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Meet Tori Gray, Illustrator and owner of Harbour Lane

Hi Tori, please tell everyone a bit about yourself and introduce your illustrated home ware and studio/shop.

Hello! I’m Tori an illustrator, printmaker, shop keeper, dog mum and complete Instagram junkie! I run Harbour Lane Studio which is a small gift boutique on the outskirts of Edinburgh in South Queensferry. We stock a whole range of work from over 70 different artists and makers based all over the UK. But we aren’t called Harbour Lane ‘STUDIO’ for nothing, the shop also acts as an open plan studio space for me to work from. That’s what makes our space just a little bit different and we like to think it gives the whole place a creative buzz. Customers can browse the shop whilst watching some of the pieces being created. It is a great way to break down the barrier between maker and customer and opens up the conversation about handmade craft.

Tori & studio dog

First of all let’s talk more about your gorgeous illustrated home ware pieces. Where did it all begin?

Well, my degree is in Illustration and I had dreamed about a job where I would get to draw everyday but I never ever thought I’d be spending most of my time making lampshades!! It all started about 3 or so years ago when the shop was still pretty new. I was selling prints of my illustrations but hadn’t considered what else I could apply my illustrations to until a customer, who was after a statement lampshade, asked if I’d be able to turn one of my prints into a shade. After a lot of googling and research I gave it a go and voila! The first illustrated lampshade was born and I haven’t stopped since. I now have a whole collection of homeware pieces including cushions and furniture but the lampshades are still the firm favourite.

How would you describe your style and where do you take inspiration from?

Style is a funny thing. I was worried all the way through uni that I didn’t have one and that my work wasn’t recognisable as mine but I think it’s just something that happens naturally and that changes and refines over time. My style has changed a lot since I’ve involved the use of modern technology (hello apple ipad and pencil with every single colour you could ever want!) I still prefer a traditional look though with lots of inky watery textures. Inspiration is a much easier one to answer as it’s very obvious in my work which is mainly landscapes. I love Scotland and I’m a very proud Scottish lass. This could come from the fact our family beach holidays were more of the Hebridean variety than the Costa Del Toasty kind but it has definitely influenced my work. I love the colours and the textures and the wide variety of scenery we have here in Scotland. I never ever ever get bored of illustrating Scottish beaches.

Where do you like to create your work?

Well the plan was always to be able to create directly from the studio but if I’m honest, the shop has just gotten too busy for that now – which is no bad thing! But it does mean I rarely have time to sit and draw in the shop. I also don’t get as much time to venture out and draw on location either. So when I do get to go on little adventures, I take hundreds of photos and bring them home before starting work on new designs. Embracing the modern world means that I can now create my work whilst curled up on the couch with Munro my mini schnauzer without a need for a desk and also means I no longer dunk my inky paintbrush in my cup of tea instead of water!

What inspired you to open up your studio and shop?

I’d love to say that I’d always dreamed of having my own shop but that just isn’t true. All the way through college and uni I claimed I didn’t want to be freelance and work for myself as that sounded terrifying! How would I know if I was going to be able to pay the bills or not?! So once I graduated I just got a normal day job working in retail whilst I tried to do my illustration on the side. The problem was that the day job eventually took over and left no time to be creative and as a result I was completely miserable. I hated my job and it gave me no time to be doing the thing I wanted to do. So I quit… with no plan of knowing what I wanted to do but I just felt something had to change as I was so unhappy. I moved home and started looking for studio space so that I could start being creative again and see where it led. I found the shop space and then things just started clicking into place. I got in touch with some very talented folk I was at uni with and asked if I could stock their work and the whole thing has grown from there!

Do you have a certain criteria when sourcing the wonderful products that you stock in your shop?

When I first opened the shop I was really strict on only stocking work from makers based in Scotland. This probably comes from my aforementioned love of Scotland and the fact I really wanted to support and promote the great stuff that goes on in this country. But as the shop grew and I discovered makers based further afield, I realised that I also really loved and respected craft and skills and that I was limiting myself (and my customers) to all sorts of amazing work. So I umed and ahed a lot before deciding to open up to makers based anywhere in the UK. So now the main criteria really is that I have to ‘love’ it. I’m a self confessed shopaholic which is both a good and a bad thing when you have your own shop. It means I am always on the look out for something new but it also means that I’ll probably have to buy one for myself too! That’s kinda what I look for though, if I really want to buy it then I reckon my customers will too. It’s much easier to be passionate and sell work that you genuinely think is bloody brilliant.

Do you have a current favourite brand/product that you stock in your shop?

That is like asking a parent to pick their favourite child!!! I couldn’t possibly pick one. Like I say, I love all the work we have in the shop. I do get very excited about new work though so I guess every thing gets it’s moment to shine as I rave about it when it first comes in. We have just set up a ‘product of the week’ section on our online shop to highlight some of our favourite pieces so I guess you could call that my favourite… it just so happens that it changes on a weekly basis! Haha.

Can you tell us a bit about the area that you live and work in?

South Queensferry is famous for the bridges which draws hunners of tourists every year. It’s also great for a day trip away from the city though as it’s not too far away but it feels like you are having a day at the seaside. There are lots of shops and cafes and even beaches to have a wander along so it does tick a lot of the boxes. It’s where I am from and where I grew up so I kinda take it for granted but it is a pretty lovely place. Saying that, I don’t live there anymore! I have actually just moved house and now live in Fife which is also pretty great too. It was some of the most picturesque harbours and little towns along the coastline. The East Neuk is just amazing and has the best fish and chips you’ll ever find!

What other independent shops are nearby?

South Queensferry can boast that our high street is pretty much 100% indie businesses! From fashion boutiques to ice cream parlours and artisan bakeries, we have a whole bunch of independent businesses to suit everyone. There are also hairdressers and breweries, restaurants and B&Bs that are all independently run. It is hard work in the current climate to be out there on your own but Queensferry is great for having such supportive locals.

What would you recommend doing/seeing in your area to someone visiting?

Well obviously you’d want to take some photos of the bridges – they are pretty amazing after all and totally change depending on the weather. You’ll want to check out all the shops too and get yourself a coffee and some cake and have a wee walk along the beach to see what seaglass you can find. I’d also recommend maybe a boat trip out on the forth to see some sea birds and then pop to our museum too so that you can discover our weird Queensferry tradition of The Burry Man!

Where can we find your illustrated home ware pieces for sale?

I have all my work available on our online shop but I can now proudly say that I am stocked in various shops all over Scotland!

Can you pick out 4 or 5 things in your working space that you can’t live without?

Well I can’t live without my phone like the true millennial that I am! I claim it’s because I am ‘working’ which is pretty much true! Shopping on Instagram is a big part of my job! 😉 I also need to have my ipad and apple pencil now as it makes things so much easier than 10 thousand trips back and forth to the scanner like I used to do. I am partial to a good true crime podcast or documentary and of course I can be without my little fluffy sidekick Munro.

WHERE CAN WE FIND YOUR WORK?

TORI GRAY – HARBOUR LANE

Almost everything we sell is on our online shop which we update all the time. I also like to give a wee shout out about things on our Facebook Page but for all the behind the scenes and to be first in the know, follow us on Instagram 

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