Dovecot Studios

I’m in Britain! As part of a long-awaited and planned trip, I’m doing a bit of yarny and knitty stuff in Britain and the Baltic. The first stop was Edinburgh, for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, which I’ll cover in another blog post. 

Before I visited Dovecot Studios, I had already had a pretty awesome day. I had walked up Arthur’s Seat in the snow (SNOW!), visited the National Museum, and had an exceptionally appropriate (given the weather) vegetable soup for lunch.

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Then the day got even better.

Having walked down Cowgate, dodging already-drunk St Patrick Day revelers, I turned up the much quieter Infirmary Lane and easily found Dovecot Studios. I didn’t really know much about it, but was visiting on the recommendation of Jenni from Wool is My Bread. The building incorporates a tapestry studio, a small, one-room gallery and a good little gift shop.

The art gallery held Garry Fabian Miller’s work ‘Voyage’. I’m not really one for art (I understand other people appreciate it, but have other interests myself), but this work was stunning. I didn’t really understand the concepts behind it, but the practice of creating it was interesting as it was a collaboration between the artist and weaver. Translating a 2-D image into a tapestry is a complicated, nuanced process, as the colours in yarn and their arrangement on the warp produce a much different effect than paint or print on a page. Other smaller artworks helped explain this process.

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The studio is upstairs, past a woven sinuous art installation in the stairwell.

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The studio is a large, double-height, light-filled room that used to be (strangely enough) a swimming pool. The working area is on the floor and the gallery around four sides forms a viewing platform and gallery space.

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The gallery space held several works by tapestry apprentice Ben Hymers. Several works showed his progress over the three years of his apprenticeship and the many techniques and design skills an apprentice needs to learn. My favourite work was easily the one based on the story of Penelope.

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The rest of the gallery had an exhibition based on large tapestries that had been commissioned and how they worked within the spaces they occupied. A tapestry, being a large, sound-absorbing material, is different from many other artworks and also takes an awfully long time to make, so (in the examples at least), they were commissioned while the new space was being built (or refurbished) and involved collaboration between artist, weaver and even architect.

It feels odd to mention the gift shop, but it really was a lovely little shop of books and a few tapestry supplies. I was so inspired by all the tapestry work, I was sorely tempted by a mini-tapestry kit. Unfortunately, the wooden frame (even though it was small) was far too large for my luggage, but fortunately I could buy all of the other components! When I get home, I’ll make a frame (or, more likely, ask Dad to make me one).

If you’re ever in Edinburgh, I highly recommend visiting Dovecot Studios.

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