Kevin Gauld has been handcrafting traditional Orkney Chairs from his workshop in Kirkwall for over 20 years, creating unique pieces for customers around the world who want to enjoy a little piece of Orkney in their homes.
Kevin explains on his website, “The Orkney Chair is so much more than just a piece of furniture. It tells the story of people, place and the time.” And indeed, the design of the Orkney Chair has evolved rather than changed over the years – its beauty lying in the simplicity of its design and its ability to be scaled up or down to suit a man, woman or child.
Kevin creates a number of variations including chairs with a hooded back, storage drawer or rockers, but the fundamental shape and distinctive woven back of each chair bears testament to the design originally conceived by Orkney farmers, furnishing their simple crofts. Many years ago, with timber in scant supply, chairs would have been constructed from driftwood but today Kevin uses quality timbers including oak, elm and ash, as well as oat straw which is grown on his family’s farm and harvested each September, then dried and ripened to develop its beautifully rich golden tones.
Bringing Orkney to life
Our visitor experience store in Albert Street is all about supporting the local community here in Orkney and we’ve created a special space in which to showcase the talents of skilled local craftspeople. In addition to the traditional Orkney Chair made for us by Kevin, we also have one of his more contemporary pieces on show – a basket crafted from fishing rope washed up on the beach. We also feature sheepskin rugs from North Ronaldsay Woollen Mill and two very traditional Orcadian pieces, crafted by modern-day makers – a ‘peedie’ Creepie Stool by Billy Jolly and an Orkney Bride’s Cog by Greig Harcus.
The ‘peedie’ Creepie Stool
The curiously named ‘peedie’ Creepie Stool has its origins in traditional farming. ‘Peedie’ means ‘small’ and ‘creepie’ means ‘low to the ground’ so these small but very useful pieces of furniture started life as low milking stools but also found their way into crofts as footstools, side tables and even small seats.
The Orkney Bride’s Cog
Orkney weddings were lengthy affairs and the ‘Bride’s Cog’ was the third cog to makes its appearance, usually in the early hours of the morning. A circular drinking vessel with two or three long upright handles, it would have been carried from guest to guest by the bride and groom and, according to orkneyjar.com, would contain a heady mixture of ‘hot ale, gin, brand and whisky, which was then mixed with some eggs’.
Although these items are not available for sale from Albert Street, we are happy to pass on each maker’s details to interested visitors.