Craft Scotland Compass program helps designer Wester Ross find her way to launch pad success


Isabal Hendry

A TALENTOUS young designer working in a remote part of Wester Ross has received a boost through a business support program that is also helping creatives overcome the dual challenges of the Covid pandemic and Brexit.

Iseabal Hendry, of Strathcaron, who launched his own line of sustainable hand-woven leather bags and accessories, was among those to benefit from Craft Scotland’s COMPASS program.

A unique learning and business development program includes mentoring, hands-on business advice and access to refresher training designed to build resilience in the craft sector and highlight and support the potential of some. from the country’s most exciting designers.

With the final residency underway, graduates are already seeing the benefits of a bespoke support package provided by the National Handicrafts Development Agency.

Miss Hendry said: “The COMPASS program at Craft Scotland has given me the confidence to start my business. It showed me that I was ready, that I knew more than I thought and was really a source of validation for both my collection and my ideas, which I had never had the opportunity to. share in a public space before.

“It gave me a network of other creatives at the same stage as me, which has been invaluable and has helped build lifelong friendships. Living in a remote place, these networks are all the more important. feel lucky to have been part of the Next Generation cohort and feel like part of the larger Craft Scotland community that I know I can reach out to if I ever need to.

She attended school in Lochcarron and Plockton High School before pursuing her art at Glasgow School of Art. She takes around 15 hours to craft each of her bags, which are made from biologically tanned leather – using natural plant tannins found in plants, bark, leaves, berries and fruits.

Creator and Designer Natalie J Wood said, “The COMPASS program has been tremendously beneficial as it’s rare to have so much time to reflect on your practice, but having that time surrounded by craft professionals and peers really is. an excellent opportunity. Without the Compass Program, I might not have understood the roots of what I wanted from my business. It gave me the tools to evolve at a critical time in my business, helped me assert my goals and the confidence to do more.

Manufacturers graduating in 2021 include Argyll-based textile designer Eve Campbell, who has collaborated with brands such as White Stuff and John Lewis, Highland-based leather goods manufacturer Isabel Hendry, and ceramist Jennifer Smith who has launched a independent retail business (Wild Gorse Pottery) alongside manufacturing. in Glasgow. 2021 sees a new cohort of emerging designers selected for the program, including textile artist and costume designer Zephyr Liddell, and ceramicist Hazel Frost, and silversmith and jeweler Sally Cuthbert.

Ceramist Jennifer Smith said: “By realizing the multitude of options available when running a creative business, I am now able to tailor my decisions to my goals and values. It also makes my business much more adaptable and therefore more resilient because I can rely on other ways of working. For example, when we had to close last year, I started an online store and was able to continue selling and manufacturing throughout the year. I doubt I would have had the knowledge to pivot my entire business model and, most importantly, the confidence to adapt so quickly and keep going if I hadn’t taken this program.

Jo Scott, program manager, said that despite Scotland’s enviable reputation in craftsmanship, manufacturers face unique challenges exacerbated by the impact of Brexit and the pandemic, including access to craft markets and fairs, disrupted supply chains or access to digital infrastructure for online users. companies.

COMPASS is supported by the William Grant Foundation and Creative Scotland. To learn more and see the cohort of manufacturers selected this year, visit

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