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Lookbook

Ben Vorlich

Ben Vorlich is one of the traditional herringbone weave designs at ANTA.  Visually, the fabric resembles the backbone of a herring which is like a zig-zag, hence the name.  Ben Vorlich herringbone is woven in pure wool for three grades of fabric; lowland tweed, highland tweed and a heavier grade that we use for our carpets.  Annie uses herringbone weave structure as it allows her to mix two contrasting yarns that the human eye blends to make a more subtle but still a strong colour.  Ben Vorlich is a more neutral example, she blends a dark brown and cream to make a deep grey which as a carpet is especially good at concealing the dirt.  Because of its structure herringbone weave is strong and very hardwearing and our highland and lowland tweed cloth is perfect for upholstery and curtains. 

Annie named Ben Vorlich after the munro in the central belt of Scotland.  Looking over Loch Earn, Ben Vorlich was close to her family home and, because it was her dad’s favourite the family climbed it regularly.   Tartans were traditionally named after families or clans in Scotland and tweeds were named after estates and places.  There is an ANTA collection of tweeds named after Scottish mountains, they are all in herringbone and are plain tweed designs.  

Wool

At ANTA we have followed the tradition of manufacturing carpet and cloth from Scottish wool for over thirty years.  Scotland has a strong historical textile industry and wool has been manufactured into lengths of cloth for clothing and carpets for hundreds of years. Sheep were bred across the country in rural areas and then the wool was processed and manufactured in the borders, just the same as today.  Unlike fur and leather, wool is harvested from the animal annually, meaning the fabric is sustainable and renewable.  Historically, sheep were bred for their wool, and their meat would have been a by product as mutton rather than the more popular lamb today.  The wool is washed and dyed before being spun into yarn. Because it is naturally crimped, wool is easy to spin into yarn for weaving.  Crucial for clothing, it is breathable which makes it an all year round material, in the winter the fibres trap heat and in the summer is lets the air circulate.  The strong fibres make it durable and long lasting.  Wool is known for being scratchy and at ANTA use the scratchiest for our carpet and tweed because it is the strongest.  

Although the fashion for wool declined with the invention of synthetic products, its popularity has increased over the years because of its renewable and natural qualities. For homeware and furnishing it is used now for its insulating, sound proofing and hypoallergenic properties.

Ben Vorlich
Ben Vorlich - Large Rug
Ben Vorlich - Large Rug
£995.00
Ben Vorlich Carpet Bag
Ben Vorlich Carpet Bag
£58.00
Saltire Ben Vorlich Highland Tweed Cube
Saltire Ben Vorlich Highland Tweed Cube
£320.00

Torridon

The road on the West Coast that goes from Lochcarron, up to Applecross and Torridon is a road of winding single track, narrow passing places and precarious viewing platforms.  It is also a road with extraordinary landscapes.  You pass determined cyclists, eager to reach their destination, head down battling wind and rain, you travel through hairpin bends inching you closer to a summit.  Each time you turn back to a view you are left silenced by the landscape, it changes quickly with the haar coming in from the islands.  As you leave Skye behind you you pass golden beaches and caves, natural rock formations before leaving the coast and turning towards Torridon.  The landscape dramatically changes as mountains rise up from the sea.  The distinctive red sandstone of the Torridon mountains pierce the sky.  People seem transient here, making a tiny mark on ancient stone. Dwellings hug Loch shorelines and a life line of telephone wires fight with the undulating land, carrying voices from afar.  Here you feel there is land that has never been touched by humans, that you are the first making a mere footprint in the mud. 

These roads have inspired many who wind their way through the landscape.  I have chosen a short contemporary poem that resonates with my memories of this mysterious section of the highlands. 

Torridon

Mid-June and there’s new

snow on Liathach

the mountains here

have no time for seasons

they’ve seen Ice Ages

come and go

Their roots grip

the earth’s core

their summits

converse with clouds

And we who crawl around their feet

kiss the face of time in passing

as mayflies flick the silver water

spawning a future that shines and fades

Kirk Sanders

 

Torridon
Torridon Highland Tweed Cube
Torridon Highland Tweed Cube
£320.00
Torridon Large Rug
Torridon Large Rug
£995.00
Torridon Little Shopper
Torridon Little Shopper
£60.00
Torridon Wool Carpet
Torridon Wool Carpet
£200.00
SALTIRE TORRIDON HIGHLAND TWEED CUBE
SALTIRE TORRIDON HIGHLAND TWEED CUBE
£320.00

“My heart’s in the Highlands…”

I meet Neil in the afternoon for tea. A cold day and a strong wind but its bright, a winter Highland special.  At the weekend he is off to New Zealand for two years. I ask what images or memories of home he will keep whilst he is away.

