With its beautiful architecture, world heritage status, and world-class art galleries and museums, Edinburgh is a city which is truly steeped in creative history.
Although a walk through the Georgian splendour of the New Town or the winding, medieval streets of the Old Town makes the city’s charm evident, what is not so obvious is the city’s burgeoning creative communities studiously working away behind closed doors.
As a Leith-based accessories designer herself, Catherine Aitken uses her wealth of knowledge to unveil the craftsmen and women who are helping to cement Edinburgh’s place as a world-leader in revolutionary creative design.
The book is a true celebration of 24 highly skilled artisans across a variety of disciplines, including a kilt maker, furniture upholsterer and sign gilder.
The interviews with each artist gives an insight into how they got to this point in their careers, while the beautiful images makes the book an objet d’art in its own right. Perfect for display on a living room coffee table.
Some interviews do stand out from the rest, particularly the visit to the studio of award-winning Womenswear Fashion Designer Judy R. Clark. A previous intern of the late genius Alexander McQueen, Judy used this experience to create her own stunning collection of timeless designs featuring Harris Tweed, Scottish lace and antique fabrics, all of which are showcased to full effect in the book’s beautiful images.
Aitken gets the balance right between quirky anecdotes and more technical information about each individual’s complex artistic process. For example, we learn about silversmith Bryony Knox’s upbringing in Kenya which inspires her animal-shaped kinetic silver objects and earned her the appointment as Artist in Residence at Edinburgh Zoo.
With many of the featured artisans based in studios in Leith, some history into how this particular area of Edinburgh became such an artistic hub would have been welcome. However, Aitken succeeds in shining a much-needed spotlight on these vital communities.
Artisan Edinburgh, by Catherine Aitken, published by the History Press, £20.