The Isle of Harris is famous for it’s wonderful beaches with golden sands and, if you are lucky, not another person to be seen. Add to that the rugged hills and beauty of the machair, the island is truly one of the most inspirational places on earth. Such beauty serves to inspire the creative juices of locals and visitors alike. This means that the Harris Arts and Crafts scene is another great reason to visit the island. Join me on the Harris Art Trail that will take you across the island to all the Harris Art Galleries and other creative craft places that we could find. Apologies if we missed you, please drop us a line if you would like to be included.
If you want to find out more about all the other fabulous things to do on the Isle of Harris check out the blog post at the link. Above all else, come and learn more about the people who make up this fabulous island community. I would also like to give a huge plug to the Harris Arts organisation who host their Festival and Carnival in August each year.
The Harris Art Gallery – Northton
The first stop on the Harris Art Trail is in Northton. The village is located just off main road between Leverburgh and Tarbert. Here we find the Harris Art Gallery, which is owned by the Dutch portrait painter Suzan Visser-Offereins. You can find the gallery on the main street that runs through the village.
The gallery showcases the work of Suzan Visser-Offereins who has been painting portraits for over 30 years. At the beginning of her career she began painting portraits in pastels of elderly people in a home. She says: “It was amazing how people opened up and told the story of who they were. Their faces lightened up when telling about their work and lives, their family, what they have loved so much. To me it is always a challenge and an honor to try to capture the being of that person”. These words are perfectly aligned with the ethos of the From Real People blog. This is to travel responsibly while learning about the local community and supporting their development.
Suzan’s Art – Portraits and Landscapes
Suzan has painted the portraits of many important and wonderful people. This includes Ballet dancers, Actors as well as Royal Commissions, like the Prince and Crown Prince of Kuwait as well as The Dutch Royal Family. In 1998 her Majesty Queen Beatrix invited her to the Palace Huis ten Bosch for a sitting for a portait. She has also painted Queen Juliana and Queen Wilhelmina and 40 more Royal Dutch Portraits. Suzan and her family have lived on Harris for a number of years and in her gallery you can see various portaits and also her paintings where she tries to capture the atmosphere of the landscapes and the beauty of the wildlife.
Scarista Studio – Scarista
As we head along the West coast of the island past all the amazing beaches, the next stop on our Isle of Harris Art Trail is in the village of Scarista. Here we have Scarista Studio, which is a gallery owned by painter David Miles. You can find the gallery in Scarista on the main road between Leverburgh and Tarbert on the left side of the road heading towards Tarbert.
The artist at the Scarista Gallery is London-born David Miles. He spent his childhood in various parts of the UK and took a variety of jobs before deciding to study painting at St.Martins Art School London between 1959 and 1963. He worked as a scenic artist for the National Theatre and also as a freelance artist/designer for various theatres. In 1967 he set up his studio on the Isle of Harris having bought a cottage in Scarista the previous year. He has since had regular periods of painting in other European countries and also in London. He has mostly worked in Harris and is significantly influenced the environment of the Hebrides.
David’s Art of the Outer Hebrides
David paints both people and landscapes, but a great deal of his work is centred around the landscape of Harris. His paintings are made with a deep respect for the art of painting, painters and the act of painting. It is his intention not to imitate the visible world but to reflect the ideas and feelings within it. His ideal medium for painting out of doors in the Hebrides is watercolour. The constant movement of the sea and sky mixed with the ever changing light over the landmass is expressed through the moving use of watercolour. He has some fantastic scenery paintings for sale in the gallery and online on his website.
Talla Na Mara – Niseaboist
Further along the coast towards Tarbert is a fantastic part of the island’s art scene and the next stop on our tour of Harris Art Galleries. Talla na Mara is a Community Enterprise Centre that overlooks the golden sands of Niseaboist Beach. The words Talla na Mara is Gaelic for the “Centre by the sea” and it is owned and managed by the West Harris Trust on behalf of the local community.
