Top photograph "Souvenirs of Calton Hill Look Book" designed by Neil McGuire - Photo credit Gordon Burniston
Catriona Duffy and Lucy McEachan are co-directors of Panel, a Glasgow based curatorial arts organisation that specialise in creating projects about making and design in relation to particular histories, archives and collections.
We are co-directors at Panel, a curatorial arts organisation. We are a community interest company, and are based in Glasgow, however we work across Scotland, in both urban and rural areas, to create products, exhibitions and events that are uniquely connected to their site and to local histories, archives and collections.
What do you do?
Panel creates space for an independent design programme, not with institutional or national remit, but with a distinct and, we hope, experimental curatorial voice delivered on its own terms. We view design and making, not only as a resource base for services or goods, but as an integral part of our broader social, political and cultural landscape. Uncovering and layering narratives from particular places, public and private archives and collections, we commission and collaborate with artists, designers, makers, writers, musicians, filmmakers and many others, to produce new work, often in partnership with local manufacturing. So far, Panel has produced three product collections, 13 major exhibitions and 24 events and, although these projects have all been very different, each one has given us an opportunity to examine the dynamic ways in which alternative perspectives and ideas can be foregrounded through design.
Your recent collections Souvenirs of Calton Hill and From Glasgow Women’s Library include a real variety of products! Tell us a little about these collections and the story behind them?
In June 2019 Souvenirs of Calton Hill launched in Edinburgh at Collective Gallery’s new retail space, Collective Matter. The souvenirs form a collection of products created by designers and artists in close collaboration with manufacturers and makers across the UK and Europe.
The resulting souvenirs, including a scarf, a poncho, a necklace, a postcard mobile and a series of ceramic storage jars, invite visitors, through the gallery shop, to consider Calton Hill, Collective’s home, through the lens of astronomy, timekeeping, trade, architecture and making. In this way, they speak to the history of Calton Hill and to Collective as a new kind of city observatory for Edinburgh.
Back in 2018, we also launched From Glasgow Women’s Library, a collection of products developed through research into the Glasgow Women's Library archive and collections by Ruth Ewan with Joy BC, Finch & Fouracre, Sally Hackett, Jasleen Kaur, Kaisa Lassinaro and Maeve Redmond and Donna Wilson. Inspired by the history of the organisation, its library, archive and museum collection, each product speaks to women’s history and experience, exploring ideas that uncover, sample and reference the diverse and unsung stories that the Glasgow Women’s Library holds.
The resulting limited-edition souvenirs, from a painted porcelain mug to hand-bound sketchbook to knitted cushion, commemorate and re-cast women’s stories through everyday objects and making. Acknowledging both traditional and innovative manufacturing processes, they were produced locally using high quality, skilled craft and small-scale production methods. Together they form a unique and empowering collection that celebrates women’s diverse voices, ingenuity, friendship, activism and creativity. To create this collection we worked with local manufacturers including Bar One Clothing, Downie Allison Downie Bookbinders who is listed on Make Works Scotland, as well as local ceramicists, jewellers and textile producers. The products are sold through the Glasgow Women’s Library shop.
Within both of these collections, we were interested in exploring the history of the ‘souvenir ‘and the role that local production and local material plays in that story. Within the various designs a variety of ideas and objects are presented. Though all desirable and saleable products, none conform to our expectations of a traditional souvenir or keepsake or to the merchandise model of branded, global mass-production and low pricing. Rather, we hope, they call to mind memories that invite us back to the place of their making and, when considered together, reveal distinct ideas about the organisations they are sold from through the quality of their design and production.
Shop Souvenirs of Calton Hill here & Shop from Glasgow Women’s Library here
Over the years you’ve collaborated with many artists, designers and makers, across a variety of industries, to create exhibitions and projects. What is it that appeals to you about the collaborative way of working and why is it so important to Panel?
We are interested in the possibilities and limitations of local production and in testing what is still possible to make here, despite huge areas of our industry falling away. We are also interested in how local production can shift perceptions of value and meaning within material culture, so we specialise in commissioning artists and designers to work with the manufacturing industry in the UK, to make products for galleries, museums and cultural projects.
Though our practice is rooted in design, our work also has a cultural crossover and a connection to practitioners whose work extends into visual arts, craft and other cultural contexts and practices. We commission artists across disciplines to make new work in diverse contexts and we encourage them to investigate, to question, to challenge and to understand the changing position of design in terms of ideas, place, identity, politics and our wider culture.
Through this work, a major goal is to demystify processes of making and manufacture within the design for audiences. We do this through a range of exhibitions, workshops, demonstrations, talks, publications, performances and film screenings.
What part does Make Works play in your work?
Make Works is a crucial resource for Panel in helping us to understand the possibilities for manufacturing locally and helping us to broker relationships between manufacturers and the designers and artists we work with. We are interested in sustainable production and in how designers and artists can influence and even adapt manufacturing and production processes.
Make Works provides a unique presence for a vast range of amazing skills and materials, ones that are often hidden behind closed doors and located in little-known industrial estates. They are on our doorstep, but without Make Works, they would be really tricky to stumble across.