Since opening in September last year, Vanilla Ink’s silversmithing workshop in Banff has welcomed many visitors through its doors – but receiving a royal seal of approval from HRH Prince Charles has provided a massive boost to its profile.
The VIP visit created a flurry of activity on social media, as well as newspaper and television coverage, elevating its profile beyond the company’s dreams, reveals The Smiddy workshop co-ordinator, Alison Arrowsmith.
Arrowsmith explains: “We’ve been flabbergasted at how Prince Charles’ visit has upped our profile, raising awareness of our objectives for young people, and our desire to make Banff a centre of excellence in the art of making in metal once again.
“We have had a big surge in our social media after Prince Charles’ visit, and we have received more emails from people asking about the classes we offer. It has broadened our audience to a far wider area and we hope that this translates to bookings.”
Prince Charles has a keen interest in traditional arts and initiatives to support young people and dropped by to find out at first-hand how the jewellery studio, founded by Vanilla Ink business partners Kate Pickering and Scott McIntrye, is playing a key part in Banff’s regeneration by reviving the art of silverwork in the Banffshire town.
The bright and modern workshop that the Smiddy Centre of Excellence for Silversmithing and Jewellery was created from a former blacksmith’s premises which until three years ago was in a neglected and dilapidated state.
As part of the town’s regeneration, there was a vision to bring it back into use and revive links with Banff’s historic silver trade.
With the space, Vanilla Ink educates, inspires, and empowers people through the art of jewellery making. The workshop passes on skills and knowledge in silver making in a range of classes for beginners through to intermediate and advanced. As a social enterprise, it also has a firm focus on developing opportunities, particularly for young people, offering up skills and experiences that they might not otherwise be able to access.
Arrowsmith explains: “The building was just a shell – it had no roof, just four walls- but it has had a completely new lease of life. We get people stopping by who remember it as a blacksmith and tell us lovely stories about its past. We’ve also had people sending in details and photos of Banff silver.
“People are thrilled to see the site back in use and no longer sitting at the end of Bridge Street looking sad and depressed. However, this is more than just upgrading an old building for a new use; it is creating innovation and providing a change of direction which is important for the community.”
A few hundred yards along the road on Bridge Street, work is underway on creating accommodation units for visiting experts to The Smiddy.