Make Works Tour in Inverness #thisismakeworks

This morning I got out and about to attend the Make Works Tour and Creative Industries Information Day at Cowan House in Inverness.

The day was hosted by HIE and emergents, and led by the lovely Fi and Vana from Make Works.  Fi Scott founded Make Works during her final year studying product design at Glasgow School of Art, after an internship in Brooklyn Fi returned with a realisation that it’s not that easy to find the practical means  to get things made here. She found after talking to a number of designers, makers, artists, craftspeople, architects, creative practices and manufactures in Scotland, they also expressed a need to be more closely connected with industry, machines, materials and the whole design to production process.  And Make Works was born.

Make Works Tour in Inverness

Make Works Tour in Inverness

The organisation itself is independent and design-led, it aims to celebrate and debate making, manufacture and materials, while connecting design with local industry. Their big project is the Make Works directory. The goal is to create a digital platform providing practical and relevant information about how to get things made in Scotland – from prototype to wholesale manufacture, this would be a directory for makers, manufacturers, factories, specific machinery, material suppliers and workshop or studio space.

Fi and Vana spoke very passionately about their vision to see Scotland’s craft and design industry, whether small cottage industries to large-scale manufacturing plants, showcased, documented and utilised by skilled designers and makers up and down the country.

I myself have come across a number of maker’s in the past who are looking to outsource or have products manufactured for them and simply can’t find, with ease, the right factories or companies in Scotland with the tools and know-how to do what they require. In one instance a maker ended up using an Indian based company despite her best efforts to want to use a Scottish company.

In some ways the Make Works directory will become our very own product design and producing online dating service. We want to be able, as makers and designer, to know who to approach, how to approach them and how to strike deals with manufacturers or people with the tools/skills we need to realise our design dreams.

Bashing out ideas for Make Works

Bashing out ideas for Make Works

What make’s the Make Works directory unique is its approach to collecting and displaying the data they are gathering at the moment while on their tour of Scotland. Instead of your bog standard name and contact details, Fi and Vana are visiting and meeting with the people who run these businesses, interviewing them, and producing short 90 second videos to accompany each entry into the database so we, the users of said directory, can actually see who the business is, what they do and how they do it.

The session today at HIE was looking at what our experiences are with production in Scotland and how we might want to use a directory like this. One of the things which was very much supported by all designers, makers and other interested parties at the session, was that we want to be able to say that our products are ‘Made in Scotland’ – completely. Not just that the company is  based in Scotland, that the materials might be from Scotland, but that the whole production process and therefore the making of the products are 100% Scottish.

Encouragingly Fi and Vana said they have been surprised and delighted by the number of creative businesses and manufacturers out there, and that there really isn’t any obvious gaps in the market. Which is fantastic for us makers, it’s just a matter of connecting the two together and making some beautiful work together.

The Make Works tour is currently under way, as Fi and Vana travel around the whole of Scotland in their Tartan VW camper called Rhubarb – you can follow the tour on their website and by following #makeworkstour

The aim is to launch the directory next April – so watch their space!

Inverness Castle and Ness River

New Beginnings

As of June HI-Arts, the cultural development agency for the Highlands and Islands, closed its doors after 20 years of providing support to the cultural and creative sectors of the Highlands, Islands, North East and beyond. I was privileged enough to work there for four years, where I was able to hone my skills, develop my knowledge and work with a talented group of individuals across Scotland.

This month I have set out on my own, as a freelancer based in Inverness, I aim to continue to work with the cultural and creative sector, as well as the tourism sector and with small businesses or all persuasions. My focus will be on marketing, promotion and audience (or customer) development, and after working so closely with numerous small businesses in the creative field on making the most of the digital and online world, there will be a slant towards taking advantage of the world wide web.

I’ve since started a 9 month contract with Strathpeffer Pavilion, a beautiful 19th century spa building in the lovely little village of Strathepeffer, about 30 minutes away from Inverness. The Pavilion is the UK’s most northerly Spa and now runs as a multi-purpose venue for the community, the Ross and Cromarty area, Inverness and beyond. The Pavilion puts on live music events, theatre, classical concerts, craft and food, arts and photography fairs, weddings and conferences. In the last couple of months it has doubled it’s staff members and has an eye to becoming the provider of choice for all types of entertainment and events in the Highlands.

