The months after the festive season are always that bit quieter than normal here in Orkney, as islanders wait patiently for spring and the longer days ahead.
But our talented food, drink and crafts makers never slow down. Indeed, many have been busy designing, creating and launching new products to add to their already impressive ranges. We’ve selected some of the best new items available to buy from our Creative Orkney and Taste of Orkney members, so take a look and pick up something special from the islands.
It’s safe to say it has been a relatively stormy winter in Orkney, with wild waves and gale force winds battering the islands during January and February. For many, it’s a time of year to batten down the hatches, but for members of our creative community winter can be a time of great inspiration. That’s certainly the case for Sanday-based artist, Bill McArthur, who paints his beautiful and dramatic seascapes from his Gallery in the Nortwa on the island’s north coast. This painting of Otterswick Bay after gales in early February perfectly captures the feel of the aftermath of an Orkney storm.
Orkney’s only rum distillery has been going from strength to strength since beginning production in 2017. Now J. Gow Rum has just launched its first unaged and wild yeast release. The yeast was harvested from wild Northern marsh orchids that grow next to the distillery on the uninhabited island of Lamb Holm. The lengthy process involved mini ferments with petals or swabs from the flowers and counting active yeast cells under a microscope before final fermentation took place in March 2021. The result is a fruity, naturally sweet spirit that has been rested for several months in stainless steel tanks. Only 171 bottles have been produced of what is the first release in the distillery’s wild yeast series, with more planned in the future. It officially launches on March 16th, with pre-orders open for mailing list subscribers on March 11th.
Michael Sinclair’s gallery in the West Mainland is a popular stop on Orkney’s Creative Trail, showcasing his stunning range of wood-turned pieces. Often influenced by the Neolithic heritage of the islands, Michael has recently turned to his time as a commercial fisherman – and as a youngster beachcombing at home in Sanday - to inspire a new collection. He has created three beautiful wooden floats, turned from Scottish burr elm, and each with distinctive features such as staples and ropes. All three pieces are available now and could help awaken the beachcomber in you.
The latest Outlander-inspired collection from Orkney's Aurora Jewellery has been launched just in time for season six of the popular television show. The ‘Eternally Yours’ collection is a tribute to the everlasting love of Claire and Jamie Fraser, the central characters of the series. The jewellery marries the Scottish Thistle and English Rose, symbols with great historical significance for each country. The collection, designed in Orkney by Aurora’s Teresa Shearer, has been handcrafted in sterling silver and includes stud and drop earrings, necklace, brooch and bangle.
The Aries Gallery in Orkney’s West Mainland is full of beautiful pieces, from photography to soft furnishings. Now owners Alan and Norah Bowmer have turned their hands to bespoke guitar straps, perfect for the musically-minded member of your family. The embroidered straps are made with genuine leather strap-ends and the design is up to you. Recent commissions have featured everything from runic writing to quotes from favourite poems. The straps – which can also be used with citterns and mandolins – come with buckles and a faux suede strip for extra comfort.
If you like your gins to come with a backstory, then this special release from the Kirkwall-based Orkney Distillery is definitely one for you. It has been developed to help fund a team of adventurers and ocean rowers, including Orkney’s own Davie Flett, who are aiming to be the first to row through the Arctic’s Northwest Passage. The intrepid group will set off this summer, following the 3700km route from Canada to Alaska, famously discovered by Orcadian explorer, Dr John Rae, drawing attention to climate change en-route. The delicious gin is flavoured with botanicals from the shores of Orkney and Hudson Bay and has a rugged saltiness, followed by subtle, sweet citrus notes and a hint of liquorice. The water used even comes from the same well used by explorers Captain James Cook and Sir John Franklin. Follow the team’s expedition to the Arctic on Facebook. You can also learn more about the expedition on the official website.
Better known for her beautiful collection of jewellery handmade in Orkney, Alison Moore has been turning her hand – and eye – to something different over recent years. Alison has combined her passion for diving, the inspiration she takes from nature, and a remarkable talent for underwater photography, into a new creative outlet. Her award-winning images capture the remarkable wildlife, colours and textures found in Orkney’s seas and they’re now available in a range of homeware, bags, greeting cards and prints. The brand-new collection will be launched in early March 2022.
With what felt like week after week of wild weather over the winter months, it’s no surprise that Orkney-based creative knitwear studio, Hilary Grant, has been kept busy sending out beautiful blankets, hats, scarves and gloves around the country and beyond. The studio, run by Hilary and partner Robert Harvey, combines their respective backgrounds in textile design and architecture to create original and innovative knitwear and knitted home accessories, inspired by Orkney and made in world class mills in the Scottish Borders. The distinctive ‘Keel’ blanket in sienna and sandstone is composed like a written or typed note, with the use of characters and spaces invoking elements of letterpress typesetting.
Orkney is full of talented jewellery makers with an incredible selection of stunning pieces on offer. Zoe Davidson creates her range from her workshop in Stromness, often using inspiration from the surrounding coastline during her design process. But, like many makers in the islands, Zoe also offers bespoke commissions and even remodels of pieces that have been passed down through the generations. It’s a sustainable way of giving them a new lease of life, and as Zoe says, people are always surprised at what can be done with jewellery that is sitting at the back of a drawer. Check out Zoe’s blog on one of her latest remodelling projects.
The latest addition to Marion Miller’s fantastic range of jewellery are these stunning enamelled hearts, which come in all kinds of colours and styles. Handmade in her Stronsay studio, the pieces are perfect for Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day or just to show your love or appreciation to someone. Marion has used inspiration from seas and skies surrounding her island home to create this unique range, which includes pendants and earrings, and her new pebble hearts, as pictured.