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Cromarty Pottery Renovation in 2006

The building that Bärbel has used used as a pottery workshop since 1990 is around 300 years old. Charming though it is, it was a cold, damp, and pretty unpleasant place to work during the colder winter months. Since the early 1990s she's wanted to renovate and insulate it to make it much more comfortable, warmer, and healthier.

So, she bit the bullet, scraped together her finances, and took the plunge - in early 2006 the renovation was begun. The photos on the right show various phases - roof off, the floor concreted, underfloor heating pipes put in, the walls pointed, lintels replaced, new windows fitted, and replacement of the old red pantiles.

The pottery is now a much more civilised place to work ;)
 

Cromarty Pottery History

Cromarty Pottery was started in 1965 (as The Cromarty Design Workshop) by Alison and Alastair Dunn. Alastair had originally worked as a baker, first at his father's bakery shops in Clydebank, Glasgow, and latterly at Aultbea, near Gairloch in Wester Ross. Alison had trained at Eastbourne Art School as a textile designer, but after marriage and moving to Clydebank in 1951, she had the first of their six children, and became a full time housewife (or 'home maker' as North Americans might say). Alison supplemented income by buying in 'whiteware' from Stoke-on-Trent, hand decorating it with onglaze colours and selling to the tourist trade, including visitors at Inverewe Gardens.

Alastair Dunn, baker at Aultbea 1958 to 1965

In 1964 Alastair decided to change careers. Being a baker in those days was very hard work and had very unsociable hours, meaning that he couldn't spend much time with his young family. Also, at that time many small bakeries were going under due to the competition from large-scale mass-produced bread factories - Burnetts, HomePride, Mothers' Pride, etc.

The family moved to Cromarty on the east coast of the Highlands, and Alastair and Alison tossed a coin to see who would look after the children, and who would retrain as an art teacher. Alastair 'won', and trained at Grays School of Art in Aberdeen, which was at Schoolhill in the late 1960s, rather than the current location at Garthdee.

In the meantime Alison started the Cromarty Pottery, which was now the main way of earning income whilst Alastair was at college, and supported the family with this business whilst Alastair was away. Tough times for them both.

Alastair qualified as an art teacher in about 1972, and thereafter things improved fincancially, and the pottery shop and back-breaking wholesale work that Alison had been doing became less crucial. At this time, though, Alastair had long days of work - full days teaching at schools across the Black Isle (which he loved doing), followed by evenings working in the pottery, often until midnight.

Alison Dunn, Cromarty Pottery - making hanging vases c1980

The pottery business had become so much a part of Alison's life that it wasn't until the late 1980s that she began to slow down and take things a bit easier, though Alastair had long wanted to scale this back. In 1990 Barbel Dister stayed the summer for work experience in the pottery and shop and, married to their son, Colin, took over the running of the pottery full time in about 1994.

Alison finally fully retired in the mid 1990s, though she still dabbled with onglaze decoration occasionally. Sadly, she died in 2006, and Alastair 7 months later in early 2007. In fond memory, a bench and plaque were placed by the family at the gable of their house near the pottery lane where they used to relax of a sunny evening, and this has become a popular subject for tourist photos.

Alison and Alastair Dunn's memorial plaque

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Cromarty Pottery, Shore Street, Cromarty, Ross & Cromarty, Scotland IV11 8XL

Tel: (01381) 600701

Opening Times:
Summer: Monday-Friday: 10.00am-5.30pm. Saturday & Sunday: 10.00am-12.30pm, 1.30pm-5.30pm. (Sometimes closed Mondays)
Winter: Every Day: 10.00am-12.30pm, 2.00pm-5.00pm (Sometimes closed Mondays). Closed Christmas till end of January.

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