House Proud: Orla Stevens' unique curling artwork with Hendrick's Gin

We speak with artist Orla Stevens, commissioned by Hendrick's Gin to create a series of artworks frozen into the ice at this year's Scottish Curling Championships

Advertorial by Tallah Brash | 23 Feb 2024
  • Orla Stevens
Hendrick's Gin
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Curling is a centuries’ old Scottish recreational institution. Dating back to the 16th century, Scots used to play a version of the game outdoors, sliding flat stones of varying sizes across frozen rivers, lochs and ponds in the winter months. While nowadays many would prefer curling up on their couch on a chilly afternoon, the sport of curling continues to thrive, indoors now, of course; it’s still played on ice, but with much smarter granite stones than those of the game’s infancy.

A sport of precision, it should come as no surprise that the granite to make these stones has to be of a very high standard, and so is mined from only two locations, one of which is in Scotland, naturally. From a small rocky outcrop with a mythical past, you’ll find this Olympic standard granite on an island off the coast of Ayrshire called Ailsa Craig. A stone’s throw across the water from Ailsa Craig, in Girvan on the mainland you’ll find the Hendrick’s Gin Palace.

At this point, you might be scratching your head, wondering what gin has to do with curling? Both obviously require ice to enjoy, but the fact of the matter is that Hendrick’s Gin is the title sponsor for this year’s Scottish Curling Championships, which took place at the Dumfries Ice Bowl earlier this month. To coincide with this, Hendrick’s Gin brought art and culture to the rink, commissioning Scottish artist Orla Stevens to create a (quite literally) cool series of original artworks frozen into the ice upon which the competition was played.

The artist Orla Stevens working by the window of her studio.
Orla Stevens at work in her studio. Photo: Michael Drummond

As an avid hill walker and camper, Stevens’ artistic practice always finds inspiration in nature and the outdoors, and with those important factors in both curling and the creation of Hendrick’s Gin, this was the perfect commission. To help inform her four designs that became the houses (concentric circle targets) that the stones are aimed for in curling, Stevens visited the botanical surrounds of the Hendrick’s Gin Palace, and the nearby dominant peak of Ailsa Craig; she also spent time with Scottish Olympian Scott Andrews learning about the history of the game, which included a lesson in strength and accuracy on the ice.

On meeting Hendrick’s Master Distiller Lesley Gracie at the Hendrick’s Gin Palace, Stevens says: “It was amazing to learn all about the different smells and the different plants that she uses and is drawn to herself, and then also to see what I was drawn to visually as well from the botanics. It was just this riot of colour and textures and patterns.”

An abstract artwork by Orla Stevens.
Artwork by Orla Stevens; photo by Michael Drummond.

When it came to visiting Ailsa Craig, she says: “[It’s] really dramatic and striking on the landscape. It’s funny because it’s quite a gentle, rolling landscape on the mainland, and then you look out to sea and there’s just this one massive lump on the horizon. You can’t miss it. It was lovely to be able to spend time around it studying it and sketching it from different angles. I was able to gather all of that sensory information and draw from both the actual rock formation of Ailsa Craig, but also what I could hear around me as well. The noises that your footprints would make as you walked across the beach, and then the waves lapping on the sand and crashing against the rocks.”

She found yet more sensory inspiration on the ice too. “When we were curling, I got to see the ice really up close, and I didn’t realise that it’s actually covered in all of these little bumps and dimples, which lets the curling stone glide,” she explains. “This was a lovely thing to be able to listen to as well as look at. It’s really beautiful when you look at it up close, and [the stone gliding on the ice] makes this earthy sound that I took inspiration from as well.”

Stevens’ resulting artworks offer four distinct sets of houses inspired by the elemental qualities behind their creation: Botanics, The Gin Palace, Rock to Rink and The Sea. With this year’s competitors gliding their stones towards these gorgeous houses awash with dynamic strokes in contrasting pastel hues and bold punches of colour, the Scottish Curling Championships have never looked so good, bringing a fresh burst of zing and energy to the game, much like a refreshing gin and tonic over ice with a slice of cucumber would do to the palate.

To find out more about Orla Stevens’ commission with Hendrick’s Gin for the Scottish Curling Championships, you can watch a short making-of video above which documents her process, from those early visits to the Hendrick’s Gin Palace, Ailsa Craig and the ice rink through to her artistic practice.

The Scottish Curling Championships, sponsored by Hendrick's Gin, took place at Dumfries Ice Bowl, 4-10 Feb
Try a refreshing Hendrick’s & Tonic garnished with a slice of cucumber. To find out more visit
Find out more about Orla Stevens at