The Thrie Estaits was an emporium of wonders. Set up by Peter Powell in Edinburgh in the early 1980s, the shop in Dundas Street was a treasure trove of the eclectic, the beautiful and the quirky. It was hard to find a shop like it, and for nearly forty years it was the go-to for extraordinary works of art.
Peter trained in silversmithing at Glasgow School of Art in the late 1960s and after graduating worked at Elders in Charing Cross. Elders were pioneers in Glasgow in the promotion of contemporary design, especially the Scandinavian and Italian designers, appealing to Peter’s eye for the unusual.
From Elders, he graduated to the Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh to work on their range of tiles. The studio was set up by the Marquis of Bute predominantly as a studio for weaving tapestry although the tile-making offshoot was given a space in the studio. Peter continued making tiles when the Dovecot Studios closed their tile-making operation, but he also started to buy and sell antique tiles and other small objects too. He finally bought his own shop in Dundas Street Edinburgh where he was able to expand into other disciplines and where larger items could be displayed.
Peter named the shop The Thrie Estaits after the 16th century satirical play of the same name by Sir David Lindsay – a commentary on the church, the state and the common man and a reflection too of the variety of the stock. Before long the shop became known around the country for its interesting and eclectic contents. One customer describes how his visits “felt like entering an antique shop in Spain or Portugal, filled with a miscellany of desirable objects, a number of which I then acquired and scattered throughout my home. Their emporium had two enticing windows set back from the street - one of the windows involved standing over a pierced cast iron grille, always hoping it wouldn’t give way, but worth the risk! A few steps down to enter another world and at the back, beyond where Peter sat, lay a further room with a window and it too was laden with treasures.……”.
Certainly the shop could be described as small but absolutely packed with things, though always displayed with thoughtful care and some verve, wherever possible!
Peter and his long-standing partner Walter Gordon often benefitted from the cheerful help of Roger Cave, a wizard on the internet. They dealt with clients ranging from museums and institutions to dealers such as Roger Warner at Burford and Gretchen Andersen at the Lacquer Chest in London, amongst other tastemakers drawn to the shop.
More recently Peter moved The Thrie Estaits to East Lothian where he has traded successfully for a number of years at Fenton Barns. After over 40 years he has made the difficult decision to close and to turn full circle, returning to collecting, restoring and selling objects on a smaller scale.