I’ve been brought on board with Kris Reid to assist the team in developing and improving their branding, marketing and promotion, press and media relations, programming, sales and income generation, audience development, sponsorship and friends schemes – so quite a bit to do.

I’ll also be continuing to work with Pamela Conacher and Avril Souter on their crafts development programme, which has now joined with Peter Urpeth’s writing programme to form a new organisation; emergents. I am delighted to be able to continue to provide marketing and development support and advice to the many makers on the Making Progress and Made to Measure schemes over the next year.

To top all this off, I’m going to continue to work with HIE on their IT Engagement Programme, as a specialist advisor and trainer, specifically in social media. In the last year I’ve delivered workshops in Dornoch, Orkney, Oban and Caithness.

Over the next couple of months I’m also working on setting up a social media marketing  business – so watch this space!

If anyone is interested in finding out more about the services I can offer please do get in touch

This is it. This is Craft.

Made It! Exhibition 2010

Made It! Exhibition 2010

 Intellectual, physical, unique, challenging, beautiful, useful, tactile, extraordinary, cutting-edge, innovative, aesthetic, visual, thought-provoking, handmade, multi-disciplined, cultural, designed, artefacts, visual, sensitive…is this contemporary craft?

In recent years contemporary craft makers have been challenging our perceptions of what craft is, pushing the boundaries of traditional craftsmanship and emerging to represent a new, innovative and exciting art form. Jenny Deschenes, Laura West, Lucy Woodley and Daniel Kavanagh, four makers from across the Highlands and Islands, demonstrate in their joint exhibition Made It! the ingenuity, passion and creativity that contemporary craft is today.

The Highlands and Islands have long been a natural home for craft, its inspiring landscapes, rich mythology and wealth of natural materials, have contributed to the rise in interest and desire to understand, see and own Scottish craft, from both the traditional and contemporary sides of the spectrum. Craft is an integral part of the economic, social and cultural life of the Highlands and Islands, and its diversity combined with the increasing professionalism of the sector has opened up greater opportunities for growth, both for makers and for craft audiences. 

In order to sustain, grow and advance such a culturally rich and engaging art form, contemporary craft has been the focus of a number of initiatives set up and delivered by the HI-Arts Craft Development team. To support the emerging professional contemporary crafts makers in the Highlands and Islands HI-Arts launched the Making Progress programme back in November 2009. The mentoring and business support scheme was designed to support mid-career makers, demonstrating exceptional potential in their chosen field, and enable them to develop new work, be supported by talented and established Highland makers through mentorship, to exhibit their work, and develop their understanding of curating, marketing and management. 

Ceramics, textiles, wood and jewellery are the dominant disciplines for the Scottish craft scene; however the four makers selected for the Making Progress programme represent the diversity of contemporary craft today.

Jenny Deschenes A Chair

Made It! Jenny Deschenes

 Drawing together vintage fabrics with textile design, Jenny Deschenes’ work highlights how a maker can bring the old and the modern together with style and exciting flair. “I am interested in the intimacy of old fabric, to keep the character of old cloth but yet to infuse it with a new modernity and style.”

Laura West has reinvented the way bookbinding can be infused with art and craft. West has created her own signature range of unique artefact books which take inspiration from historical and multi-cultural book structures, “they are unique and contemporary artefacts meant to inspire the user and enhance them or their surroundings.”  

Daniel Kavanagh works with fine art ceramics which demonstrate both a classical and contemporary style, and is developing a fusion of bronze and ceramics to create unique and inspirational sculptural forms. 

Working from her studio in Tain, Lucy Woodley takes inspiration from her local environment, the sea and its many creatures finding itself as Woodley’s muse. Woodley’s jewellery brings together silver, gold, slate and sandblasted glass to create the sense of the flotsam and jetsam of the ocean. 

Made It! Spotlight Show Laura West

Made It! Spotlight Show Laura West

I was able to catch up with two of the Maker’s; Daniel Kavanagh and Laura West, to talk about their experience of the Mentoring Programme. The programme was designed to give these maker’s the freedom and support to explore their full potential, as West explains; “the mentoring process was like being given ‘permission’ to explore new materials and ways of working in order to come up with a whole new collection of work”. 

