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Whether it’s architecture, fashion or graphic design, the proud Scots draw their intense creativity from their landscapes. Between inconstant skies and rich-hued heath and moor, we tour a region whose roots grow deep.
John Felix suggests we meet at the Flying Duck, a basement pub in central Glasgow, complete with graffiti, concert flyers and dim lighting. The gentle ginger-haired man is staring at his tablet, scrolling through vivid-colored drawings inspired by comic-book art; these are his most recent projects for beer labels and cans. Felix used to drive a delivery truck for Drygate, an experimental microbrewery. But he showed his sketches to the director and from that day on, became a designer for the brand, which also employs students from the Glasgow School of Art (GSA). His labels have even been shown in art galleries.
“Everything here is conducive to creativity,” says Felix with a smile. In contrast to the classic beauty of Edinburgh, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the gritty, industrious city of Glasgow has had to reinvent itself more than once, especially with its art school, one of Europe’s most highly regarded. In the late 19th century, the Glasgow School of Art spawned architect and visionary designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. He and his wife, artist Margaret MacDonald, did creative new takes on the canons of classical art, introducing natural themes, Japanese elements and Arts and Crafts influences. The GSA is still a source of inspiration for its innovative ways of reinterpreting accepted codes and rules. Many London artists have also gravitated toward the banks of the Clyde, attracted by the artistic buzzand the more affordable rents.
Just an hour away lies a quite extraordinary park in a green valley of Dumfries: Crawick Multiverse. The project, located on the site of an old opencast coal mine, was designed by the American architect and land artist Charles Jencks, who created a metaphysical landscape with perspectives and spirals using boulders and green spaces. Each composition has a name related to astronomyMilky Way, Andromeda, Comet Walk. The idea was to integrate Scotland’s ancient history and menhirs into a kind of cosmic vision of nature.
Jencks, a part-time resident in Scotland, has helped to develop another temple to landscape art, this time in Edinburgh: the sculpture park Jupiter Artland is a configuration of landforms all lines and curves, grassy expanses and lakes, incorporating a range of contemporary works into the green space. It’s a great place to relax, to have a bit of fun and see some pop art. This is the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, and the Scots are preparing to happen upon all sorts of unexpected things appearing all over the place out of nowherelike The Kelpies, Andy Scott’s two giant horse heads 30 meters high by a canal along the M9 motorway. A little bit farther on is the sculpture of a mysterious water sprite from the Highlands emerging suddenly from a lake.
A window on the lochs
In the heart of the Trossachs National Park, in Balquhidder Glen, chef Tom Lewis has converted an old farmhouse into one of the most design spaces to be found in the Highlands, Monachyle Mhor Hotel, not least for the hotel itself, a large building with a pink facade atop a hill. Yet there’s more: on the narrow isthmus separating Loch Voil and Loch Doine, where deer come to gambol early morning, Lewis and his wife, Lisa, have installed a large, shiny metal block, The Shiny Box, which reflects the waters of the surrounding lochs and peaks. There are also some amazing wooden sculptures ideal for curling up on or for meditating, on the lands of the famous outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor. “Nature and art blend together so perfectly,” explains Lewis, whose every sentence ends with a burst of hearty laughter. “The Highlands are marked by human activity, the planting of trees, the introduction of sheep. We need to continue this virtuous circle. So we devise projects with Glasgow’s art and engineering students.” A container on wheels beneath a huge beech tree serves as a designer food truck, offering food on a par with the sublime places Lewis drives it to. He also took over a glassed-in area that served as a waiting room for ferries on the west coast, converting it into an original guest room placed under the stars and facing out across the lake.
The first is a milliner, the second designs kilts. Both are among the more high-profile designers in Edinburgh. Sally-Ann Provan, who works from an old chocolate factory converted into artists’ studios, makes the best in headwear. Her inspirations include Japanese culture and French pastries. Her materials? Felt, tweed and a multitude of plumes: duck, pheasant, peacock, ostrich. Her customers? “Ladies anywhere from 20 to 80 years old, who have a good feel for fashion but prefer to follow their own style.” The British aristocracy loves Sally-Ann Provan hats, and she also does creations for the Royal Opera House, the Scottish Ballet and the BBCand dreams of one day making hats for the royal family. “People often see Scotland as an immutable country with its castles, bagpipes and whisky. They forget that the Scots have been great inventors and discoverers, and their drive to advance society is still prevalent today.”
Howie Nicholsby doesn’t dress dukes and earls but rather the likes of Lenny Kravitz, Robbie Williams and Vin Diesel. The son of a renowned tailor (Geoffrey the Tailor), he loves to play around with traditional tartan. His 21st Century Kilts label features models in denim, leather and camouflage, or lined with Gore-Tex®like the one he wears when biking to work each day. How many days a year does he wear a kilt? Howie, taken aback by the question, cracks up behind his Ray-Bans®. “Every day. I don’t own a pair of trousers anymore.” He’s influenced by Scottish musicTeenage Fanclub, Primal Scream, Franz Ferdinand, Chvrches, who’ve all hit the international scene.
The view out the window of Donald John’s workshop faces the opaline Luskentyre Bay, which is striated with turquoise channels at low tide. It’s hard to imagine you’re in the far northwest region of Scotland, in the Outer Hebrides. “No, it’s not the most beautiful landscape in the areait’s the most beautiful in all of Scotland, and probably in the world,” deadpans John right off the bat. He’s the most famous weaver on the Isle of Lewis and Harris, where the world’s finest tweed is produced. Chanel, Paul Smith and Yves Saint Laurent are all clients of this modest artisan, who works on a loom dating from 1969. Harris Tweed is a label with very strict specifications: the material must have been worked by inhabitants of the archipelago, in their own homes, using locally produced yarn. In this way, the tweed has maintained its exceptional weave over the years, while protecting the islanders’ jobs.
