Travels in Scotland Post 3: Tapestry in Edinburgh

Welcome to my series of blog posts Travels in Scotland. Whether you're planning a trip, reliving a memory, or relaxing into some armchair traveling...thank you for joining me! Here I will show you images & share stories of my one month travels through Scotland. I'll cover this beautiful country of mountains, rivers, glens, islands, history, and, of course, fiber and textiles.

Dovecot tapestry studio, edinburgh

ScotRail whisks passengers every hour between Glasgow and the capitol. From the Waverly train station in the center of the old city, Dovecot Studios is a quick 10 minute walk and just off the Royal Mile leading to the castle.  Located on Infirmary Street, Dovecot is housed in renovated Victorian bath-houses that were built in 1885 during epidemics to improve hygiene in the city - a place where tenement dwellers could bathe, swim and have their clothes laundered at the same time (sounds like a deal to me!).  


Dovecot Studios was established in 1912 and moved to this location in 2008. There are gallery spaces (exhibiting Scottish Women Artists while I was there), cafe, gift shop, and viewing balcony onto the floor of the former swimming pool where the tapestry weavers are working. Dovecot Studios is a center for contemporary art, craft and design and free to visit.

Tapestry is an ancient art form, spanning the times of the Incas and ancient Egyptians, to the European centers during the Common Era. Tapestries are woven on cotton, linen or wool warps with mostly with wool weft. Maybe when you hear the word tapestry, you think of palace walls and maybe even the famous Unicorn Tapestries woven around 1500. At Dovecot Studios, contemporary pieces are produced for large-scale public spaces, such as the British Library at Kings Cross in London, the National Museum of Scotland entrance hall, the Royal Theatre in Glasgow, and private collections.  Click here to see more of the amazing Dovecot Studios projects that are collaborations with living artists and the skilled studio tapestry weavers.


If you are interested in learning more about tapestry and Dovecot, I highly recommend this podcast from Scotland, Haptic & Hue.


At Dovecot Studios, both traditional tapestries woven on upright looms and machine rug hooked pieces are produced.

Below is a short video I made of the rug weavers at Dovecot working on large scale pieces.  The second piece in the video is a tufted rug of Victoria Crowe's work "Above Stromness" (Click here to see finished tapestry).

tapestries on view at Dovecot studios galleries - summer 2023

I have been learning to weave tapestry since 2019, so coming to Dovecot Studios was a rare experience to see a large studio.  In the United States, most tapestry artists work solo in their private studios and teach at folk art schools, retreats, and more rarely in colleges.  However, in the U.K., France, and Australia, larger scale studios and years-long courses produce groups of tapestry weavers that are able to consistently produce large scale tapestries. Being able to see large contemporary tapestries in the Dovecot Studios, gave me the opportunity to see a large workshop set-up in the weaving room and to examine technique, color and design up close in the galleries.

Blog tip: Double click on any photo to enlarge and view caption.

the writers' museum, lady stair's close, edinburgh

The second place I had planned to visit in Edinburgh is also off the Royal Mile.  The Writers' Museum, honoring noted Scottish authors Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott, is accessed through a hardly noticeable passageway in the former Lady Stair's house.  Walking up and through this old Edinburgh building was an adventure, as were the artifacts of the writers' works and lives.  Much to my surprise a large tapestry hung in the main room of the museum of the writers, woven at Dovecot Studios and designed in 1971 by then director and famed tapestry weaver, Archie Brennan. So, my day in Edinburgh was bound to be all about tapestry after all.

My travel journal, July 2023, Edinburgh, Scotland
My travel journal, July 2023, Edinburgh, Scotland

COMING UP IN TRAVELS IN SCOTLAND POST 4: sailing the scottish isles

Thank you for reading my blog post. Travels in Scotland is a 12 part blog series filled with photos and stories of a fiber artist's journey through a beautiful land, encountering a land with a deep textile history, stunning landscapes, and of course sheep!


You can read all of the Travels in Scotland blog posts on my website.  I invite you to travel along with me, along the coast and through the mainland hills seeing, experiencing and learning about this place called Scotland. Turas math dhuibh! (Good journey to you!)  Amy

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Comments: 1
  • #1

    marcia g tewell (Friday, 03 May 2024 11:30)

    The Dovecott tapestries remind me of Swedish finger weavings, many of which are found in the halls of the elementary schools throughout the country. Imagine that, art in schools!