I visited the Dovecot Tapestry Studios this evening which is situated in a £5 million refurbishment of the Victorian Edinburgh Infirmary Street Baths . I had a secondary motive for the visit as it was in that very pool that I learned to swim.
The renovation of building was exceptional – sensitive to it’s history – yet a modern and welcoming space.
We took a tour ’round the studio and met David Cochrane. David explained that he had joined the studio straight from school as an apprentice – contradicting my unspoken expectation that he must have studied art at university. He explained the weaving process and showed us some of the work to which has contributed. He then showed us one of his own creations which had taken him 9 months to produce. I couldn’t believe that it was a tapestry at first – it looked much more like a high quality photograph or painting of shimmering water.
I was impressed with David on three counts: firstly his understated manner; secondly, his obvious passion for what he does; and thirdly, his mastery of his craft which has been developed through the best sense of an apprenticeship by learning from a fellow craftsman. It reminded me of my great grandfather – George Ledingham, of Clatt, Aberdeenshire, who produced these minature model ploughs in 1895 as part of his apprenticeship as a blacksmith.
It’s a great shame that we don’t really value such practical skills in our modern age.