Alasdair Dunn was an Arran based artist who was well known for making porcelain miniatures from his workshop in Kingscross from the 1970's.
Born in Greenock, on the Clyde coast. His father was a school teacher and his mother was a successful author under her maiden name of Mary Faid. He attended paisley grammar school and went on to study at Glasgow Art school in 1939. Interrupted by wartime service as an airman, radio operator, in the RAF he concluded his studies after 1945 and obtained a degree in Art.
He first moved to Arran in 1955 after accepting the post of art teacher at the high school in Lamlash and bought a house in Kingscross. In 1966 he became a lecturer in art at Craigie college in Ayr. In 1970 he returned to Arran as a full time artist and potter and continued working at the pottery in Kingscross till his sudden death from a heart attack in !986.
While he specialised sculpture at art school his first love was actually painting. The broad based course at Glasgow art school gave him the skills to produce a wide range of artwork and continued to paint throughout his life; often on holiday as recreation.
Alasdair first started to produce pots for sale in the late sixties working part time in the holidays. He had not learned to throw at that point and most of the work was flat plates and plaques produced in simple “hump” moulds or slip cast vases. They were mainly a vehicle for applied decoration and featured bold figurative motifs. They were sold mainly at a Saturday craft fair in whiting bay in garden of the Eden lodge hotel in Whiting Bay. Pieces from this era are individually signed on the bottom.
After setting up the pottery at Kingscross full time he learned to throw and the popular “Hoolet” appeared alongside more conventional pots. Everything was hand thrown at this point with a cream coloured matt stoneware glaze as standard. Initially sales were direct from the pottery but this proved to be too popular with traffic jams developing on the narrow single track road. It was at this point (1972) the shop in Lamlash called “made in Arran” was opened along with several other makers. Later sales moved along the road to Studio 4. An additional shop in Brodick was opened in the 1980’s next to the Bank of Scotland; now an ice cream parlour. Alasdair designed and built the shop using second hand materials so that it looked like it had always been there.
In order to increase output to meet demand a range of cast pieces was designed so that relatively unskilled workers could be drafted in to help. Throughout the 1970’s these stoneware pieces were made in simple press moulds to produce the basic shape and then worked by hand. It wasn’t till the 1980’s that slip cast porcelain was introduced. This was once again in order to increase production to a semi industrial scale.
Exhibitions and art.
Alasdair always made a clear distinction between what he called “bread and butter” lines and his one off artworks. While he would have liked to have been a painter, and had the skills for that, he felt that he never found a truly distinctive voice of his own. It wasn’t till later in life he discovered that voice in the form of his unique sculptures. Using objects found on the shores of Arran, bits of driftwood and other sea worn materials, he used these as an inspiration. There was no intention of representation, these were purely abstract pieces, he let the materials suggest their own shape.
Starting around 1968 Alasdair had many successful Exhibitions mostly in Edinburgh at Galleries in Dundas street as well as one in Glasgow at the design centre in Glasgow where he was visited by the Queen and prince Phillip. While not a royalist he always liked an audience!
In 1981 the BBC made a documentary as part of the spectrum arts program. It can be viewed on Youtube here.
He died in 1986.