In the late 1980s I became involved with visiting groups such as the Rowan Travel Heritage Tours the Wool and Wonders of Scotland. My role was to give a talk on all things wool related, sheep, yarns and textiles in general. Rowan’s groups hailed from all parts of the world and involved visiting all the scenic parts of Scotland including Shetland, and the Western Isles, seeing hand knitting and weaving and meeting the artisans of the various crafts.
The Shetland trip included a day trip into Fair Isle a journey by helicopter from nearby Sumburgh. My wife Catherine and I were guests of this particular group and accompanied the group into Fair Isle a very memorable visit indeed.
These tours were a very important means of marketing. It was meeting with the end user and what better way to pass on your company’s activities and products than by word of mouth.
Travelling with the group would be their very own designer, being there is one of the most powerful learning forces but being there with one who can bring a subject alive makes learning a lifetime experience. Leading designers included well- known names such as Jean Moss, Sue Black, John Allen, Alice Starmore, and Kaffe Fassett (to name but a few). I had a request from Kaffe Fassett who wished me to come in on my day off, Sunday he needed to prepare for his class. This was an extremely valuable opportunity learning a little about the skills of colour blending instructed by a master in the field.
Another visit stands out in my mind of a huge group of Americans on a Sunday morning. The previous night I had attended the Yell Agricultural Show presentation only arriving home by ferry at 7am after a long night of revelry and drams. Facing a sea of faces at my sorting table I simply froze and lost my words; a very strange occurrence indeed! I excused myself saying I need a drink of water and I apologise for my poor performance I come from a small Island off the west coast of Shetland and I am only half civilised. One elderly lady replied “Honey I come from the middle of New York, and I aren’t civilised at all!” This was met with rapturous applause and I was most grateful to the lady; her profession, a lawyer.
Gladys Amedro and her husband played an important part in these tours; Gladys would give a talk and demonstration on her lace knitting and design. Her husband Buff would accompany me in the wool store and listen in, after my very first presentation his advice was tell the story of the crofter fisherman the culture & heritage. Wise words; tell it as it is.