Dovecot Tapestry Studio is the ultimate in hand-woven tapestry and gun-tufted rugs. Continuing a century-long heritage of making and collaborating with leading contemporary artists, the studio regularly finds itself in the limelight for producing extraordinary and engaging textile artworks for museums, galleries and private residences alike.
PepsiCo’s headquarters in New York, King’s College Cambridge, Rolls-Royce, the British Library and the V&A are but a few of the prestigious spaces to house Dovecot tapestries. Other remarkable proposals have seen textiles specially designed for an 85-metre Lurssen superyacht, a major new tapestry sited in Glasgow’s Theatre Royal for Scottish Opera and, perhaps the most unusual request of all, a rug for a ballet performance.
From Frank Stella to Chris Ofili and Alison Watt to Than Hussein Clark, each collaborator brings a new creative focus to the studio. Collaborating with artists such as Ron Arad, Linder Sterling and Magne Furuholmen – who engage with performance, music and other media to create richly inspired artworks – has broadened the studio’s wings. Sterling, for example, has worked with dancers from the Northern Ballet and award-winning choreographer Kenneth Tindall, to explore how dance may be created from a series of chance happenings.
Many of the hand-woven tapestries at Dovecot are large-scale commissions and involve an enduring relationship between the weaver, the commissioner and the artist.
The distinctive technique of colour blending with a broad spectrum of yarns is unique to each tapestry, as is the addition of the woven Dovecot marque and the weaver’s initials.
Beyond the exquisite tapestries, gun-tufted rugs are produced at the studio, together with artists who are inspired to challenge the medium. Each Dovecot rug demonstrates the versatility of the tufter’s individual skill and artistry, applied in the interpretation of the design.
Our favourite of their historical archive is the 1951 Sax Shaw’s Lion and Oak Tree tapestry, which was showcased at the Festival of Britain, and of the more recent offerings, we’re simply awed by Victoria Crowe’s The Large Tree Group Tapestry, currently hanging in the National Museum of Scotland.
However, it’s a rug that we’ve totally fallen for, specifically: Diagrams of Love: Marriage of Eyes by feminist, punk rock artist Linder Sterling. Incorporating the patterns of two carpets found in the late Rebecca Levy’s apartment at Raven Row, it features a number of hypnotic blue eyes ‘mimicking a peacock’s tail seen on acid’. In collaboration with Dovecot’s Jonathan Cleaver, Dennis Reinmüller and Vana Coleman, this iconic design is currently exhibited as part of British Art Show 8.
It is only when you get up close and personal with these great works of artistry that you fully realise what sets them apart. The superior quality of the textiles created by the studio can be attributed to the extraordinary investment of time (and challenges overcome) during the hand-making process.
Of course, there’s also the thorough apprenticeship programme, which has been firmly in place for over 100 years, to ensure that the legacy of skill sharing continues. Combining a respect for the rich history of tapestry weaving with the evolving influences of contemporary art practice, Dovecot has placed craftsmanship at its core since its foundation in 1912.
Dovecot’s first master weavers came from the workshops of William Morris and, as such, the embodiment of the Arts and Crafts movement is integral to the ethos of learning. Dovecot’s apprentices are trained for up to ten years before attaining the status of ‘master’.
With a committed order book of commissions well into 2018 and a new wave of fresh blood, it looks like Dovecot is set to build on its illustrious past and continue to grow confidently into the future as a leading British tapestry studio.
DOVECOT STUDIOS 10 INFIRMARY STREET, EDINBURGH EH1 1LT +44 (0)1315 503660