Leila Thomson (1959-2022) and Jo Thomson
Mother and daughter, Leila Thomson and Jo Thomson, were born into a very artistic family. Leila graduated from Edinburgh College of Art with a BA Hons. in Tapestry in 1980 and returned home to Hoxa in Orkney to live, work and bring up her family. Jo graduated with a BA Hons. in Painting in 2010, also from Edinburgh College of Art.
The youngest of a family of six, Leila was the fourth member of the family to study at Edinburgh College of Art, following her sisters Connie, Sheila and Dorothy. Connie graduated in drawing and painting, Sheila in jewellery design (Sheila Fleet Jewellery) and Dorothy in pottery and glass. In keeping with the family tradition two of Leila’s nieces also graduated from Edinburgh College of Art, Norna in tapestry and Leila in theatre costume. This made Jo the seventh member of the family to graduate from Edinburgh College of Art.
Leila and her husband Benny built and opened the Hoxa Tapestry Gallery in June 1996 to exhibit Leila’s large, unique, handwoven tapestry artworks which are inspired by the rhythm of life and landscape of Orkney. The Gallery is in fact only a field away from the small farm where Leila grew up. Jo joined the family business after graduating from art school and now runs the gallery alongside her brother Andrew and father Benny since Leila passed away from terminal cancer in August 2022.
Although trained in painting, handwoven tapestry is second nature to Jo as she grew up weaving alongside her mother, Leila. The medium of handwoven tapestry combines Jo’s love of drawing with colour and texture in a way that’s different to painting yet painterly qualities can still be achieved within it. She is still a painter, but happens to use yarns as her paints. Drawing is at the heart of Jo’s practice – capturing the light, space and character of Orkney’s landscape – the medium she chooses to work in depends on the idea or feeling she wants to capture.
The gallery has received visitors from all over the world and both Leila and Jo have artwork in private collections worldwide.