In January 2010 the West Harris Trust purchased 7225 hectares of land on the West side of Harris on behalf of the 120 residents of Luskentyre, Seilebost, Horgabost, Borve and Scaristavore. One of the key aims of the Trust is revitalising the community by attracting new residents and creating new housing and employment opportunities. When it comes to art, the Studios at Talla Na Mara brings together a selection of different artists. In particular, the amazing Joceline Hildrey and Kate Blake who gave me the inspiration to do this post about the Harris Art Trail in the first place.
The Studios at Talla Na Mara are open from 10 am to 4 pm from Monday to Saturday.
Heb Design Company – Talla Na Mara
The first of the Harris Art Galleries within Talla Na Mara is the Heb Design Company that is owned by Doug and Kate Blake. The company was set up in February 2016 and they moved into Studio 2 in March 2017. You can check out their designs in their gallery and also online.
Doug and Kate Blake
After 35 years together, Doug and Kate moved to the Isle of Harris in 2015, which gave them the ideal opportunity to start another type of partnership, The Hebridean Design Company. Doug has a background of 37 years as a manufacturing engineer, which combined with his knowledge of computerised design and his natural artistic creativity proved to be the perfect combination for the business of creating fantastic designs and gifts. At first glance, Kate’s previous career as a nurse may not seem to translate to the business as readily. But her highest standards and attention to detail are constantly in use, whilst expanding her creative hobbies into a successful business. Her love of colour and nature are very evident in the artwork they produce.
Bringing the Landscape of the Hebrides to Life
When they first started their business, they focussed on offering machine embroidered design and artwork. Over time their artistry has expanded to include bespoke art work, pet portraits and various other fantastic gifts that enable people to take their memories of the wonderful Isle of Harris home with them. For example, what better way to drink your Harris Gin when you get home than by resting your Harris Gin glass on a coaster of a Harris beach. More recently, they have also branched out into a fantastic range of glass products that you can take a look a look at on the website of their Isle of Harris Handmade Glass.
Isle of Harris Fine Art – Talla Na Mara
Next up in Talla Na Mara is Isle of Harris Fine Art, which is an open studio gallery. It’s run by Marigold and Owen Williams who are graduates of the School of Drawing and Painting at the Edinburgh College of Art.
Marigold and Owen Williams
Before moving to Harris, Marigold and Owen were living in South Queensferry near Edinburgh. Marigold was teaching art at a high school in West Lothian while Owen was managing the sales team of a publishing company in Edinburgh. After 12 years working his way up with the same company and chasing endless sales targets, Owen was looking to do something different career wise. They decided to take a year’s sabbatical in Harris, whilst thinking about their next movewe. Two years later and they are well into their second season at the studio and things have been going great.
Inspired by the Island
Their Harris art is inspired by the surrounding environment of this beautiful island. Naturally, they have a wonderful selection of original paintings and prints for sale with lots of fabulous landscapes to help remind you of the island long after you go home. They have also branched out into other hand-crafted pieces for the home. I just love their little ceremic croft houses and they also have a fabulous selection of lampshades with different island landscapes.
Joceline Hildrey Illustration – Talla Na Mara
The last of the Isle of Harris Art galleries within the studios at Talla Na Mara is Joceline Hildrey Illustration, owned by Joceline Hildrey. Along with Kate, she was the other inspiration behind this post about the Harris art scene.
Joceline studied Illustration and Printmaking at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art. For many years she had loved holidaying in the Western Isles that had inspired her love of wildlife, detail and all things nature. Having spent 20 years as a territory manager covering Scotland for design led gift companies she saw the chance of a business unit at Talla na Mara and grabbed it with both hands. She moved over with her family of three in November 2016 and the gallery has been up and running since February 2017.
Pictures and Even Driftwood Paintings
She has totally loved the experience of setting up the studio and building up her body of work. After 20 years working, she was pleased to find out that she could still draw. She has a fantastic selection of paintings in her studio, most of which is inspired by the beauty of the island. She loves it when people stop by the studio at Talla Na Mara, to chat to them and get their feedback on her work. As a huge fan of driftwood art, I really love the way her art translates onto this medium. I can’t wait to get back to Harris and find something for our house.