 

Neil: When I think of the Highlands I think firstly of my family farm but there are so many other images that spring to mind; I’ll think of climbing hills, with boggy grass terrain or purple heather stretching up the slopes to rocky bare peaks with that peaceful complete silence that is hard to come by anywhere else. Or day trips in the car, heading out west or north, enjoying the dramatic scenery shift. I always love taking the dogs to walk on the beach and how the sky never looks the same twice.

 

Stella: I think I used to take being brought up here for granted. It was so special to be able to come home and know you would have pals available for craic. You’d just need a lift to their house! All the families up here were brought up together and we are all still great pals.  Our brothers played rugby together and we would have to watch in the freezing cold on Saturday afternoons. 

 

N: It’s a comfort knowing there is always our family and great pals to make you feel right at home if you’ve been away for a bit.  There is a special connection between the people you have been raised with. One in which you can effortlessly be as silly as you like with each other and it be the norm.

 

S: Going to the Gordon’s family farm, was always a treat.  Collies would rush and greet you at the door and smells of Julie’s stovies and sticky toffee pudding would lure you in.  There was one particularly cold, snowy day that we all went sledging above the house.  Julie had made American hot chocolate with marshmallows and squirty cream when we got back in. 

 

N: Usually at the heart of any craic at home is a good plate of food and good music. For us at the farm, whether it’s a big spread for a roast dinner, cooking over the fire or using up whatever is in the fridge, it usually means there will be a bit of craic with pals!

 

The Gordon family are all fantastic musicians.  Dagger, Neil’s dad, plays mandolin and banjo and Julie sings.  The boys play guitar, bass, fiddle, piano and accordion.  They are all composers too. I always feel like I am desperately trying to get any note out of the fiddle, you all make it look so easy!

 

N: Music is such an equaliser, especially traditional folk music.  It doesn’t matter where you are from or who taught you, if you can join in - do! 

Neil Gordon
Neil Gordon Carpet Bag
Neil Gordon Carpet Bag
£78.00
Neil Gordon Large Rug
Neil Gordon Large Rug
£995.00
Neil Gordon Large Rug
Neil Gordon Large Rug
£995.00

LIFE ON THE EDGE OF SCOTLAND

October 2016

I woke early. The first of the morning sun fighting through the sky.  

I had a long drive ahead of me across from east to west to Kyle of Lochalsh to cross over to Skye where I’ll get the ferry to the Outer Hebrides.  You literally climb up into the west coast. The hills rise up from Dingwall and at this time of year the roads are clear from Summer travellers.  You can feel the remoteness increasing as you drive. Landscape getting bigger, limited visible life.  Stop for coffee in Tarvie.

You rise and fall cutting through the hills, along side lochs and crofts. The roads gets smaller, single track mostly, dodging through the ‘Passing Places’.

The Skye Bridge elegantly reaches from coast to island. The feeling of being on an island is special. Adventurous.  An hour and a half to Uig, where I’ll get the ferry to North Uist.  I stop in the Co-op in Portree for last minute supplies.  

Catch the ferry with not a minute to spare. Squeezed right on the end. The wind has picked up. Suddenly the clouds seem to close in. So quickly it becomes almost completely dark. I stay inside the ferry watching Skye and the Cuillins disappear. The ferry is full of islanders who study or get work on the mainland coming home for the weekend.

Lochmaddy.  A welcome party of parents, loved ones and the Postie greet us.  Cars off.  I head out of the village.  Rain lashes the windscreen.  No service.  I find an old map in the back of the car. Only two roads so I take the one heading north.  My cottage is on the coast on the way to Berneray.  It is a small thatched cottage with a few beds, a stove and a large pile of peat outside. Key in the shed.

 

The weather cleared the next day.  I travel south.

Benbecula is the stepping stone between the North and South Uist. Benbecula in Gaelic is Beinn na Faoghla which aptly means ‘Mountain of the Ford’. This is clear as I can see its solitary hill Rhubhal. The flat watery landscape seems to be more loch than rock.  

The islands are connected by causeways, and I drive over the first to reach Benbecula.

I take a right following the Hebridean Food Trail sign.  Stopped in at Maclean’s Bakery and bought a packet of potato scones and blethered with the old lady behind the counter. Carrying on that road I came to the RAF Benbecula. A military base since the second world war.  

The base operates long range radar tracking over the North Atlantic. It is also the location of the airport and the hospital.  Both of which are a lifeline for the island population as well as tourists.

I recall trips with family friends in which each year a dad over the age of 50 tore their achilles tendon chasing the children on the beach… the hospital was a great asset!

My phone buzzes. 3G!

I drive on.  

