At Urban Pirate we always try to create designs using Scotland as our inspiration, thankfully it’s a never-ending source of material. Food, scenery, contributions to the world….where would be all be without TV or Telephones! So why Vikings, they’re not Scottish, I hear you ask…..well, why not? The Vikings have, inadvertently, given Scotland a great deal with respect to its history and mentality of its people.
The Vikings are perceived to be a bit of a warrior race….going forth and conquering. Ok, they were, but they were also pretty good explorers. Legend has it they were the first people to reach northern America….though they never stayed there long.
Much of the Celtic artwork that you find has link to Norse mythology, brought over when the Vikings invaded visited Scotland, possibly around the 9th or 10th century. Many of Scotlands place names are also linked to the Vikings, particularly in Orkney, Shetland and northern Scotland. Wick, in Caithness is thought to be from the Norse vik which means bay, it is also the word for Viking.
The designs we created were based on three areas of Viking life, the people, politics and myth. The most well-known thing about Vikings is they all had beards….well, maybe not all of them but when you think of a Viking you think of a beard. There is a theory that the Vikings brought the red-hair gene to Scotland via their pillaging and plundering. Which isn’t too far of a stretch, considering that the Nordic DNA is still present in Scotland. One misconception for Vikings though is the pointy hats, Vikings never had horns on their head…
The political structure of the Vikings was very similar to that of celtic Scotland, in that they were setup in a clan-like structure. Each of our shield designs may not represent an actual Viking clan (can you find the shield that’s gotta catch ‘em all??) but many do represent imagery from Nordic symbolism.
Image Credit : Cure (Pixel Artist)
One of the most well know myths that came from the Vikings, apart from Thor, is the Kraken (With thanks to the Pirates of the Caribbean and a rather nice dark rum). The Kraken is/was a giant sea squid that like to swallow ships whole. Apparently the myth came about when the Viking travelled to Iceland and the bubbling hotsprings around the coast made them believe that there was a monster living under the rocks. But they landed and took up home there anyway….the mad bastards.
Anyway, the link to Scotland maybe historic but Vikings are always cool…so no excuses needed!
Well, in a way. The big metal ones have been around a fair bit longer than that. In the 80s an advertising campaign would start that has yet to be rivaled (in our opinion) by a certain ginger drink. Barrs’ ‘Made in Scotland from Girders’ slogan has been running for 30 years and those that are old enough still repeat it today.
The premise of the slogan is a pretty simple one, Irn-Bru makes you strong. It doesn’t hurt that there is a supposed secret ingredient for taste and a diluted iron girder would happen to look rather orangey. The campaign must have worked, I still remember the advert with the steam-roller and I would have been 2 at the time. It’s one of slogans that you remember from your youth. I believed it would make me strong. I believed it in the same way as I believed grannies everywhere who told me that eating home made soup would put hairs on my chest. Well I ate a lot of that homemade soup and it worked (well sort of)… Hopefully it didn’t do the same thing to girls…answers on a postcard!
In 2011 we created a design inspired by the nostalgia around the slogan which became incredibly popular. Though a few of the younger ones had to have it explained to them, and I can’t count how many times I’ve asked what a ‘Girder’ is. After 5 years we felt that it was time to revisit it, and, it just so happened to coincide with the anniversary. Complete coincidence I promise!
‘We’ve just got back from the Isle of Skye…I’m no very big and I’m ayfie’…..auch you know the rest!
So we’ve just come back from a cracking little visit to Skye. What a place!
We had sun, snow, wind and whisky. Not the first time we’ve been up there but still it feels like we’ve barley scratched the surface.
Had the pleasure of visiting a great new gallery we’re selling in Skyworks Gallery where we met Liza and Barrie and Co. Liza is an textile and jewellery artist by trade and Barrie..well Barrie is a baker who makes some of the best ‘breid’ we’ve tasted in jonks.
The galleries (they have 2) have banished all tartan tat and cringeworthy mass produced nonsense in favour of local makers and designers who have produced a rainbow of beautiful crafts and giftware.
They’re passionate about what they do and we’re delighted to be one of their new stockists for 2016.
We could tell you that the rest of the time was spent tirelessly climbing mountains and flexing our incredibly toned bodies but we would be liars(on both climbing and being toned). Most of our waking moments were spent in front of this wonderful fireplace eating cake and drinking the good stuff. ‘Skeabost House’ our gaff for the trip. Apparently Kanye (sing..not you cannie) West was staying there the week before. It’s been reported in the press that he was gutted to have missed us.
Near the hotel is an interesting little cemetery on a tiny island where there are graves that date all the way back to the 11th century.
Father’s Day is fast approaching again, 21st of June, and everyone loves their daddy….right?
We of course think that every dad on the planet should own at least one Urban Pirate t-shirt, such as the new ‘Beard’ design. But there is also a lot of awesome stuff out there from some pretty amazing independent companies.
Juniper & Jane (http://www.juniperandjane.co.uk) – Based in Ayrshire. These guys have a great range of products, perfect for any Father, personally, we love the Harris Tweed clocks.
Braw Beard Oil (http://brawbeardoils.com)– From parts unknown (Edinburgh) – Does your Dad own a beard? If so, congratulations, there is now no excuse for you not to get some awesome conditioning oils for his face. They smell great too
This month Urban Pirate turns five. It's a little surreal as it feels like only yesterday that we were preparing our very first Highland Games. We were wet behind the ears, often literally due to biblical rain. Trying to sell t-shirts in minus 5 in minor hurricane conditions is hard, but we gave it our best shot. Some days we were the pigeon and some the statue. Regardless, we had no idea of how much work this was going to entail, talk about naïve.
Don't get us wrong, we've achieved a great deal up until this point. A few awards, a couple of awesome bespoke designs and countless new friends, but we're no longer the fresh faced newbies we once were.
Urban Pirate was born in 2010, through frustration of being unable to find Scottish giftwear, that didn't depict some form of Scottish 'joke' or a generic design that is used the world over. Is Scotland 'probably' the best country in the world? Yes we think so, but doesn't everywhere else claim the same? We decided if we couldn't buy a decent tee then why not make one. Lucky for us, it turned out we weren't the only ones searching for something that didn't scream of tartan tat.
We're not looking to have our designs slapped onto every gift product known to man. Like Del Boy, there are some companies out there who would stick their designs on a toilet seat if they thought it would sell. Toilet seats are probably very lucrative, but we think people are looking for something better.
Five years in and we hope we are going in the right direction. They say that you've made it in life when you have two cars, two holidays a year and a joint ISA. Well we've managed decking and a dog which we think is pretty darn good.
Image courtesy of ELIA - The European League of Institutes of the Arts
Urban Pirate will continue to produce what we hope are unique great looking designs that people want to wear.