As maker’s based and working in the more remote and rural areas of Scotland it was important that through the mentoring programme there was a greater sense of community around their own artistic craftsmanship. Kavanagh felt he had really benefited from the experience as the “opportunity to be part of a collective group of makers has been a new experience … and one that has provided a lot of insight and reflection, just being able to share ideas about your work and the practical parts of exhibiting and applying to shows as well as the more humanistic opportunity to talk about the stresses and positives that being a maker can present has provided support and guidance that has allowed me to feel less isolated and more informed”. 

Made It! Mentors and Mentees

Made It! Mentors and Mentees

If anything the mentorship programme not only enabled these maker’s the time and space to focus on their craft and develop beyond their comfort zones, but gave them the confidence to face the future as a professional craft maker. “I feel excited by the future and what I have learnt on the programme and believe that this is a valuable experience for any maker at any stage of their career, it is easy to get bogged down by the day-to-day commitments and to have an opportunity to work in a structured way has allowed me to view both my work and my development in a new light”, Kavanagh explains. West echo’s this sentiment, admitting that the pieces she created for her Spotlight show “opened up a whole new range of possibilities in my work…No binder that I know of has attempted to move into the world of fashion in the way that I am attempting”. 

But the experience also had a profound affect on the mentors involved; Gilly Langton and Eileen Gatt. Gatt worked with Jenny Desenches and Lucy Woodley who felt the mentoring programme ‘has been a very rewarding experience, seeing [Lucy and Jenny] develop and become clearer about their career path. The mentoring process has been a very positive experience for everyone involved and it has proven to be a two way process, as I have gained a lot in terms of networking opportunities and the exchange of ideas and contacts has been valuable”. 

The theme of the exchange of ideas is a prevalent one across the Made It! Exhibition, with works on display, courtesy of the Craft Council, from notable maker’s such as Rupert Spira and Tord Boontje, the four maker’s were able to draw on collection items which have inspired their own practice, to exhibit alongside their work. 

Immersive Recordings

Immersive Recordings

Another exchange of ideas culminates in what might be perceived to be a video installation, but on closer inspection are videos of each of the maker’s and their mentors working from their own studios on their craft. HI-Arts partnered with Distance Lab to create these immersive and extraordinary insights into the world of the craft maker. Distance lab is a creative research institute bringing together digital media technology, design and the arts to redefine and overcome the issues and problems of distance. This collaboration required each maker to wear immersive recording devices (HD bullet cameras) around their chests, to have the freedom to move around and work in their studios. The overall effect is one of feeling very much a part of the craft and artistic work which you are viewing, rather than simply being a passive viewer. These recordings bring a totally unique and innovative insight into the world of the maker, their talent, skills and creativity, enabling you to appreciate the incredible works on display. 

The Made It! exhibition is a showcase of  four talented Highland and Island makers and works which have inspired their craft and runs until the of July 2010 at the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery.

Screen Machine Needs Your Vote!

The Screen machine mobile cinema is up for a National Lottery Award for 2010, but it needs your VOTE to make sure it wins! 

Screen Machine

Screen Machine

Screen Machine Mobile Cinema 

Category: Best Arts Project
Funding amount: £428,000
Location: Highlands, Islands and Argyll

“As a society, we are constantly being bombarded with new films,” says Graham Campbell, Manager of the Screen Machine Mobile Cinema. “If we don’t see them, we’re made to feel that we’re missing out on something.” The Screen Machine aims to change all that by making mainstream cinema accessible to rural communities across Scotland.  

An enormous articulated lorry, which expands into a fully functional 80-seater digital cinema, tours 23 remote Scottish locations, aiming to combat feelings of isolation and promote a sense of community spirit. The comfortable and spacious cinema offers an experience comparable with any modern cinema in terms of picture quality, sound and ambience. The Screen Machine selects areas that are isolated and are more than an hour away from a cinema, parks in an accessible local area, such as a car park or village square, and opens its doors.  

Lottery funding enabled the mobile cinema to be built, bringing the most up-to-date film releases to those who live in the remotest parts of the country.  

“Most of our audience are either children and families or older people,” says Graham.  “We offer films for everyone. Audiences see the latest movies, and it allows them to take part in a cultural and social activity that brings people together in a shared experience.”  

As well as helping the community and bringing local people together through a shared love of film, the Screen Machine can also help generate tourism in areas that are desperately in need of an economic boost. “Some of these towns and villages are extremely remote and people would not have any other way of seeing current films,” says Graham. “It allows families and individuals a chance to escape into another world for an hour or two and be moved by the magic of the movies.”  