Ardbuidhe Cottage Gallery – Drinisiader
The Harris Art Trail continues along the East coast of the island along what is know as the Golden Road to the village of Drinisiader. I have fond memories of this part of the island, it’s where I caught my first trout at the age of 14. Here you can find the Ardbuidhe Cottage Gallery and the wonderful art of Willie Fulton.
Willie Fulton is an artist who has lived and worked on the Isle of Harris since 1976. Not only has he chosen a career but also a way of life as one of the Hearaich (a Harris islander). He lives in Drinisiader with his wife Moira. Both Willie and Moira are graduates of Edinburgh College of Art. He has exhibited his work all over Scotland, including the Royal Scottish Academy, Gatehouse Gallery, Leith Gallery, Riverside Gallery, Rendezvous Gallery, Queens Gallery and Red Rag Gallery. His work is also shown at Art Fairs in London, Bristol, Canterbury, Glasgow, Edinburgh, New York and Cannes.
Willie’s Art and His Top Harris Tip
Willie’s wonderful art is, like so many other artists on the island, inspired by the essence and spirit of Harris. They display their own work in the Ardbuidhe Gallery, which is the only 5 Star Arts venue in the Hebrides and one of only six in Scotland. During their time on Harris, Moira and Willie has seen a huge increase in tourism on the island. It was good to hear Willie say that most tourists have an interest in creative work and very much value the ethos of the island. His top Harris tip is to Stop…look…breathe… and appreciate. Of of which can all be done from Ardbuidhe, where he and Moira have now planted over 10,000 trees and created gardens that have a magnificent vista across the Minch.
Skoon Art Cafe – Geocrab
In the pretty village of Geocrab is the lovely Skoon Art Cafe, this is the next stop on our Harris Art Trail. It’s a fantastic and cosy little place located in an old croft. This is another great local business that is owned by Andrew and his wife Emma. The cafe is open from 10 am to 4.30 pm from Tuesdays to Saturdays.
Top Quality Art and a Cosy Cafe
Originally there was just a house on the site and they converted it to a cafe 15 years ago and ran it ever since. Emma’s family are from nearby Lewis and her Mum still lives there, so that was what drew they up to Harris 20 years ago. Andrew told me that they have tried to create a place that they would love to visit themselves, whether as tourists or locals. In terms of the island, his main request was that visitors to the island accept it as it is, enjoy it, and leave it the way they found it. Sounds like a plan to me – life on any island requires a respect for others that might not be so obvious to everyone.
Holmasaig Gallery – Quidinish
Continuing along the East coast of Harris in the Bays and in Quidinish you will find the next of our Harris Art Galleries. This one is the Holmasaig Gallery that is owned by artist Margarita Williams.
Hebridean artist Margarita Williams lives in her home village of Quidinish. A graduate of the Glasgow School of Art she is inspired by the unique Hebridean lanscape, sea, wild flowers of Machair and bogs of the Bays of Harris. Her work is held in various private art collections in the UK, Europe, the USA and Australia. As a local of Harris, Margarita is speaks fluent Gaelic, as well as English.
Watercolour and Mixed Media
You can visit Margarita at her Studio/Gallery that sits in a beautiful setting overlooking Loch Finsbay. If you are in the Bays area of Harris, you really should stop by and visit. The majority of her work is done using watercolour and she also uses mixed media techniques that help to reflect the changing light on the unique Hebridean landscape, sea, and the myriad wild flowers of the machair. Most recently her work has been inspired by St Kilda as has the technique of Japanese Woodblock Printing.
Finsbay Gallery – Finsbay
A little but further along the Bays heading towards Rodel is the village of Finsbay. This is where we find our next gallery on our Harris Art Trail. The Finsbay Gallery has been established for many years now and is owned by Val Hughes who has also previously lived in the East of England.