I can see the empty beaches now.  White sand and turquoise water seem unnatural for Scotland.

The landscape seems almost deserted.  Shells of old cottages lie all over the land providing shelter for only cattle and sheep.  The soil is wet and boggy so the people mostly pastoral farm in small crofts and in open grazing on the hill.  There are large squared off chunks of peat, taken from huge gullies that cut deep and far into the unoccupied moors.  They lie in stacks all over the flat land.

I drive back to North Uist cutting through the middle of Benbecula.

It seems so changeable. The sun is beginning to be low in the sky. The clouds are blown in fast and leave just as quick.  Tomorrow will head north to Berneray.  I can see the Harris Hills already.

 

In 2016 I spent a month on North Uist to create a series of artworks, mainly paintings, recording the weather and changing seasons.  Autumn can be the most beautiful time in Scotland.  The long summer days begin to slow, the sun gets lower in the sky and weather fronts appear darkening the land.  I mainly worked in watercolour as it allowed me to work quickly and outside.  I produced a series of paintings that I exhibited in Edinburgh in the December of that year.  The islands had a great effect on me and the way I worked. They are very different to the mainland, even the rural spots, and spending time there you really get to know the way of life.  I also recorded my time in a diary, the extract below is the first couple of days on the islands. My initial impression. 

Stella Stewart

Benbecula
Benbecula Carpet Bag
Benbecula Carpet Bag
£58.00
Benbecula Highland Tweed 18
Benbecula Highland Tweed 18" Cushion
£78.00
Benbecula - Highland Tweed
Benbecula - Highland Tweed
£85.00

BEHIND THE SCENES...

The landscape and seasons in Scotland provide the greatest colour palette for design. The hues differ from month to month, county to county. These natural colour schemes inspire the ANTA textiles. Annie mixes yarns like paint colours across the warp and weft of the fabric, giving them the vibrancy that makes her designs stand out.

In winter the bare silver birch stand dormant, with deep purple buds against the often frozen hill, the braken is burnt orange and Scots-pine provide the only green, deep and dark. Spring can be the most striking, the sun is still low but the longer days allow for bulbs, wildflowers and new leaves to burst. In summer the moors and hills transform; the heather blooms purple and vegetation is bright. Different landscapes also provide different hues. Where our highland factory is in Ross Shire, the land is wide and open for arable farming. In summer everything is warm harvest yellow, dusty and rich. The soil is good quality, when it is sown in autumn and spring, the fields are carved with dark trenches for the seed. Travelling west the hills grow from the land, casting huge shadows. The lochs seem almost black and the hills gradually transform each season.

The outer islands are light and bright places. The white sand makes the water brilliant blue and the wild flowers in the summer freckle the shores with multi coloured spots.

Cawdor is a timeless design. It is one of the classic castle carpet collections at ANTA. The dark purple and light green are tonally so similar that the eye blends them easily. It is a subtle design using natural colours that occur across Scotland but nowhere better than the surrounding woodland and gardens at Cawdor Castle. It is not a surprise that Shakespeare immortalised this Highland castle in Macbeth, the romantic hills and noble woods conjure up tales of witches and Thanes easily...

Cawdor
Cawdor Highland Tweed  Cube
Cawdor Highland Tweed Cube
£320.00
Cawdor Large Rug
Cawdor Large Rug
£995.00
Cawdor Wool Carpet
Cawdor Wool Carpet
£200.00
Cawdor Highland Tweed 22
Cawdor Highland Tweed 22" Cushion
£88.00

This month marks 25 years of Celtic Connections, the music festival that champions folk music from around the world.  Scotland is at the forefront for contemporary celtic music and in the Highlands there has been a strong tradition for teaching music and sharing it through the generations.  This week we are profiling our design Duncan MacGillivray.  Duncan is an outstanding piper, whistle player, guitarist and composer.  He lives in Easter Ross, running his farm and playing music across the country at family celebrations.   

You and your children are outstanding musicians and are ambassadors for Scotland playing all over the world. How do you think Scottish music been able to flourish internationally?

Good music has a natural appeal. It's as simple as that. Be it exuberant, sad, reflective, whatever the mood, if it's good, it hits all the right buttons. A lot of Scottish music falls into that category. 


Your family have been farmers in the Highlands for generations and the Calrossie Shorthorn was the most famous herd in the country. How has the farm developed over the years?

My grandfather Capt. John and my father Donald, were Shorthorn breeders par excellence, selling world-wide to North and South America, Australia & New Zealand, South Africa, even Russia. In the Sixties, the Shorthorn fell out of favour. My father waited in vain for its return and ended up displenishing his herd, opting instead for the Limousin and the Romagnola. Since then, the Shorthorn has made a spectacular comeback, and Calrossie blood still flows amongst the best herds, albeit way back. We still have a quality cattle herd but we don't specialise in pedigree breeding anymore, but who knows what the future holds.  


