Eoghain and Pamela, In the hills above Elgol, Isle of Skye, Scotland
A Handmade Life
The journey here (for journey is what one must call it) takes about an hour and a half, and though the scenery is stunning (stunning is the only word) I am questioned repeatedly about the veracity of my directions. Mountains rise before us, craggy and imposing, their steep sides plunging into lochs and sea. We drive through drizzle, rain, and sunshine all in the span of an hour. As we near the edge of the island I spot a small sign and we turn, pointing our car upwards where, looking down, we spot a tiny cluster of white houses clinging to a hillside overlooking the sea. We see a gate and I hop out to open it. The Songwriter drives through, I close the gate and climb back inside. There is a tiny car park underneath berry-laden bushes. We make our way down a vertical drive and turn the corner to spot three hobbit-sized cottages, one of which bears the sign we’ve been looking for: Skye Weavers.
In this remote place, far removed from everything commerce is expected to require, we find some of the most gorgeous woven goods one could imagine, all created by a man on a bicycle. Roger gets up each morning, leaves his lovely cottage and walks several feet into his loom shed where he climbs aboard the bicycle that powers his handmade loom and from this perch he creates some glorious things, pedaling all the day. Shawls and scarves, blankets and gentlemen’s ties - each one a temptation impossible to resist. Roger’s wife, Andrea, designs these treasures with a artist’s eye for colour and Roger weaves them, expertly. Another tiny shed serves as the shop, a textural candy store where stacks of beautifully coloured items are arranged and displayed.
“We inherited the cottage”, says Roger. “It was our dream to make a living doing what we loved, but we didn’t know if that was possible this far away from everything. But believe it or not, we’re doing alright. The internet helps, of course. It’s kind of amazing how many people find us out here.”
After making several needful purchases and being allowed to “drive” the loom for awhile - a thrill - we reluctantly left Roger and his wife on their idyllic hillside. But their story has stayed with me, underlined as it was by other couples we met in the Scottish Hebrides this past September.
Meet Clare and Iain, proprietors of our favorite tiny inn on Skye, Coruisk House. Both successful lawyers in London, they followed their dream to one of the most glorious spots on earth several years ago, rescued an old house and transformed it into a lovely destination. Here Iain indulges his guests with incredible meals each night and Clare bakes irresistible bread, watches the details and makes everyone welcome. Along with their black lab, Reggie, they are intoxicatingly happy, one can tell.
There are the weavers on the Isle of Harris, each one an artist of the highest order. From garden sheds and back rooms dotted all over the island they weave their intricately beautiful fabrics for internationally known Harris Tweed. There is the couple who own Skye Pies, a tiny whitewashed cottage on the north end of the Isle of Skye where the line for lunch stretches halfway through the garden before they even open and where you can eat, truly, the most delectable pie you could possibly imagine, sweet or savoury. All around the cafe are baskets of knitting and tools for embroidery for diners to pick up and continue. The place positively crackles with creativity. Then there are our good friends, Francis and Eoghain, living in paradise on a hillside on Skye, with no television or computer and no desire for either. Each night they climb the hill to look out over the Black Cullins towards Loch Coruisk where, as Eoghain whispered to me when he took me up there, “The mountains are ebony and the water is silver.” (See the photo above.)
Since retuning home from Scotland I have thought a lot about the life these people have fashioned for themselves. Hard work, really hard work, is no stranger to these people. But each of them radiates utter peace and contentment, qualities so often elusive to modern life. Their values run counter to the values most commonly prized; none of them would wish for a golden tower. But oh, what bliss they’ve created. What joy to be found in the handmade quality of their lives.
It is disconcerting that one of the most beautiful of words, Thanksgiving, is this week to be followed by that most mercenary of sobriquets, Black Friday. Let others fill the shopping malls and crowd the highway lanes. I may not live on a Scottish hillside, yet, but as best I can, I have molded my own handmade life right here at The House of Edward. My friends will receive bits of love woven into their presents this Christmas, baked or knitted, written or wrapped. It is possible even today, even here in a metropolis, to turn from the media’s definition of success, joke that it is, and embrace those activities that feed our souls. Mulled wine nights by the fireside, with dreaming dogs dozing at our feet and good books in our hands. Long walks in the crisp air. Happy conversations over delicious dinners. The wrapping of gifts that mean as much for us to give as they will for those who unwrap them. Music in place of news. Joy in place of worry. Contentment in place of stress. For some of us, this may be hard work, really hard work. But the rewards, I assure you, far exceed any amount of effort.
As Christmas approaches, the elves at Wild Bouquet Press are busy sending out orders for Edward Speaks at Midnight. A truly handmade effort and one that both Edward and I are immensely proud of. Beautifully illustrated, it is a window into our own Christmas here at The House of Edward and I hope it will find its way underneath many trees this year.
You can find your copy HERE.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
I am forever so thankful for my readers.
Do some Christmas Shopping at Skye Weavers, HERE