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Craft Scotland Conference

We spoke at the Craft Scotland Conference in October, just after we returned from the tour. It was a brilliant weekend, and a great way to inspired from other makers. Thank you for having us!

Our slides, and text from the conference blog is below.

Ten weeks ago, I did not fully understand the difference between warp and weft. I had only seen a water jet cutter slice through glass on YouTube. I didn’t realise that there are machines that can shape granite boulders into three-dimensional sculptures; and I didn’t fully understand the processes such as sand casting, rotational molding, leather tanning, gilding or the intricacy of skill behind cobweb lace knitting. Neither did I realise that all of these processes can still be found in Scotland.

Ten weeks later (and two still to go!) the Make Works tour team plus 8 artists and designers in residence have worked our way from Glasgow to the tip of Shetland and back, via a number of highlands, islands, single track roads, swimming spots and industrial estates; now completely convinced of the fact that Scotland ‘can’ make almost anything as long as you search hard enough. The skills, passion and people who are still making and manufacturing in this country are truly fantastic, and we would like to say a huge thank you to those we have met on our travels so far who continue to inspire and surprise us each day.

2,500 miles, 100 filming sessions, and countless conversations later we also realise that for artists and designers making their work here, it is not without its problems. While Scottish industry and the trades are plagued by poor websites and a lacking digital presence - Scottish craft faces challenges in economic sustainability, emerging skills gaps and conflict between professional makers and hobbyist practice. We’ve also realised the influence and importance of the tourist industry; and want to challenge craftsmanship in Scotland to push beyond traditional boundaries in these contexts. We’ve found differentiating between the roles, possibilities and languages of different trades, fabricators and artists working to commission difficult, not to mention knowing how best to approach larger manufacturers. We see this as a long-term challenge that will require years of chipping away at to really begin opening up a dialogue or begin to change.

Despite these frustrations, we have had a lot of fun on our adventures and managed to experience a huge range of processes, material based practice and facilities across the country. Including glass studios, bronze and aluminum foundries, sculpture workshops, printing presses, textile manufacturers, ceramic workshops, laser-cutters, sub contract manufacturers and sawmills – it’s been an eye-opener to say the least and the most inspiring three months we could have hoped for. It is a basic observation, rooted in craft practice, that when you understand a material and/or making process that what you are able to create is improved significantly. With such fantastic facilities and makers across the country we hope that what we are building will support individuals and businesses on a practical level, and inspire high quality, interesting work with a deeper appreciation for materials and the making process. We just can’t wait to see future collaborations emerge between artists, designers, makers, materials, manufacture and industry.

So, with just two weeks to go, we are now looking forward to the Craft Scotland Conference in October where we’ll be speaking about our expedition (including the night we spent in a teepee with a knife maker, finding the most inspiring technician this side of the Atlantic, and getting a chance to drive the boat to Staffa). We will also begin to showcase some of the individuals, businesses and facilities that we found and tell you a bit more about what we plan to do next.

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