By Eilidh Whiteford
Bringing the Old Post Office building back to life, Susan and Austen Dancey were delighted to house their Puffin Studio Crafts shop in Creagorry, Benbecula, in the well-known premises.
“People remember it as the Post Office and before that the Bank,” said Austen, “and say that they’re pleased to see the building in use again.”
“Many tell us that it seems a lot larger than before but all we’ve done is move things around and open up the windows on the road side, which lets in a lot more light.”
Opened in November last year, the light, spacious environment provides the perfect spotlight for a host of locally made crafts and arts, including gifts featuring the world famous Harris Tweed label.
Offering a wide range of greetings cards, gift wrappings and accessories, Puffin Studio Craft also has gifts for all occasions – from carved wooden animals to fabric wall-hanging trophy heads, candles, yarns, gift box sets and much more.
And if it is Harris Tweed gifts you’re after, look no further than Susan’s handcrafted Tweed hip flasks, corsages, bookmarks, cushions, key rings, needle cases and pin cushions, cuff links, buttons, and Tweed jacketed mugs fitting the bill for any birthday, anniversary or wedding present.
Susan, a biology teacher at Sgoil Lionacleit, and Austen, a former RAF Officer, relocated from their home in Lincolnshire to Benbecula four years ago.
Opening Puffin Studio Crafts in November 2015, the couple have been pleased to find a lot of support from the local community, as Austen said: “People have been so supportive and have been spreading the word – someone in Glasgow called relatives on the island and asked them about ‘the new shop’.
“It is not just the scenery and the environment, but also the people that make the islands special. Everyone has been so welcoming and friendly,” he continued, adding: “And when the only thing to worry about on the daily commute is sheep on the road that can’t be bad.”
The couple’s interest in art and crafts, combined with their move to the Hebrides, lead to Susan creating gift products from Harris Tweed; and ultimately the birth of Puffin Studio Crafts.
It was logical that when Austen started his bespoke picture framing business it should be incorporated into the shop.
Now, alongside offering their own hand-crafted wares, the Benbecula shop also offers the works of around 15 to 20 island producers; as well as companies such as East of India, Dora, Arran Aromatics and Celtic Candles. Original works of art and prints are on sale from island based artists, among them Michael Gilfedder from South Uist, Margaret Cowie and Judith Entwisle-Baker, both based in North Uist, and Lewis-based artist Vega.
Susan and Austen are hoping to welcome many tourists and visitors to Puffin Studio Crafts this year. “The reception we’ve had locally has been very, very positive so we’ve no need to think it will be different for visitors to the islands,” said Austen. “And hopefully it lets them take a piece of the Western Isles back home with them.”
Puffin Studio Crafts is open Monday-Friday, 10.30am to 4.30pm, and on Saturdays, 10.30am to 5.30pm. Keep up to date with new products and ranges at the Puffin Studio Crafts Facebook page.