Val originally came to Harris in the late 80s with her late husband Colin to live & work as the only inhabitants on Taransay Island. As Castaways before anyone had even heard of Ben Fogle, they embraced a world of no water, no electricity and shopping every 6 weeks. Having bought a property at Finsbay the gallery has now been established for 16 years after Val had been back to art college in Norfolk.
A Gallery for the Work of Artist Friends
Val top Harris tip is for people to visit the East side of the island. The Golden Road and the Bays of Harris have an extraordinary landscape with a surprise around every corner! At the Finsbay Gallery, Val chooses and sells work from established artists, many of whom are friends and who come to Harris to experience a different landscape & atmosphere. A great number of artists come to island to create their own inspired Harris art. Val has up to 20 artists at the gallery covering landscape and wildlife as paintings, artists prints, stoneware, wildlife sculptures, photo’s and even jewellery.
Mission House Studio – Finsbay
A little bit further along the Bays Road in Finsbay is the next stage in our Harris Art Trail at the Mission House Studio. This is where photographer Beka Globe and her cermic artist Nickolai show their in a converted church. A wonderful setting that makes it a greatl place to visit. The studio is open between 11 am and 5 pm from Monday to Saturday.
Photographer Beka Globe
Beka Globe began taking photographs of Harris at the age of 11 years old. She later studied photography and darkroom techniques at Napier University in Edinburgh. There she was inspired by Ansel Adams’ landscapes, Paul Strand’s portraits and Hiroshi Sugimoto’s seascapes. Having traveled extensively with her camera, she returned to the Hebrides to explore her roots in the landscape she first viewed through the lens. Here she captures an emotive vastness, depth and simplicity. Her silent images are deeply moving, stirring a particular sense of place.
Ceramic Artiist Nickolai Globe
Nickolai was brought up in a family pottery in the Far North West of Scotland. Over the years Nickolai has studied and exhibited extensively in Europe, and Australia. Now he has fused himself to The Isle of Harris, where he creates his archaic works. High fired earthenware, porcelain, stoneware and local minerals is his palette, the terrain of the Hebrides his muse. His new work takes ceramics to the edge of craft, where sculpture and function merge. His high fired stoneware bowls and vessel forms become more geological and carry with them a deep reflection of the terrain of the Hebrides. Incorporating glass and raw minerals into his work they literally embody the landscape.
The Scalpay School Craft Village
The last stop on the Harris Art Trail is the Scalpay School Craft Village. Set in the old school building on the Isle of Scalpay, the craft village provides a space for small businesses to showcase their arts and crafts in one place. You can find them in North Harbour opposite the Bistro.
The Craft Village has a numbers of local art and craft businesses inside. These include The Pink Sheep Studio, Harris Enamels, Finders Keepers, SweeTWEEDesigns and Artworks by Geoff Stear.
The Pink Sheep Studio & Harris Enamels
The Pink Sheep Studio and Harris Enamels are owned by Richard and Jayne Green. They moved to Harris 6 yrs ago for a life style change and to realise their lifetime ambition to build their own house. They make handmade items using Harris Tweed & hardwoods. These include stools, cushions, lampshades, lamps and throws together with smaller affordable items. Their work is inspired by colours, mountains, flora and fauna of the islands. Their big ask to people visiting the island is to spread the word about all the great, small businesses on Harris to help them sustain over the long term.
Finders Keepers by Lorna
Also in the Scalpay School Craft Village is Finders Keepers, which is owned by Lorna. She makes quirky handmade crafts and gifts, including driftwood clocks, candle holders, hand burnt signs. Everything she makes is unique and individual and make ideal gifts to remember your trip to the island. She works from the old library room and would love people to stop by and say hi. We actually have a piece of drfitwood carved by Lorna in our apartment in Cologne, Germany that we bought a few years ago when she had her previous little workshop. If you are lucky she’ll tell you her favourite spots on the island.
Artworks by Geoff Steer
The Craft Village is also showcases the artwork of Geoff Stear . Geoff is an abstract painter who works mainly on large canvasses but compromises scale wise. He has lived on the island for the last thirteen years where the landscape has been a massive influence on his work.