What were your favourite subjects when you were at school? 
My absolute favourite subject was History and I also enjoyed English.

When you left school, did you have a career path in mind? 
Yes, I left school at the end of fifth year and went to Edinburgh College of Art (at that time affiliated with Heriot Watt University) to study Architecture.

Has your career progressed as you planned or have you had to retrain or go in a direction you hadn’t anticipated?
Not at all!  I studied Architecture for a year (at that time the course was seven years long) and had chosen it as a good balance between arts and science but it wasn’t really for me.  I went to see a career counsellor at the university who very wisely said that if I did not have any burning vocation I should study I subject that I loved and think about careers at the end of the course.  Naturally, I chose History and went to the University of Edinburgh to do an MA in History.  I graduated in 1982 and was interested in pursuing a career in journalism but at that time of economic crisis, thousands of graduates were pursuing a handful of traineeships with newspapers and the BBC so I went to America (Boston University) to do an MSc in Mass Communication, which I reasoned would give me additional skills to make me more employable.  I studied everything from TV production to advertising, journalism to public relations.

I came back and started applying for jobs in advertising and public relations as those were the subjects that interested me most.  I was offered a job with a consultancy in London called Profile Public Relations and off I went.  I worked for another two agencies and then was headhunted to become the first Marketing Communications Manager of the largest law firm in the world at that time, Clifford Chance. It was a marvellous job enabling me to travel to most European capitals as well as New York on a regular basis.  There wasn’t really any career progression in prospect though so I came back to Edinburgh and established my own consultancy offering marketing communications advice to professional firms and small businesses.

What helped to guide you to your current role?
It is a little sad but my husband died aged 47 when our daughter was four years old.  I felt that public relations and marketing for businesses was rather unimportant after that, so I used my skills as the Press Officer for a charity called WAY which supported men and women widowed before they were 50.  This lead to a position with a small charity called the Jaskomal Foundation and a seat on the board of another charity in Edinburgh.  The chairman of the board also ran a social enterprise to train young people in retail skills and asked me to join and give the benefit of my marketing expertise.  The social enterprise ran a shop in St James Centre to help train the youngsters, which was a showcase for Scottish art and crafts.

What inspired you to set up the Edinburgh Art and Craft Collective?
The shop in the St James Centre closed and the man who ran the social enterprise moved on to another area.  I had very much enjoyed the combination of the retail side and using my marketing skills.  I learned a lot about retail so when the opportunity to open my own business arose, I grasped it with both hands, utilising the lessons from the previous shop.  Art & Craft Collective opened five years ago and offers emerging and established artists a showcase for their work.

Tell us about your job and what it involves day-to-day? 
My job involves a bit of everything!  In the run up to Christmas we are open seven days a week and I am here six of those days, serving customers, arranging window displays, talking to artists and prospective artists and advising on marketing, promotion and pricing.  I run our social media accounts and organise inventory, finance and advertising. 

What do you like most about your job?
I like the variety, I love helping new artists to start their artistic career and I very much enjoy helping customers to find the perfect painting or gift.  We are in a fairly residential part of the city (Causewayside on the South side of Edinburgh) and have many returning customers and it is lovely that they keep coming back and we all wave to each other in the street and so forth.  My husband and I are now on a quiz team with two of our customers so friendship often results.

What has been the most challenging part of your career so far?
Not surprisingly and probably in common with many people in business today, the pandemic gave us many challenges and the ongoing uncertainty means that things are still challenging but I believe it is important to remain positive and change and adapt to circumstances with creative solutions.

Do you have any advice for pupils at ESMS who might wish to follow a similar career path and launch their own creative business? 
I would say work for others in a similar area to learn the skills and perhaps the things not to do!  Being an artist yourself is not as important, in my opinion, as having a good ‘eye’ for original and unusual work and a commercial understanding.  Be adaptable.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I have extended the lease on the premises for five years, by which time I will be 67 so probably thinking of retiring or taking a more advisory/backseat role.  Having said that, I am something of a control freak so possibly not well suited to not making all the decisions!

What’s your fondest memory from your schooldays? 
Probably the friends I made.  I joined the school in S2 when my family moved up to Edinburgh from London, so I was coming in to a lot of established friendships but I quickly made three or four great friends and three of us are still in touch.

You can find the Art & Craft Collective at 93 Causewayside, Edinburgh, EH9 1QG

One thought on “Interview with Linsay Given Black (Harrow) MES 1977 (Class of 1978), Owner, Art & Craft Collective

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