Ian MacColl and Neil Macdonald are the drivers and operators of the mobile cinema and work separate two-week shifts. They also act as projectionist, front of house manager, ticket seller and cleaner, as well as maintaining the vehicle. They aren’t completely alone though – at every location, local people who are passionate about film join the team and work as ushers.  

VOTE NOW!!!!!  


Tour of Scotland: Shetland

This part of the tour has taken me the farthest North I have been in Scotland and to a place I have always longed to visit; Shetland. To make the most out of the trip I decided to take 5 days to explore the island and deliver two workshops, one in Lerwick and one in Unst. However, travelling this far north has meant that having a regular internet connetion (even with my fabby dongle) has been very limited. When I did find a free connection I was blocked from accessing wordpress, hence the full five days documented here for this single post. 

Lerwick, Shetland

Welcome to Shetland

Friday: I set off first thing on Friday morning, heading out to the Inverness Airport to hopefully catch my flight to Sumburgh. News reports of the second Volcanic Ash cloud and temporary No Flight Zones across the North and West coasts of Scotland had me worried, but thankfully the airport was open and I was checked in and ready to go. It was a tiny plane, not what I was used to when travelling back and forward from Hong Kong to Scotland when I was younger in jumbo jets, this jet was three seats wide and you could pretty much see the cockpit, I should definately travel like this more often. As we sat waiting for the plane to take off we were introduced to the Captain, who regrettably had to inform us of a delay in our departure, the ash had struck again! We were however comforted with the news that at the height we would be flying the ash would have no affect on us whatsoever, the delay was due to the fact that air traffic control was too busy sorting out the flight paths of the ‘Big Boys’ (as the Captain explained) and their delays and reschedules. So we waited on the tarmac for about 45 minutes before finally recieveing the ‘Go Ahead’ we’d been waiting for. 

In a sense this flight was more like an aero-bus, stopping off in Kirkwall to drop some travellers off and to pick up a couple along the way. This stop over in Kirkwall however meant that we were grounded and needed air traffic control once again to give us a time to take off – and surprise, surprise, they were too busy to deal with our plane. So we sat on the tarmac once again, this time for about an hour, before the Captain took the executive decision to fly across to Sumbrugh anyway. It wasn’t until we were about 5 minutes into the journey that I realised what that meant; it meant flying at 2000 feet above sea level. What an incredible way to fly, a beautiful sunny day, the waves crashing below and a clear path to Sumburgh, hurrah! 

I arrived in Sumburgh about 2 hours later then planned, and unfortunately the lad who was greeting me to drive me out to where I could collect the car I’d hired, had had to wait around for an extra hour in the airport! But he wasn’t bothered, he liked being around planes, and was saving up enough money to pay is his way through Flight School in the States. On collecting the car, I drove around a little, getting lost, no surprise there. But I eventually found the sign posts marked ‘Lerwick’ and set off along the winding and mountainous cliff tops towards Shetlands main town. 

Lerwick grew out of the fishing trade and still has a functioning harbour port. I decided to take a stroll along Commercial Street to take in the atmosphere, and found a fantastic crafty shop along the main drag called the Peerie Shop. A peek in there and I saw a decidedly inviting cafe, that promised a hot cup of tea and a bite to eat. I was due to meet with the lovely people at Shetland Arts at 3pm so a fresh Shetland salmon bagel and cream cheese would tie me over until then. 

Bonhoga Gallery

Bonhoga Gallery - Image from Shetland Arts

I went to meet with Mary Smith, who I found out was the founder of the Bonhoga Gallery, and gave me a fascinating insight into the world of arts and culture in Shetland as well as invaluable local insight on where to visit and what to see while I was here. Most exciting is the Arts Centre that is currently being built down by the Shetland Museum, to be called The Mareel – Shetland Arts’ New Venue and opening in 2011, this will be a cinema, music and education venue, looking out over Lerwicks waterfront. I picked up a map with a representation of what the venue will look like, and I have to say I am really jealous, it will be a fabulous complex for locals and visitors alike, and once again reaffirm Shetland’s place within the Arts and Cultural sector, not that it really needs a boost. (It also begs another trip to Shetland – perhaps one that falls during the Tall Ship races next spring!) 

