Elaine Henderson Elaine Henderson

Elaine Henderson

Our latest business focus feature takes a closer look at a very talented member of Orkney's creative community. Elaine Henderson has been producing stunning pieces of pottery from her adopted home of Stromness for more than ten years now.


Elaine Henderson’s studio just outside the town of Stromness is as you’d expect. Pottery paraphernalia can be found on the shelves and worktops, alongside the potters wheel and kiln, both of which are currently in action.

Alongside the equipment there are beautiful examples of Elaine’s work – vases and plates and tiles of different colours and textures – and samples of new designs of all shapes and sizes.

“I work with a lot of different clays as I always feel under pressure to discover as much as I can,” says Elaine. “I use porcelain, earthenware and stoneware and different colours of clay. At the moment I’m really into testing glazes and how they all work on different sorts of clay – it’s like being part scientist, part potter! It’s a constant learning curve, but for me that’s the joy of it.”

Elaine moved to Orkney just over a decade ago after a career in central Scotland as a music teacher. As her time teaching was coming to an end she was on the lookout for something else to do, and a past-time with health benefits was at the top of the list.

Some of Elaine's work at her base in Stromness


“When I was still a teacher, I was looking for a night class in a different subject to help me relax and I started an evening class in pottery,” she says. “It just grew into a passion and I decided to do a degree in it. It took a long time, and I still feel I’m on a never-ending journey of discovery.”

Her degree, from the Glasgow School of Art, was completed part-time and involved distance learning from Orkney. It also meant regular travelling to the central belt and back for classes and courses. Elaine quickly found that returning to the islands rather than to a city helped her make sense of the skills, theory and technique she was learning.

Elaine busy at her potters wheel


“I was so glad to come back to Orkney and just be at home in this lovely environment. It just all seemed to click here, and I’m not sure if it would have been the same if I’d stayed in Edinburgh,” she says.

“Here you have the close contact with different types of rock, the weather, the atmosphere. There’s also the archaeology, which inspired my dissertation too, so Orkney was absolutely crucial to my development.”

Elaine and her husband Mike quickly settled into island life, launching Scapa Studios on the main street in Stromness. There you could see her latest creations and watch her at work as part of the Orkney Craft Trail.

One of the bespoke pieces Elaine designed for the inaugural Scottish Awards for New Music in 2017


More recently they have moved to the outskirts of Stromness and their new home enjoys stunning views over Hoy Sound and the Hoy hills beyond, just perfect for more inspiration. The move hasn’t slowed down Elaine’s creative side though, and Scapa Studios lives on at their new base.

“At the moment I’m really concentrating on the colour blue as it’s such an iconic colour in ceramics. I’m looking at it in a contemporary way, thinking about expressing emotion and that kind of thing,” says Elaine.

“My latest exhibition at the Northlight Gallery in Stromness is titled ‘Kind of Blue’, showcasing some of the ideas I’ve been working on. My themes and projects change as my experiences do though, so you never know where you’re going to go next.”

More of the beautiful pieces of pottery Elaine creates in Orkney


Despite leaving her full-time teaching career behind her, passing on her skills and knowledge is still something Elaine is keen to carry out. She hosts tutorials and demonstrations at her studio, and offers one-to-one coaching for potential potters of the future.

It’s more than just a hobby though. For Elaine, pottery is about something else. “It makes me get up in the morning. I’m always rushing to the kiln to see what’s going to come out, it’s just great. I think I’m at the stage when I can pass on my skills and enthusiasm too and it’s lovely to see other people getting to feel the same way about it.”

Elaine has definitely found her calling here in the islands. She’s a member of Orkney Crafts Association and regularly takes part in trade fair trips south under the Orkney banner, which helps promote our creative community as a collective.

Pottery 'just grew into a passion' for Elaine


“Orkney is such a creative place and it’s one of the main reasons we came to live here,” she says. “It’s astonishing the number of people who do different things in such different fields across the islands, but can all come together so well.

“It’s just a magic place really.”


Find out more about Elaine’s work via her official website and the Orkney Crafts Association site. You can also find Elaine on Facebook.

Her exhibition, ‘Kind of Blue’, is open at the Northlight Gallery in Stromness between the 1st and 6th of September, between 10am and 4pm daily.

The Digital Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.

Inside Business Focus

Elaine Henderson

Orkney Craft Vinegar

The Orkney larder is famous around the world. The islands have some of the finest food and drink to be found anywhere, and the innovative, entrepreneurial spirit to go with it. One new business, Orkney Craft Vinegar, is already beginning to make an impact in culinary circles further afield.

More
Elaine Henderson

Green Marine

Orkney's role at the heart of the emerging marine energy sector continues to grow, and so does the reputation the islands have developed for a highly skilled supply chain. Our new Business Focus feature takes a look at one of the local companies helping developers get their devices in the water, Green Marine.

More
Elaine Henderson

William Shearer

In a small community it's important that a wide range of goods and services are available, and one shop in particular has been doing that locally for generations. Our latest Business Focus feature takes a look at one of the oldest established businesses in the islands, William Shearer.

More
Elaine Henderson

Kerr Carpentry

There have always been talented craftsmen and women in Orkney - now the latest generation of makers are beginning to take centre stage. Our new Business Focus feature visits the workshop of Kerr Carpentry in Burray.

More
Elaine Henderson

The Deerness Distillery

Orkney now has three top quality gin producers, each making their mark on the national stage. Our new Business Focus feature takes a look at the newest kid on the block, the Deerness Distillery.

More
Elaine Henderson

Ortak

Our latest Business Focus feature takes a look at Ortak, one of Orkney's most iconic jewellery brands. The company is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and is beginning to once again make its mark both in the islands and globally.

More
Elaine Henderson

The Orkney Roastery

The newest members of Orkney Food and Drink are the latest subject of our Business Focus feature. The Orkney Roastery is the first dedicated micro-roastery in the islands, sourcing quality coffee beans and, with care and attention, creating its own range of delicious coffee blends.

More
Elaine Henderson

Peedie Chocs and Desserts

Our next business focus feature takes a look at new Orkney Food and Drink member 'Peedie Chocs and Desserts'. Sarah-Louise Drever's enterprise offers high quality and delicious chocolates, truffles and fudges - and this is just the beginning.

More
Elaine Henderson

The Brig Larder

Our latest business focus feature takes a look at a unique shop in the centre of Kirkwall. Orkney Food and Drink member The Brig Larder offers a wide range of local products, showcasing the best Orkney has to offer.

More
Elaine Henderson

Michael Sinclair Woodturner

Our business focus feature for March takes us to Harray and the home of new company and Orkney Crafts Association member, Michael Sinclair Woodturner.

More
Elaine Henderson

Karrawa Guest House

Every month we’re going to take a look at the work of a successful Orkney based business - for February we're featuring Orkney Tourism Group member Karrawa Guest House in Kirkwall.

More
Elaine Henderson

The Island Smokery

Every month we’re going to take a look at the work of a successful Orkney based business - for January we're featuring Orkney Food and Drink member the Island Smokery, makers of smoked and flavoured cheeses and much more.

More
Elaine Henderson

Hilary Grant

Every month we're going to take a look at the work of a successful Orkney based business - from food and drink producers to tourism and renewable energy companies. The aim is to highlight the breadth of economic activity in the islands, and to showcase just some of our innovative entrepreneurs. This time the focus is on local designer Hilary Grant.

More