Tartan is the New Black: NTSUSA + ANTA

NTSUSA is delighted to announce that Scottish home furnishings line ANTA will be a sponsor of our 2018 fundraising gala, A Celebration of Scotland’s Treasures. I have loved ANTA’s modern Scottish sensibility since I first walked into their shop on George Street in Edinburgh several years ago, and the store has become my go-to shop for bringing gifts home to the US. The company’s dedication to traditional Scottish craft and materials, and their work training future generations of artisans, make ANTA a perfect match for NTSUSA.

I recently had the chance to speak with ANTA co-founder Annie Stewart about the inspiration behind her designs and her family’s own holiday traditions. Read on for a special Black Friday offer – and don’t forget to look out for part two of our interview next spring!

– Kirstin Bridier, Executive Director, NTSUSA

Kirstin Bridier: How did you come to start ANTA?

Annie Stewart: I am the co-founder of ANTA with my husband, Lachlan. He’s an architect and I studied painting at the Edinburgh College of Art, and that’s where we met. We started the company in 1984, so that’s now thirty-four years ago!

Lachlan and I share the same design philosophy – we like to use natural materials and we like to use methods of manufacture that involve a high degree of craftsmanship and traditional skills. We apply these principles to the home furnishings and textile products that we design and manufacture here in Scotland. We use natural and locally-sourced materials wherever possible. A large proportion of what we manufacture is using wool and using Scottish wool.

ANTA’s Carpet Bags

KB: Can you talk a little bit about how your work is inspired by Scotland?

AS: A lot of the textile designs are based on traditional tartans and tweeds. They are very simple weaves using blocks of color. But rather than using the traditional color combinations of plaids, we take our inspiration from the landscape. So one of our bestselling tartan designs is one we call Cawdor. (We call our designs after people and places, and this particular carpet design is called after Cawdor Castle.) It is woven in a very pale green and a grey and a kind of a heathery violet color, and these are not traditional colors for a plaid, but the landscape in August, in Scotland, the hills go that color.

KB: I have a Carpet Bag in that pattern!

AS: It’s very typical of our line. Although it’s not a traditional tartan colorway, it does resonate with the landscape. There is a tweed design that is very popular currently called Caithness. Caithness is in the north part of Scotland by the sea. It’s very flat, and the mist comes in from the coast quite a lot, and there’s a huge skyline. Caithness is all about the sky, really, so this particular design is a kind of grey-teal and reminiscent of the skyscape. It’s a more recent design, but it’s become quite popular.

ANTA’s Caithness Large Rug

KB: Do you have any favorite designs?

AS: No, not especially, actually. I always like what I am working on currently. We have an interesting new collection for Spring/Summer 2018 where we have rotated the tartan check by 45 degrees, so it turns the tartan into a kind of argyle pattern. I quite like that. These have worked quite well on a new square carpet and on the cubes, so I’m very pleased.

KB: I know that a couple of years ago you had a large celebration to open your new factory.

AS: We have been manufacturing here in the Highlands for 27 years. After we had been manufacturing here for 25 years, we decided it was time that we built a new factory because we had literally grown out of the facility we had. So we purpose-built one single unit. The architecture by Lachlan and his practice, ANTA Design, was designed to look agricultural. Our factory is in an agricultural area, so we wanted to blend in and, although it’s a very large building, it looks very light because it has glass walls.

We power it using green energy. We have 200 solar panels, and at one end of the building we have our pottery, where we use the kiln to help heat the space. At the other end we have our textile conversion area. We weave all of our fabrics in the Borders of Scotland, but we convert them into cushions and carpets and furnishing products ready for sale in Fearn.

We have a big training program, where we teach in-house the various traditional skills that are required to make our goods. We have experienced craftspeople who are mentoring younger people all the time. They have to really learn their skill quite quickly – they have to be pretty much up to speed in three months or so!

The building was opened 18 months ago by Prince Charles. He is ambassador of the Campaign for Wool program, where he’s very keen on the reintroduction of wool. About 80% of our textiles are made from pure, locally-sourced wool, and he’s very much in favor of what we do and with the training program and the fact we use green energy in a rural area, and so he very kindly supported us by opening the building, which was a great honor. {Prince Charles, Duke of Rothsay is also Patron of the National Trust for Scotland.}

KB: In addition to your textiles, ANTA makes beautiful stoneware for the table. You’ve published cookbooks, too. Is cooking a personal interest of yours?

AS: Yes! The stoneware we make is very robust. We use it for informal dining and for cooking and serving – you can make a dish in it and bring it from the oven to the table. Because it’s strong and retains the heat, it’s good for barbecuing. We produce a recipe every week, which is available via our newsletter, and we have two cookery books out at the moment and will certainly produce a third one next year.

KB: Tell us about your favorite holiday traditions.

AS: We just have family at Christmas, and we always bake a ham that we eat on Christmas Eve. We go to a church service, which is lit with candles, in our local medieval church. And then on Christmas Day the children, when they were small, used to have stockings which were filled with presents. We would eat turkey and eat the ham again cold on Christmas Day, and make minced pie and Christmas pudding – the recipes for all of these things are in our cookery book.

And then at New Year’s time, which we call Hogmanay, we have a much bigger party where friends come round. We eat and then dance – we have a band and do Scottish dancing – and then at midnight we go outside and light a huge bonfire. Absolutely on the dot of midnight my husband fires his shotgun, once for the old year and once for the new year.

KB: Speaking of the holidays, will ANTA have any holiday promotions?

AS: We’re doing a 25% discount across all the range for Black Friday, because we’d like our customers to experience Highland hospitality this Christmas and furnish their houses or be able to give Scottish gifts. You can shop our range of hand made homeware, stoneware and fashion items that are currently in stock. Now through November 30, simply enter the code “BLACKFRIDAY” at the checkout and enjoy 25% off. Just before Christmas, it is the perfect excuse to start present buying!

The other thing we do every week is Tartan Tuesday. We have an e-newsletter that includes a special offer, a Scottish recipe, and we revive one of our vintage designs. To sign up, simply head to our website www.anta.co.uk and enter your email address in the Tartan Tuesday pop-up that will appear on your screen. It gets even more exciting in the lead up to Christmas, as we run an everyday offer called “Advent” for 24 days in December.

KB: Annie, on behalf of all of us at NTSUSA, thank you and ANTA for supporting traditional Scottish craft and our heritage work as a sponsor of our 2018 gala, A Celebration of Scotland’s Treasures! Wishing you a very happy Christmas and Hogmanay!

Visit ANTA’s Website

The North East team have been busy inventorying the North Wing of Pitmedden House, and have come across a longcase clock with strong links to the region.

Contact Details

45 School Street, 3rd Floor
Boston, MA 02108

Telephone: 617-227-7500
Fax: 617-227-4200

Email: mail@ntsusa.org