Crafty People

Images on this page courtesy of Joanne Matheson

Joanne Matheson is the proprietor of Artisan arts and craft shop in Acharacle and in this blog she shares her thoughts on why the West Highland Peninsulas breed a community of very creative people. Find out how our scenery and our heritage inspires many of us to “make a little something” of the area.

Certain communities seem to breed very creative people, and the West Highland Peninsulas is certainly one of them. As a keen sewer, knitter, designer, card maker and occasional woodworker, it wasn’t long after I moved to the area 16 years ago that I started to discover just how many incredibly talented creative people live here and visit here.

Large towns and cities are able to shout about their creative heritage, with a proliferation of art galleries, craft stores and public art works, but in a remote rural location such as ours, it isn’t always immediately obvious that you are among creative people. In addition, there are very limited opportunities for those artists to sell, display and share their work, and it was this situation which eventually led me to open a small craft outlet in Acharacle in 2013.

I think that there are two key reasons why this area has so many creative people – the scenery and our heritage. People travel from all over the world to walk the highland hills, paddle our lochs and rivers and immerse themselves in the incredible natural environment. The light here is somehow ‘different’ making amateur photography more rewarding, and few visitors fail to see an amazing sunset, the northern lights or a list of highland creatures from pine martens to sea eagles and dolphins. People come to visit just once, and end up returning year after year or even moving here full time. As a result of this we are quite a cosmopolitan and mixed community, with residents hailing from all over the United Kingdom, and some from further afield. We like to think that this fact makes us particularly welcoming!

This area is largely made up of traditional crofting communities, and there are still a great many people living here, whose families have been in the area for generations. Crofters, by the nature of their lifestyle and livelihood, had to be adaptable and practical. All family members would be required to help out with planting and harvesting, repairing fences, weaving for clothes and floor-coverings and generally doing whatever was necessary around the home and land. Crofters had the art of upcycling and recycling down to a fine art, long before those words were invented. Nothing went to waste, everything had another potential use, and everyone learned skills from previous generations. I think this adaptability must have helped to nurture creative abilities and encourage people to have a go at something without the need for specialist training or endorsement.

Whatever the reasons for the situation, we find ourselves in the happy position of having a great many incredibly talented artists and crafters living in our communities today. I first opened a small Gallery of art and crafts in 2013 and was recently able to progress to a much bigger and better shop unit in the middle of Acharacle village. ‘Artisan’, as I have called the new business, offers a range of art, craft and artisan products, 80% of which are either made in the area or are locally relevant. Current stock includes fused glass and stag-horn jewellery, Harris Tweed bags and hats, batik, watercolour and pastel paintings, wood, ceramics, leatherwear, mugs, keyrings, books and cards – and lots more besides! Stock is changing continuously, and many of the items on offer are only available here.

Over the years a number of other outlets have also opened, and we work together to ensure that we each offer a different range of products which are all of a high-quality standard. Oakwood in Strontian is a community run venture, Ardtornish Estate has an onsite shop, Resipole Gallery has seasonal displays of top-class art to rival any found in the big cities, and the Ariundle Centre holds the record for being the first ever craft outlet in our community. It is still up and running to this day.

I like discovering new people who make amazing things and being able to offer residents and visitors the opportunity to buy something to treasure themselves or give as a gift. Pop in to Artisan any time (Tuesday to Saturday, 10:00am to 4:30pm, all year except January) – I can usually be found working at my sewing machine and I’ll be pleased to tell you more.

Many thanks to Joanne Matheson for providing us with this blog. Joanne is the proprietor of Artisan in Acharacle, which she opened in September 2019 to offer a carefully selected range of high-quality artisan craft products to visitors and residents alike. With an emphasis on items made locally, your sure to find something to remind you of your visit to the Peninsulas.

If you’d like to share what you love about the area on our website, please feel free to get in touch by email at

Posted on 17th July 2020, by Joanne Matheson.

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