The Voice went to visit the newly re-opened Island Porcelain, now settled in its Lamlash home at Studio 4. Since its opening on Easter weekend, and the launch of the website last week, business owner, artist and now miniature figure maker, Tracy Gibson, has had her hands full, and not just with puffins and guillemots! There has been a lot to do over the past year since taking over the company from Vivienne Coulthard, and moving to the premises in Lamlash.
Tracy has spent many years running the successful Boathouse shop on Brodick Beach, but she had been feeling that it was time for a change. (She is currently overseeing both businesses). Tracy explained, “I’d always said to family and friends, that if that business [Island Porcelain] ever comes up for sale, I want it! I would love to go for it!” She says, “I love making and doing, I love to be creative, so this is ideal for me. The Boathouse has been great, and supported us over the years, but I wanted now to spend my time and earn money doing the things I really love to do.”
It was time for Vivienne to move on from Island Porcelain last year, and she posted it on the Arran Sales and Wants site for just 20 minutes, when Tracy spotted it, and got in touch. Originally Tracy’s vision had been to have the Island Porcelain workshop at the Boathouse. However due to some (on hindsight fortunate) renovation delays, this never happened, and in the course of time, the space at Studio 4 came up for rent. Tracy knew it would be the perfect home, as this is where the miniature figure making had originally started.
In the nineteen seventies, Alastair Dunn, the renowned Scottish potter, painter and sculptor began producing porcelain miniatures from his workshop at Kings Cross, Isle of Arran, and alongside three other artists also set up Studio 4. The original designs, which were made from stoneware, have been developed and refined over the years, to become an instantly recognisable and iconic part of the island’s artistic landscape.
Tracy told us that she has not found it hard to settle into the production and painting of the miniatures. As an artist she has found the making of the figures – molding, fettling and painting – something she took easily to. Each figure is individually hand-made to a high standard and is then carefully hand-painted and fired to an eye-watering 1200 degrees. Most figures have a matt, unglazed finish which is characteristic of the products. This process means that no two pieces are ever identical, making each piece truly unique.
A walk around the bright and welcoming shop, and workshop downstairs, a visitor gets the feeling this is the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the history of this much loved Arran enterprise, with Tracy bringing her own artistic touch and experience to it. She says of being in Studio 4 “It feels really nice to me to be here, a nice positive feel to be here”.
Visit Island Porcelain at Studio 4, on the main road in Lamlash. It is also part of the Arran Art Trail.