Beached high above the floating moorings of Eyemouth’s steep-walled harbour, Thomas Hawson’s hand-built dinghy Guffaw lies, sail hoisted, in The Hippodrome, the former Fishermen’s Mission that was turned into an arts venue by Ian and Paula Tod earlier this year. The boat is an elegant form, its lattice wooden hull skinned in treated black cotton canvas below a black lug sail, typical of traditional working boats. It speaks loudly of journeys and history, its fragile appearance belying strength and a debt to wind and oar. But here, too, there is a sense of impotence, a ship in a bottle, marooned metres from the sea.

The boat, named Guffaw, which has been made to measure for Hawson’s two young children, is the centrepiece of an exhibition that has grown up around the installation the artist made for the Visual Arts Scotland Open exhibition 2015, at which Hawson won the exhibition prize for ‘most original artwork’. A maker and artist who is steeped in all things Nordic and Icelandic – he was commissioned to make the Speaker’s Chair for the Icelandic Parliament in 2000 – Hawson was inspired in making his Guffaw by Faroese rowing boats, the light plywood boats of the noted wooden boat designer Ian Oughtred, geodesic hyperlite boats and the traditional coracle.

Floating around Guffaw at the Hippodrome – as if the flotsam and jetsam washed in on the tide or the idiosyncratic contents of a local folk museum – are charts, maps, illustrations, plans. A charcoal drawing of a bent-backed man lugging a boat on his back suggests the weight of inheritance, of tradition. On the ceiling hang similarly shaped black cotton canvas pods, shaped like two hulls joined seamlessly together, the forms organic and tactile. Another, set on a plinth, is carved out of wood, a seed pod, rather like an oversized version of the beans one might discover washed up on the West Coast from the other side of the Atlantic. Everywhere there are voyages, suggestions, evocations of a life at sea.

There is levity, too, in a rather amusing key to the international code flags traditionally decked about a yacht on high days and maiden voyages. The new flags which Hawson has designed for his own young crew range from the black flag that communicates “Throughout life there is the danger of death” to the rather brighter “We need ice cream”.

This is Hawson’s first solo art exhibition, rooted strongly in his trade as a maker in wood and furniture designer, and also in family. Hawson originally studied Engineering at Edinburgh University – his father worked in the offshore drilling platforms in the North Sea – but followed an interest in art to study Furniture Design and Craftsmanship at what is now Brunel University. “The course tutor called it Fine Craft,” says Hawson, when I speak to him by phone at his rural home, a once semi-derelict mill which he has slowly rebuilt around his family. “It was taught like it was fine art, but with politically a very different sensibility.”

That sensibility, that faith in the human hand to craft and provide for human needs, is the bedrock of Hawson’s evolving art. If Guffaw has its own connotations in the gallery, it was also made for Swallows and Amazons adventure, every inch painstakingly crafted in the pursuit of Hawson’s children’s childhood. If many children are ‘lost at sea’ in a world of overwhelming technology, Hawson is determined to give his every chance. “They’re going down a river in a canoe to camp, independently. Everyone dreams of that,” he says. “I’ve given them the tools to mediate with nature, but it’s their exploration. I get to stand back and see them do it.”

Lost At Sea, The Hippodrome, Eyemouth (01890 750099, until October 18, Thu–Sun, 11am–5pm. Dr Thomas Hawson will give a free lecture at the gallery at 6pm on October 16