Aosdàna Inspiration Aosdàna brosnachadh

Go into any Scottish souvenir shop and the chances are that your eye will alight on a Celtic design. China, glassware, scarves, leatherwork, jewellery and many other items feature the intricate, interleaved patterns also found on the stone crosses and illuminated manuscripts from monasteries of many centuries ago.

Few, perhaps know, however, that almost one hundred years ago, outstanding craftsmanship of this kind could be found in the Scottish Hebrides, in Iona Celtic Art, the shop set up by Alexander and Euphemia Ritchie. Euphemia had studied at Glasgow School of Art and together the couple developed a keen interest in design. Alex began by transferring this new interest into the woodcarving he had learned while at sea, but his skill soon expanded into raised metal work, known as repousse, in brass and copper and silver. Euphemia specialised in leather and cloth, creating a variety of beautiful embroidery designs. Their sources included facsimiles of the Book of Kells and Lindisfarne, the complex patterns on the Pictish stones of north east Scotland and, at home, the rich harvest of decorated graveslabs and crosses from a bygone age.

In the local Heritage Centre, there is a section dedicated to the work of the Ritchies and their successor lain MacCormick. It is a fitting tribute to the couple who were among the first to value and to interpret, for a wider audience, those treasures of Celtic art which Iona has held in custody now for over a thousand years.