Craft Scotland Conference 2013 – Day 1

Today was the first day of the Craft Scotland Conference 2013, and it was wonderful.

The day started with introductions, and the gratefully received tea and shortbread and the all important name-badge. I love name-badges… they make me feel important and special!!


As well as a cute goodie bag and adorable pin.

(images via @SJRoussel and @CraftScotland)




And into the lecture theatre we go…


The round of talks was kicked off with a welcome from Janet Archer, the CEO of Creative Scotland.

(image via @LFValentine)


Janet talked about the nature of craft and creativeness within Scotland.

Janet mentioned that people do what they do, create what they create from their own routes and their own interests and from their own locations, and what she is interested in is the fuzziness in-between; the blurring of the creative lines. And when thinking about the future of craft as whole, the importance of interdisciplinary creativity and combined forces is growing stronger.

Janet sees the future of Scotland’s craft as the country being “a magnet and a springboard for Scottish talent” which sounds really exciting but as Mike Press pointed out “not sure if this is technically possible – but a good ambition” and we all have to start somewhere.



Next up to the podium was, the keynote speaker, Professor Hans Stofer, a jeweller and Head of Goldsmithing, Silversmithing, Metalwork and Jewellery at the RCA.

(image via @ChrissieHirst)


Hans stood up and told us he felt unprepared to speak, that he felt he had nothing to tell and that this was his experience of being a maker; we are always vulnerable and exposed. This opening statement was preemptive of the honest and genuine nature of his beautiful talk.

Hans told us about his own creative background. His mother was resourceful and used what was there in front of her, and his father “was an engineer, he wore steel like perfume” and he had his own idiosyncrasies and compulsions. Combined, this two paternal forces are what Hans believes he drew from as fundamentals for the maker that he has become. He believes that we externalize our innermost forces by making with the materials available.

Hans also talked about the nature of creative practices. An idea i will definitely be taking back to my studio is that you can’t be creative all the time. Life doesn’t work like that, sometimes you need to stop and step back from what you’re doing to truly understand your creations and your ambitions for the work, and also not to feel guilty about stopping.

Making was my way of learning” i think this statement is a key foundation within any creators life. We learn so much by touching things with our hands, and even more by manipulating materials into creations.

(image by Hans Stofer – book brooch)


The strongest statement to come out of Hans talk was “we hold our world between our hands” and as a maker i can identify with this on every level. Making is intrinsic to who we are and it is more than just what we do, our whole being, our whole world goes into what we create. I think this is a really important point for anyone to remember when viewing something that is handmade, because it is more than just the object you see; it’s part of who the person who made it is.

(image via @MikePress)


I was so taken by Hans Stofer’s talk that i feel a spin-off blog featuring his work coming on…… stay tuned for that!



Next up was a collection of four different talks called Parallel Lines and curated by Katy West, an independent curator and designer.

The first of these talks featured Catherine Aitken, a furniture designer, and David Murphy, a sculptor and their project working with the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop.

(image via @CraftScotland)


The pair are working to create a range of furniture and ceramics for the new Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop in Newhaven. They talked about the importance of combining their interdisciplinary skills together in order to design ideal products to suit the space. Collaboration was also key when they were working with the people who were going to actually work within the space as they were the ones who knew what physical resources they required. Working well with other was key to their success.



Second was Alex Dobbie, a product designer and 3D visualizer.

(image via Hamish Dobbie)


It was interesting again to see another example of a collaboration between two disciplines, Alex within a more digital based design practice and his brother Hamish Dobbie within a jewellery based design practice. And with as a stunning outcome as the one above it proves that joining different making forces together can really pay off.



Third up was Laura Spring, an independent designer maker.

(image via @CraftScotland)


Laura creates beautiful pattern based designs primarily centered around the weather and turns them into suitcases, rucksacks, duffle bags, etc.


She gave an exquisitely open account of her creative practices and led us through her journey from very hard working, control obsessed print machine into a more relaxed outsourcer, but still with creative control over her handmade work. It was interesting to see her reluctance towards outsourcing help, as that is something we are all heavily encourage to pursue, and then her bending towards it and reaping the rewards.

A choice quote and a point i have and will always keep in mind from her talk is that “making money is not the totality but it is essential as it allows you to be creative.



And last but not least was Bakery 47, an artisan bakery created by Tom and Anna Luntly.

(image via @MikePress)


The husband and wife team make a “consumable craft product” or scrumptious works of baked art!


Their talk was really interesting (if not a little cruel showing us all these slides of amazing looking bakes before lunch!) because their ethos was not that of a traditional business. Of course they wanted to succeed and do well, but they weren’t going down the route of outsourcing, getting a shop, writing a book, having a tv show, hiring people and eventually moving away from the business with a tidy profit; they want to do everything themselves. The passion they showed for their work was incredibly moving, and it came across beautifully as they talked about creating, designing, baking, packaging and delivering everything themselves. Their business works for them because they have a drive to put in the legwork (literally! as part of their business involves selling their bakes door to door in their local neighborhood… i wish they lived around the corner from me!).

You should follow them on instagram…. the photos will make you drool!

Later on in the day we were lucky enough to sample some of their delicious goods, and wow they were good!

(image via @CraftScotland)








After lunch we were witness to a conversation between Amanda Game, a freelance exhibition curator and writer, and Philip Long, the director of V&A Dundee.

(image via @LFValentine)


They talked at length about the role of the gallery/museum/exhibition space, etc. and how it is accessible for learning, in particular focusing on the craft sector.

They suggested that there are two types of learning within a museum: passive and active engagement. The former referencing stop, read and move in style learning whereas the latter considers a more sensory interactive approach. Both mediums are valid. Stopping and looking and reading are ideal for reflection and learning from the stepping back approach, and touching and playing are ideal when the learning is to be more making based. The curatorial challenge comes when trying to portray the real life experiences of the objects displayed when creating an exhibition. 



After our Bakery 47 cake munching break we were organized into groups based on our name badge star colours and were lead away into separate rooms to reflect on the days enlightenments, and two discuss two questions about Scotland cultivating a craft renaissance and how such a thing would come about.

(image via @CraftScotland)


I wont go into what was discussed now as all the answers are being written up from the notes taken on the day and will be posted at a later date by Creative Scotland, so i’ll wait until then to share the discussions with you.



The closing talk for today was by Fi Scott and Vana Coleman and their journey Make Works.

(image via @MikePress)


The pair, as a well as a few assorted guests, travelled around Scotland visiting factories, small businesses, foundries, workshops and studios in an old VW campervan. Their aims are to showcase the craftmanship throughout Scotland and create a database of places you can go to essentially get work made.

(image via Craft Scotland)


I hadn’t heard of their project before today and i’m so glad they were there to speak to us as i was hugely inspired by their passionate and down-to-earth accounts of their travels. I’m excited in anticipating the project results and seeing the documentary of their journey.

Their website can say what the are about a lot better than i can, visit Make Works for all the details of this incredibly inspiring project.


And after all that wonderful inspiration flying around our day ended with a well deserved glass of wine!

(image via @CraftScotland)




Everything i heard and saw today was delightfully enlightening and has left me so full of thoughts and ideas… i think now off to bed to reflect before tomorrow’s workshops…

… see you on the other side!

Chloe out.


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