After foreign sales grow 700 percent, Island yarn maker opens art studio


Bulletin of Industry

After a yarn company obtained access to £ 20,000 of funds to construct the facility, a new art studio is expected to open in the Outer Hebrides.

After approaching Business Gateway in 2018, Meg Rodger, artist and owner of Birlinn Yarn Company, was referred to the funds to expand her business with a new studio space and wool workshop.

She was referred to the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Grants for Growth program following one-to-one advice on her business plan and on premises advice, which unlocked £ 20,000 of crucial funding that enabled her to create a new studio room.

The company started as a passion project in Ms. Rodger’s kitchen, located in Berneray in the Outer Hebrides, and supplies wool from her Hebridean sheep raised on the family farm, as well as from other local wool producers on the island.

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The storied sheep originated in Scandinavia and were transported by Vikings in the mid-ninth century in longboats to the Hebrides.

The yarn “draws its aesthetic qualities from the stunning landscape with soft, muted colors that celebrate the special nature of island life.” sustainably made.

Originally planned to open to the public in July, the studio has since been completed and is currently being used as its own creative space with an office and wool storage facility.

Birlinn Yarn experienced a substantial 700 percent rise in international online sales compared to 2019 during the closure, as their customers “sought a mindful hobby to fill their time,” and Ms. Rodger was able to work successfully to satisfy demand in the new studio space.

In the summer of 2021, when Ms. Rodger plans to recruit a staff member and open the gallery room to other local creative people to showcase their art, the studio will open to the public.

Ms. Rodger said, “I am so grateful for the support of Business Gateway because I would not have been able to work professionally during the closure without the new studio space. It has made a huge difference, enabling me to effectively process orders and provide my customers, a third of whom are from the US, with an efficient service.”

I strongly believe that when it comes to unique cultural, craft and artistic items which have a long history, we have something very special to give the world in the Hebrides. We have to expect high quality and charge accordingly, and we really have to respect what we have, because elsewhere it can not be replicated.

“I am very aware of the special environment in which we live, and despite great plans Covid-19 meant that we could not open the studio this year, but it was the right decision to ensure the safety of our islanders. We’ll be ready to open the store next spring, where I hope to expand the space to other local artisans and grow my team.”

Alastair MacLeod, Business Gateway consultant, said, “It was fantastic working with Meg to grow her business and open the new Berneray gallery.”

We were able to give a wealth of advice and introduce Meg to our broader support network and help her secure vital funding that enabled her to expand her company and open a venue here in the Outer Hebrides that complements the visitor experience.

“Armed with a new creative space, we look forward to continuing to work with Meg to attract new clients and raise awareness of both the creative gallery space and the beautiful artworks housed within.”

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