Three companies produce the thread, combining some of the 50 colorful wools with equally colorful namespeacock, hyacinth, vicuna, mosswhich in turn yield 165 different shades and a total of 1,662 patterns. Artisans are either affiliated with a certain factory or independent, like John, who was introduced to the art while still on his father’s lap, and has been in the business for 46 years now. The weavers determine their workload themselves, as they pedal away at their looms. “Each year, I make the equivalent of a round trip bike ride to France,” he says with a laugh, plucking out a rebellious strand with a pair of tweezers. John sighs: “It’s a bit difficult to focus on a day like today, with this light. This is rare around here.” So he slips on his tweed jacket, whistles for his dog and sets off to wander about the incredible natural setting surrounding his studio.
Monachyle Mhor Hotel
At the end of a tiny, single-lane road, standing on the slopes of a mountain and facing two beautiful lochs, this elegant yet unpretentious spot comes as a surprise. The interiors are a cool blend of natural materials (slate, wood, horn) and design touches. The 14 rooms are spacious and inviting. Some have their own wood stove; others a small sauna or a stone jacuzzi. But the place’s charm also lies in its hosts, Tom and Lisa Lewis, chefs before they were interior designers. Every day they compile the menu according to what’s available at the market, to showcase the region’s produce: blue ling, Highland lamb, asparagus, artichoke; all prepared with fresh herbs, one of Tom’s passions. Ask him about it: he’ll be delighted to show you his herb garden and have you taste and smell its treasures.
Guide composé au plomb et doré sur tranche, compotier en céramique réalisé en terre noire par l’un des 30 artisans tibétains de l’atelier parisien, et la boutique au 16, rue de Tournon.
Gild-edged guide book typeset in lead; ceramic fruit dish made by one of the 30 Tibetan craftsmen in the Paris workshop; the shop at 16, rue de Tournon, Paris.
Monachyle Mhor Hotel
Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Perthshire. Tél. +44 (0)1877 384 622.www.mhor.net
The Willow Tea Rooms
A fine example of Charles Rennie Mackintosh architecture. For brunch or just a cup of tea. 97 Buchanan Street, Glasgow. Tél. +44 (0)141 204 52 42.www.willowtearooms.co.uk
A brewery with a pleasant bar and terrace, for tasting (in moderation) the craft beers. 85 Drygate, Glasgow. Tél. +44 (0)141 212 88 15.wwww.drygate.com
An enchanting sculpture park outside Edinburgh. Bonnington House Steadings, Wilkieston. Tél. +44 (0)1506 889 900.www.jupiterartland.org
Tour Crawick, in the Dumfries and Galloway area, an hour’s drive away to the south of Glasgow. Tél. +44 (0)1659 502 42.www.crawickmultiverse.co.uk
National Museum of Scotland
Several rooms are devoted to design, fashion and technology through the ages. Chambers Street, Édimbourg. Tél. +44 (0)300 123 67 89.www.nms.ac.uk
21st Century Kilts
Howie Nicholsby receives by appointment, and you can place orders online. 48 Thistle St., Édimbourg. Tél. +44 (0)131 220 9450www.21stcenturykilts.com
Visit the milliner’s studio, and even try on some of the hatsvirtually, that is, via the Internet. 27 Beaverhall Rd, Édimbourg. Tél. +44 (0)7931 773 410.www.sallyannprovan.co.uk
Harris Tweed Hebrides
The largest tweed maker in the islands produces cloths and clothing. 25 North Beach Street, Stornoway,île de Lewis. Tél. +44 (0)1851 700 046.www.harristweedhebrides.com
For accesssoriescard holders, flask, tablet and computer cases, and more. Tarbert, île de Harris. Tél. +44 (0)1859 502 040.www.harristweedisleofharris.co.uk
Another design studio specializing in pretty tweed objects. 1 Bells Rd, Stornoway, île de Lewis. Tél. +44 (0)1851 709 974.www.rarebirddesign.co.uk
Air France has 21 flights a week from Paris-CDG to Edinburgh, operated by HOP! and CityJet.
KLM has 34 flights a week to Edinburgh from Amsterdam.
À 13 km.
Tél. +44 844 448 88 33.
Air France KLM offices
— Depuis la France : tél. 3654.
— Depuis l’étranger :
Tél. +33 (0) 892 70 26 54.
Hertz, à l’aéroport. Tél. +44 (0)843 309 3025.
Visite Scotland (Tourist Office)
For the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016, Scotland’s tourist office has put together special tours, visits to original destinations and a wide selection of activities and accommodation.www.visitscotland.com
Gallimard, coll. Cartoville
Gallimard, coll. Cartoville.
Gallimard, coll. Encyclopédies du voyage.
Gallimard, coll. Mode d’emploi..
Gallimard, coll. Bibliothèque du voyageur.
From the Land - Comes the Cloth
Ian Lawson. Ce superbe livre de photos fait le lien entre les paysages des Hébrides extérieures et l’artisanat local du tweed. Tisseurs burinés et étoffes colorées. www.ianlawson.com
© Parko Polo / Central Illustration Agency. Map for illustration purpose only.