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This weekend was “Doors Open Day” for Edinburgh. An annual event throughout Scotland and conveniently staggered so that with a bit of planning you could visit a few cities. As soon as I read the programme one place jumped out at me – Dovecot Studios.
Originally founded in 1912 , with training from weavers from the William Morris studio in the “Arts and Crafts” style. There was a bit of waver in its fortunes a decade or so ago, but it was re-established in 2001. A search for new premises led to the renovation of the former Infirmary Street Baths and the wonderful studio space that they have today.
( Top two photos show the renovated space and what it looked like before, both as a functioning swimming pool and once it had fallen into disuse.)
I’d been to have a look before, but had been disappointed that there was only access to the exhibiton areas. What I really wanted to see was the area where the pool had been, and where the looms were now housed. I was not alone in wanting to see this. There was quite a turnout – and a lot of muttered comments could be heard, to younger generations, about how “Granny used to come here for her baths”- reflecting the days when the tenements in the old town didn’t have proper bathrooms and people visited the bath cubicles on the upper gallery level. My own recollections were limited to swimming here regularly while a student just across the road. And a little further back to race training sessions – quite mystifying to me now what I was doing there, as I had no intention of ever racing !
At first glance it appeared ( third and fourth photos ) that the large blue watery panel was the image source, but actually that is also an already completed piece of tapestry. There is something about an image translated into textile form that is much more “edible” than on paper. And a whole range has been tackled by the Dovecot weavers over the years , working with artists such as David Hockney, Henry Moore and Barbara Rae as well as the well known Scottish artist Elizabeth Blackadder (final image). She paints mostly in Watercolour and with a very light touch and I was intrigued to see how well this lightness was interpreted as a tapestry.