Artists across Scotland turn to Wasps for creative places to work

The creative people we rely on for the decorative pieces we covet for our homes need somewhere to unleash their inspiration. 

Wasps has been providing studio space to artists, makers and creative organisations in Scotland since 1977. Now Wasps (Workshop & Studio Provision Scotland) hosts about 1,000 creative individuals and 33 organisations at 20 sites across Scotland. 

“Wasps was essentially set up by artists seeking affordable space that they could have some control over and obviously, it’s grown to become the largest charity supporting artists in Scotland,” says Audrey Carlin, Wasps’ chief executive.

Many of the studios are in the Central Belt where the art schools are. “But in recent years, we’ve delivered buildings in response to people wanting a creative career in places they want to live in and be inspired by.” 

Perth Creative Exchange opened in the former St John’s School in 2019, while the second phase of the Inverness Creative Academy opened in 2022. The first part of the restoration of the Inverness Royal Academy site had been completed in 2018 when the 1913 arts and science extension became host to 30 studio spaces. 

Transforming buildings has become a trademark of Wasps’ developments and the charity has been able to partner with the owners to access grants and be involved in the transformation. 

Not all of the projects are large scale. In Shetland, the Booth was constructed by Scalloway Waterfront Trust in 2001. Right on the waterfront, it was on the site of a fisherman’s store and is now offered to artists – from all over the world – for short residencies. 

This autumn, Wasps’ latest development will welcome its first artists. In Edinburgh, Granton Station is a £4.75m project led by City of Edinburgh Council to restore and adapt the former Granton Gas Works railway station. 

“It’s in a fantastic location and we’re going to have a community workshop space that also doubles up as a gallery. We’re calling that the waiting room,” says Carlin. 

The creative hub will have workspaces and co-working desk spaces. Carlin adds: “We’re focusing on making the building accessible to the public, encouraging people to come in and understand what’s going on there.”

Very much part of the Wasps offering is the support it gives to its artists. As a result of the pandemic there is a portal packed with practical business advice covering topics such as setting up online shops to becoming VAT registered. 

Wasps itself set up its own online shop during lockdown. “The artists found that they were engaging with international art buyers that they never would have met before,” says Carlin.

Wasps also has four galleries giving artists opportunities to sell their work. “There are programmed exhibitions, open studios events and we have markets at least a couple of times a year in Glasgow, Perth and Inverness.”

She adds: “Those markets are really growing in demand both from artists wanting to sell and from people wanting to buy locally-made work and to have a different experience than they’re getting on the high street.” 

The Wasps’ support will be a key part of Granton Station. “We’re working with Edinburgh College on a graduate accelerator programme. It’s about getting some of the college’s 3,000 creative industry students into a sustainable practice at the end of their course.”

Granton Station is set to continue the Wasps tradition of providing an inspirational home for creative practice.

“That’s one of the good things about our studio buildings. We have very experienced, established artists working alongside emergent graduates and they like that because they find each other inspiring in different ways,” says Carlin.