The day finally arrived, and the Selvedge fair in Edinburgh was held at Dovecot Tapestry Studios. With the help of the team at Dovecot, we welcomed over 1,000 people through the doors and a great day was had by all in a venue that is a sight to be seen in itself, and is home to a truly fascinating history. In Selvedge issue 75, Jennifer Harper explored its rich history of apprenticeships, and to mark the occasion today we thought we'd share a little of its heritage with our online readers...
Once upon a time, the majority of students left school and walked into an apprenticeship post which often led to a lifelong career. In more recent times, the majority of industries have opted for ready-qualified staff with university or college certificates, with set period work commitments or even zero-hour contracts. However, there are still some organisations and industries that herald the benefits of apprentices who learn their craft on the shop floor.
One of these is the Edinburgh-based Dovecot Tapestry Studios, which has continually offered apprenticeships since its formation in 1912 by the Marquess of Bute. Indeed, it was the apprentices who continued the Dovecot ethos and skills following the death of its two founding master weavers in the First World War.
Dovecot, now based within the refurbished, oldest public baths in Edinburgh, was originally founded to create large tapestries for the Marquess’s home, Mount Stuart, on the Scottish west coast island of Bute. However, so skilled and detailed was the work that it quickly became recognised as a leading contemporary fine art studio, creating tufted rugs and tapestries for both private commissions and public collections.
100 years after the death of the founding master weavers, Dovecot marked the centenary with The Weaver’s Apprentice exhibition which tells the story behind the importance and relevance of apprentices, and the vital role they have held in the studio’s past, as well as its future. In this day and age, when many are fearful of manual jobs being lost to automation, it is refreshing to discover that a textile industry is investing in the hands-on approach…
To read this article in full, order your copy of Selvedge issue 75 here.
For those who don't already know, the weavers at Dovecot Tapestry Studios are the artisans behind Chris Ofili's monumental new tapestry 'I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings' now on show at the National Gallery in London.
While you're visiting the Selvedge fair, you can also take a look at Dovecot's new group exhibition 'Daughters of Penelope', on display until January 2018.