Meet The Shopkeeper: Harbour Lane

tori gray at harbour lane

Introduce yourself and your store.
I’m Tori and I run Harbour Lane Studio in South Queensferry. Harbour Lane is a dinky but quirky space showcasing the work from over 70 different makers based all over the UK but with a strong focus on highlighting Scottish talent. We will have been open for 3 years at the end of November and are currently in the process of building an extension so that we can squeeze in a whole lot of new makers.

Is there a story behind the name?
I wish I could come up with a witty story about how the studio got its name but it’s pretty uninspiring. The shop is on Harbour Lane and it also happens to be my studio…I promise I used my creativity in other areas! It does make finding the shop on google maps much easier though!

How long have you been doing this? 
I got my degree in illustration in 2013 and I had a couple of pretty miserable years of working ‘for the man’ in a pretty boring retail job which forced me to rethink things and I found a space and opened the studio in November 2016. The past 3 years have been a total blur of learning and a whole lot of winging it!

Best moment of store life so far?
I have had so many moments that remind me I’m doing the right thing but I have to confess to never ever getting bored of the feeling of ultimate pride when I tell people what I do for a living and they say they have heard of the studio! I love it when customers are in the studio and say they have come out to Queensferry especially as they follow the studio on social media. I swear you can see a little bubble of pride fill up above my head!

How did you come across Text From A Friend?
Since starting the shop, I don’t have as much time to get out and about and meet new makers so I rely on word of mouth and Instagram to find new work. I think the creative industry is really good at supporting each other and I have a good friend, Ellie from East End Press who raved about Text From A Friend and I knew it’d be perfect for Harbour Lane.

What’s your favourite text from a friend product?
I think everything Sharon does is genius! I love hearing the giggles from customers when they read out the cards and it definitely makes the very occasional ‘tisk’ from an old lady worth it. I have some customers that continue to come in and buy a Text From a Friend card for every occasion, from weddings to birthdays and new babies. My personal favourite though is the ‘Happy F*cking Whatever’ card as it works no matter the occasion!

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I’m not sure I knew what I wanted to be. I knew I wanted to be able to draw every day but I hadn’t quite worked out how that was going to pay the bills. Ironically though, I always made a fuss about never EVER wanting to be self-employed or freelance – something I still giggle at now.

What advice would you give your younger self?
Ha…where to start…I guess I’d tell myself to stop overthinking everything and just go with your gut. Things work out or they don’t and that’s totally OK but it’s much easier to make decisions that you’re proud of and believe in.

When you get time off, what do you do?
Time off is hard. I’m sure every creative and self-employed person feels that. You don’t quite get the same opportunity to just switch off and go home at 5pm. I think it forces you to really make the most of time off when it happens though. I like to get away from it all (it’s easier if you go somewhere with no phone reception) and have a walk on the beach, a paddle in the sea and remember that it’s all part of doing what you love.

Favourite city/destination to visit?
I am a sucker for a Scottish Island. I just love the colours and the fact that you can be on a huge white beach with crystal clear turquoise water and there is no one else there. I love being able to go and explore and breathe and just relax ultimately. It’s definitely my happy place.

What inspires you to buy a maker's product?
I have a pretty simple system, ‘Do I want to buy it myself?’. I’m a self-confessed shopaholic but it makes stocking the shop really easy. I had bought various bits from Text From a Friend for myself and as gifts before stocking it in the shop so I knew I loved it and had confidence my customers would too.

What do you love most about having the store?
Oooh, tough one. I like being the boss, is that bad?! I think what I struggled with in jobs where I was employed was that I could see a way to make things better or could be done differently but there was zero flexibility. I found it incredibly frustrating and it was crushing my self-confidence and my creativity. The amazing thing about having the shop is I can have ideas, make them happen and enjoy all the benefits when it goes right. It’s hard work and sometimes scary knowing everything is relying on me to make it work but it’s also hugely rewarding.

Future plans?
I never stop planning and scheming! The big one at the minute is the extension as it is going to make a huge difference to the studio in terms of what we can stock and also what workshops we can run. I had originally planned to extend after 5 years but 18 months in and I felt it was time to grow, it just felt like the right time to take the next step.

Dream product to have in store?
I am very excited about the new space (can you tell?!) and the flexibility it will give me. I’m hoping to create two spaces within the studio, one area showcasing art, jewellery and gifts and the other celebrating handmade homeware and lifestyle pieces. That’s the plan anyway but who really knows where it will lead?

Top tips for visitors to your city?
At the minute, I’d check out the Oor Wullie Big Bucket Trail that is going on all over the country. You can download the app which shows you the location of all the sculptures and allows you to ‘collect’ them. I designed one which is based in South Queensferry until the end of August so I’d obviously recommend coming out and taking a wee selfie with him.

Find Harbour Lane:
Instagram: @harbour.lane

      the cool interior at harbour lane in south queensferry the lane in south queensferry wher harbour lane is situated  

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