The Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh’s Infirmary Street have a dual history: the building was once a public swimming baths where I swam every morning before work, and the tapestry studios were originally established next to an old dovecot(e) in Corstorphine, the only remaining part of the medieval Castle. Established by the 4th Marquess of Bute in 1912, it recruited weavers from William Morris’ workshops at Merton Abbey in London. The Marquess commissioned the studios to produce large tapestries for Mount Stuart House, his home on the Isle of Bute.
I enjoy the Dovecot gallery exhibitions, sometimes hosting Orla Kiely or other textile work from Finland and Iceland, and I admit that do get tempted by the shop with its attractive notebooks and crafts packs. Plus, I am a great fan of this Edinburgh café. However, it is the tapestry viewing floor I like most of all.
From where I used to watch my kids have their swimming lessons, I now have a bird’s eye view of the weavers and their looms. The strains of The Archers sometimes float up as they follow the intricate diagrams at their sides, using the cornucopia of wools and silks that have been carefully selected and dyed to match either a painting (one of my favourites is snowy Large Tree Group tapestry by Victoria Crowe, 1975), poems or photographs. They are meticulous in their detail and absolutely fascinating to watch.
Enjoy the likes of William Morris, Raphael, Chanel and Vivienne Westwood.