Your children are half American and you have encouraged them to travel and study abroad.  Do you think they, and young people across the Highlands and Islands, are less likely to stay and work locally?

Highlanders have, historically, had to travel the world to seek opportunities for their various talents and I suppose it's no different today, although the present world is rife with dangers of a more unpredictable and insidious nature. It's nice to be able to fulfil your potential in your own homeland, however sometimes that's not possible. 

What would you recommend at Celtic Connections in Glasgow this year?

I've had a look at the running order and could probably recommend three different things each night. The variety and quality is incredible. I'm delighted to have been invited down to join 'The Occasionals' on January 20th as one of their guest musicians. They are as good a dance band as you will get and they play in the Royal Concert Hall at 10.30pm. Earlier that night, the musical punter is presented with a typical Celtic Connections quandary: 'Ross Ainslie' leads an ensemble at the Mitchell Theatre, 'The Tannahill Weavers' play in the Strathclyde Suite, a 'Dave Swarbrick Tribute' takes place in the Tron, all simultaneously. I recommend them all, so take your pick! 

My son Iain, has been invited to join Alasdair Fraser and Nathalie Haas, for the seventh year running, with their Fiddle and Cello weekend on January 27th and 28th in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Then the following weekend he is playing for a 'Musician's Nest' concert in the Strathclyde Suite on 3rd February at 2pm, featuring musicians who studied at the eponymous Benbecula College Music programme. 

Typically, there is so much superb musical fare on offer, that we are all spoilt for choice. And that is the wonder that is Celtic Connections!  

Duncan Macgillivray
Duncan Macgillivray Carpet Bag
Duncan Macgillivray Carpet Bag
£78.00
Duncan Macgillivray Tweed 18
Duncan Macgillivray Tweed 18" Cushion
£78.00
Duncan MacGillivray Wool/Cotton Throw
Duncan MacGillivray Wool/Cotton Throw
£200.00

Behind the Design...

This week we are profiling Yvonne Mackay, the tweed, carpet and worsted wool.  Yvonne is also our Operations Manager, she came to ANTA 12 years ago aged just 19 and she quickly progressed through the ranks of the company.  She was brought up in Stenness on Orkney and came to the mainland with her now husband Ben.  Soon after starting with ANTA, Yvonne began studying textiles in Galashiels.  Whilst there she worked part time in the ANTA Edinburgh shop, enabling her to continue her learning about the Scottish textile industry.


2018 marks 100 years since women were able to vote in Britain.  What has been the biggest enabler for you to get to where you are now?

My parents encouraged me to do my best at school and go on to further education but they also instilled a very strong work ethic in me from a young age, I have always had a job at the weekends and have enjoyed the independence it gave me. I would say the biggest enabler for me at ANTA has been the opportunities I have been given.  I have have moved from one role to another throughout the company, sometimes being pushed out of my comfort zone but always supported and encouraged.

You married Ben in July last year and have bought your first home in Inver.  What has been your favourite product in your new house?

Our Large Cawdor rug. It has always been a favourite pattern of mine - we have had the rug for over 4 years now and with two dogs and a stove it saw daily abuse.  It is now the centerpiece in our sunroom, giving it a shampoo when we moved meant it looks as good as new, my dad even spilled a glass of red wine over it at Christmas which came out no problem - I would recommend it to anyone.


Scottish craft and design is world-renowned yet the industry is falling. How do you think ANTA can compete with manufacturing and design on a global scale?

I do believe that consumers have become more conscious of where their products  come from and how they are manufactured.  This probably started with the food industry but has transcended across sectors.  ANTA has very strong values which are using natural materials and manufacturing in Scotland.  I think we can compete on a global scale by sticking to these beliefs, not compromising on design, training the next generation and finding the market who also appreciate these qualities.

It is not uncommon for young people to leave the Highlands in order to find work, especially those who go on to university.  Why did you come back to the Highlands and is there a way, do you think, to encourage young people to bring skills back to local businesses?  

We moved back to the Highlands as I was given the opportunity with ANTA to be based in Fearn.

I had lived and worked in Edinburgh for 3 years after graduating but I was at the stage where I wanted to live in the countryside again so it was ideal timing.

I believe that the key is in creating the job opportunities for people that can compete with what is being offered in the cities.

Yvonne Mackay
Yvonne Mackay Cabin Bag
Yvonne Mackay Cabin Bag
£385.00
Yvonne Mackay Weekend Bag
Yvonne Mackay Weekend Bag
£385.00

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