Crafts in Orkney have undergone a revival in recent years, and a large variety of goods are available, some traditional, others modern. Many products take their inspiration  from the past, the local landscape with its changing light, nature or a combination of these aspects of Orkney.  Artists of all kinds seem to find Orkney an inspiring place to work.

Traditional crafts The Orkney straw-backed chair, which is unique to the Northern Isles, is produced by several craftsmen and chairs can be ordered for delivery later.  The backs are made from oat straw, while the frames are now made of hardwood.   The design results from the shortage of wood in Orkney and many other uses were also found for oat-straw, including ropes (simmons) and baskets (cubbies or caisies).  The Straw-backed chairs would have been very practical in draughty houses!

Orkney Chairs
Replica Rousay Broch

Knitwear remains an important activity, with over 500 knitters producing nearly 50,000 garments a year, mostly for export.  Both traditional and modern designs are produced, and are on sale at many shops throughout the islands.  The range is great, so it should be easy to find the jumper which pleases.

A variety of smaller businesses produce a range of crafts including pottery, wood-carving, weaving, tapestries, felted wool, cured sheep-skins, leatherwork, atrwork and other items which can be seen in local shops.  Many of the firms also welcome visitors to their premises.

There are several jewellery makers,  many of whose designs derive from Norse or Pictish inspiration, as well as more modern influences. These include Ola Gorie and Ortak, Sheila Fleet, in Tankerness, Aurora in St Ola and Orkneyinga Silver in Birsay.

The Orkney Craft Trail covers a few of the many workshops in Orkney, including the innovative "Tait & Style" and the "Yellow Bird Gallery in Birsay among many others. ‘Open Studios’ is a diverse group of artists based in South Ronaldsay with a common desire to remain central to the creative process, despite the pressures of today’s enterprise culture. 

Orkney Landscapes and Seascapes

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