moor to Upper Carloway where a patchwork of working crofts is bustling with spring activity. It’s easy to
spot Blue Pig’s fairytale door, and light filled studio, where artist-owner Jane Harlington is waiting to meet me.
It may be the smell of freshly-baked rock buns, or the cheerful wall-to-wall art and local crafts…or maybe it’s just Jane’s naturally beaming smile, but arriving here feels instantly uplifting.
“Perfect timing!” says Jane, laying out five beautiful teacups on a patterned oilcloth. “You’ll be able to meet the Blue Piglets – they come once a week, to ‘play’.”
A tinkling of bells and happy hellos confirms that I have not inadvertently tumbled into Wonderland and that these are the ‘Wednesday ladies’ – one of several informal groups that regularly congregate here.
Art materials pour out over the communal table and the teapot is refilled. There is a lot of talking, and a lot of laughing – this is, in a nutshell, the Blue Pig.
It could be said that a new collaboration between artists in the Uists and Germany started with a wheelbarrow – and is now taking the form of an exhibition in Germany.
Back in 2014, Edinburgh-based artist, Hans Clausen, visited Uist as part of a programme entitled Nil By Mouth, which invited artists to explore the topic of food sustainability through residencies and workshops.
Around 15 Uist artists, including Margaret Cowie, were challenged to create a piece of art involving a wheelbarrow. The collection was entitled “So Much Depends Upon…” with the title taken from a William Carlos Williams poem named “The Red Wheelbarrow.”
The project resulted in an exciting trip to Holyrood to display their works. After returning to the islands, an exhibition was held in Nunton Steadings, Benbecula so that locals could also enjoy the work.