Arts / Event aims to generate more interest in Fair Isle chairs

The traditional Fair Isle and Orkney chairs are on a ‘red list’ of endangered crafts

AN EVENT is being held in the Scottish Borders next month in a bid to “turn around the fortunes” of endangered Fair Isle and Orkney chairs.

Both of these traditional styles are currently on the Heritage Crafts Association Red List of endangered crafts.

Eve Eunson, who is said to be only one of two people who still make Fair Isle chairs, will appear at the event at Marchmont House near Greenlaw over the weekend of 2-4 September.

Eve Eunson sitting in a Fair Isle strawback chair made around 1878.

The hope is that the event will raise interest in Fair Isle and Orkney chairs.

Eunson, who works as an architect, learned how to make Fair Isle chairs in part because she wanted to work with wood, and because of her own roots.

“I grew up on Fair Isle and have very fond memories of the people and the culture,” she said.


“I can remember well, as a small child sitting on my, great uncle’s knee on these chairs and being told stories about shipwrecks and about the history of the island and of the furniture.

“So that was something that I was very connected to.”

Eunson said the chairmaking tradition emerged from both need and a desire for creative expression: “They were made by the island’s men out of necessity. There was no other option for getting yourself something to sit on.

“Fair Isle is famous for things like its knitting, its female crafts. But these chairs were an artistic outlet for the men, who were spending their winters making some really special things.

“There’s obviously a lot of love and care that went into making the chairs and while some were quite utilitarian, others were particularly nice with a lot of attention to detail and decoration.”

Become a supporter of Shetland News


Also at the event will be Orkney chair maker Kevin Gauld.  The weekend includes talks, Q&As and demonstrations of the straw techniques.

Heritage Crafts Association’s endangered crafts manager Mary Lewis said: “These crafts are centuries old and as much a part of our cultural heritage as much as a museum or an art gallery or ancient monument.

“The difference is that they are intangible skills, it’s intangible heritage, contained within people. If we lose those skills that are within us, then we lose a little bit of our cultural heritage. And once you lose them, they’re quite difficult to recover.

“There are just two remaining makers of Fair Isle chairs, so they are critically endangered. There are more makers of Orkney chairs but still very few, so they’re an endangered craft. In both cases there’s a risk that the skills won’t be passed on to the next generation.”

Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.



Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.