After my meeting with Shetland Arts I took myself off to find the B&B I’d booked, and lucky me, it was so central, Commercial Street was literally within a stones throw away. After dropping off a bag heavier then myself, I decide to take a stroll through Lerwick, dropped into the Islesburgh Community Centre, where I was doing the workshop the next day, and then found somewhere for a bite to eat. I have to say though, I was a little disappointed with the choice, or rather lack of choice, of somewhere to eat, Chinese, Chinese or extortionate prices. Eventually settled on an Italian bistro, had my fill and headed back to get some rest before the first workshop on Saturday. 

Saturday: Up early and along to the Islesburgh Community Centre to set up for the workshop. Had a great big room with a fab projector (I really am such a geek!), and just waited for everyone to arrive. The Lerwick workshop had been fully booked, and thankfully one person had contacted me earlier to say they couldn’t attend so I was able to accommodate for a late booking on Thursday afternoon. But as always I had lost some people along the way, so eventually we had a good size group of 18 people. 

What is great about these sessions is the variety of people who attend; we had jewelry designers, crafty sorts, someone from a heritage group and a photographer, just to name a few. The conversation got a little excited over the values of Social Media, and I am beginning to realise that I might be fighting a ‘social’ battle here, but I was able to explain the true value of using platforms like Facebook and Twitter, reminding people to have their professional, rather then personal, hats on when thinking about how social media can benefit and expand your potential audience. While my  Chewbacca example might not have gone down well, the brilliant Peakcock Visual Arts facebook page told a different story, demonstrating not only the best way to be using facebook to promote what you do, but how to engage people, and give them a voice, not only within the organisation itself, but over the controversial Union Square debate. 

North Rock Gallery

North Rock Gallery

It was a beautiful day outside, and everyone had their own Saturday afternoon things to do. So I took the opportunity to drop into the North Rock Gallery. The North Rock has become a bit infamous in the HI-Arts office, as my colleagues and I love their facebook page and all the beautiful arty items that they sell. So I popped into have an actual look for myself. The gallery itself sells all sorts of local craft and art, and luckily while I was there I not only got to see the incredible photography of Mark Sinclair I also got to meet him too. Mark and his wife set up the North Rock Gallery about a year ago, and it really is a family affair, with his sister working there at weekends and window dressing the downstairs shop. I tried to convince the both of them to set up a North Rock in Inverness, but what with a small family, Mark didn’t seem convinced! 

After pottering around the gallery for a while I then headed out to the Shetland Museum and Archive. What a beautifully designed and set out museum this is, I highly recommend this as a visit if you are ever in Lerwick. Aside from its setting against the waterfront and harbour, there is a real life boat yard within the building and a fascinating and interactive tour through the ages of Shetland. 

Shetland Museum - Voices of Shetland

Shetland Museum - Voices of Shetland

I also stumbled upon their latest exhibition from the artists Frances Pelly and John Cumming; Da Gadderie. Both studied at Scottish Art Colleges in the 1960s and focused their attention on sculpture and ceramics at a time when the discipline of drawing dominated most art students timetables. Both were interested in island culture and traditional craftmanship, which led to this joint exhibition, which has been on show at the Pier Arts Centre in Orkney and the Bonhoga Gallery here in Shetland. The exhibition itself comprised of figurative and abstract sculptures, relief panels of clay, stone, plaster, wood and paper, and are clearly influenced by the natural environment from which Cumming originated (Burra, Shetland) and Pelly’s influences from Orkney, Aberdeen and Norway. The overall exhibition was one of retrospection, to give the viewer a sense of their achievements in the contemporary world of sculpture, a beautifully curated exhibition, it was a great introduction into what I could expect while exploring the island of Shetland. 



The Coastal Walk

The Coastal Walk


Sunday was spent exploring Lerwick. First thing I set off, after a hefty Scottish breakfast, along the coast walk through Lerwick. It was a fabulous day and a pleasant walk, I even got to see my first wild seals, and sat to watch them sun bathe on the rocks, if only I could join them! I then hopped into the car and drove off south to see the famous St. Ninians Isle. Stopping for a well deserved cuppa and scone in the St. Ninians Cafe/Gallery, the other customers and I were regaled with stories of ghostly Alsatian dogs (best go there yourself to get the full story – and it’s definitely worth the punch line). The drive down to the Isle itself was spectacular, and when it opened up to reveal this beautiful natural sand causeway, I was in awe. 

