‘Dream come true’ as artist Avril prepares to open shop in the Street

An artist whose hobby took on new dimensions during the pandemic says the opening of her shop is a “dream has come true”.

Avril Thomson Smith is set to start her new venture in Lerwick’s Commercial Street on Thursday after a six-month refurbishment.

With little renovation knowledge, she admits it has been an “interesting experience”.

But speaking to The Shetland Times this week, Mrs Thomson Smith said it had been worth all the hard work.

“It’s all come together really well,” she said.

“It looks beautiful, the pictures are now on the wall and it actually feels like a retail space again, which is exactly how I envisaged it to be.”

Mrs Thomson Smith has always been a keen artist but found that her painting became all the more important during the pandemic.

“Covid made me revaluate my life,” she said.

“Art had always been a hobby, it’s something I’ve done since I was a little kid, but during the pandemic I found I enjoyed it even more and had extra time to think about what I was doing with it.

“I’m nearly 48 now and I just thought if I don’t do something with this now, maybe it will never happen and so I should probably give it a go.”

Mrs Thomson Smith said art was her “passion” and opening her own shop “a dream come true”.

“For some of the time, it’s been more of a nightmare and a headache, but I’m sure that will all change after opening day,” she added.

“I’m sick of cleaning, dusting, and going on dump runs –  I’m looking forward to getting back to doing what I love.”

Mrs Thomson Smith specialises in acrylic paintings of croft houses in the colourful Shetland countryside.

Born and bred in Lerwick, she likes to get out into the countryside to photograph pastoral scenes which she then paints back in her studio, often enhancing the colours for a more “magical” appearance.

Mrs Thomson Smith’s work has mainly been sold through her website.

But with her new shop she has expanded the range to include some of her favourite works printed on cushion covers, tote bags and notebooks. She has also delved into ceramics. 

With a busy summer ahead and a forecast for record numbers of cruise ship visitors, Mrs Thomson Smith is hoping her work will prove popular with tourists and locals alike.

And judging by the online reaction to news of her opening, she will not be short on support.

“The community is definitely behind me and that has given me a massive boost,” she said.

“There’s been a lot of negativity about the Street, which I can understand because there’s a lot of empty shops, but it’s nice to have something positive happen.

“Hopefully  it will brighten up the Street a bit.”

Mrs Thomson Smith, who still works with business studies apprentices at Shetland UHI, will be starting off with a soft opening on Thursdays, Friday and Saturday, so that she still has plenty of time to paint.

Helping out in the shop, will be her 16-year-old daughter Amber Thomson, who won last year’s Shetland’s Got Talent.

“She’s already been asking when her lunch break will be and if we can get a toastie maker in the shop, so it could be interesting as well,” said the artist.


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