Sunday in Shetland

Sunday in Shetland

I also made a new friend, who after sniffing my shoes and following me across the Isle I decided to call her Ninian. The black collie followed me all the way across the causeway and over the hill on the other side before abandoning me for her owners (animals are so fickle). Up until I started to make my way back across the causeway the weather had been great, sunny but not particularly warm, now it was cold, windy and hailing! I have come to realise that Shetland weather most definitely suffers from Split Personality Syndrome. Cheeks rosy and eyes streaming I managed to fight the gale back to the comfort of the car. I then took off back towards Lerwick, but not before stopping in Hoswick for a cup of tea at the local tourist centre, and then stopping, albeit very briefly to see the Scalloway Castle. Scalloway was the ancient capital of Shetland, and sits further south then Lerwick does, right along the west coast.  By this time it was absolutely piddling it down, and getting windier and colder by the minute. It is an interesting experience when you have to be constantly steering slightly to the left when driving just to counter the wind and stay driving straight along the road. It was fast approaching dinner time, had a bite to eat in Lerwick, once again slightly disappointed, and then much needed zzz’s. 

Monday: Up super early this morning to travel up to Unst, the farthest Northern inhabited island in Scotland. Two ferries and a 2 hour drive, I’d hoped to stop in at the Bonhoga Gallery, if it hadn’t been for the fact that it closes on a Monday. But I was lucky enough to meet Andy Ross of the Centre for the Creative Industries in Yell, at the Wind Dog Cafe

Welcome to Unst

Welcome to Unst

After a couple cups of tea (this trip is quickly shaping up to be a Tea tour of Shetland), I then boarded the second ferry of the day to Unst. Unst not only has the farthest Northern post office in the UK, it is also home to the farthest Northern operational lighthouse in the UK. Both of which I got to see, the second requiring me to take a trip up a very steep mountain, ignore the big NO Trespasser’s signs from the MOD (although they no longer have 

Muckle Flugga

Muckle Flugga

operations here there is still all the signage and most of the homes and military buildings), and traverse across the bog (converse trainers, wet, boggy, grass, sheep and scary looking birds – not the best idea I’ve had) but well worth it, for the views out towards Muckle Flugga and across Unst were incredible! 

Oh, did I mention that in between the spells of sunshine I was blasted with rain, hail and snow! Yes, snow, in the middle of May. While having a bite to eat in the ‘Last Checkout’ shop and cafe (loved the name all the more for knowing that it is in fact the last checkout if your traveling further north), the locals were all explaining how this time last year it was sun, sun, sun, and were not impressed with the snow and hail showers we were all being pummeled with. But then I guess that’s the kind of weather you have to expect when you are an island so exposed to the Atlantic and North Seas. 

While exploring Unst I was practically jumping up and down when I came across the Unst Bus Shetler, the most luxurious bus stop ever. Covered in bright orange, the computer might be uber retro, the phone might not be plugged in anywhere, but the inviting Sheeps wool cover, Irn Bru posters and dainty orange and yellow flowers definitely makes this the most welcoming and beautiful bus stop I’ve ever seen. It’s taken many different guises since local schoolboy Bobby Maculay started to add bits a bobs to make the shelter a little more inviting. The Shetler has been featured in numerous magazines, newspapers and radio, and was voted the best bus shelter in Britian by Buses Magazine. What was equally endearing was the small memorial plaque just infront of the bus shelters traffic  island…(see the photo below).   

Unst Bus Shelter

Unst Bus Shelter

Memorial to John Peel

Memorial to John Peel

While I am in Unst I’ll be delivering a second workshop at Saxa Vord, and old military compound that has been turned into self-catering chalets and a hostel. Although basic, the people here are amazing, had a great chat this afternoon with Rose, the housekeeper, who on finding out I hadn’t any tea bags disappeared and returned with a whole cup full of them and some milk for me, ‘least I catch cold this evening’! 

Tuesday: Up early this morning to help set up the dining room for the workshop today. Unfortunately I’d had a  number of cancellations, but as I had no internet access I wasn’t to know this until later in the morning, when people started to arrive. It definitely made me realise just how reliant I am on the internet and my mobile phone, and while it was liberating not being contactable or able to contact anyone, there were still the downsides. (I was told later that day that if I walked around the back of the building down towards the bus shelter on the other side of the hill, and stood behind this with the phone pointing towards the South, I would in fact receive O2 signal.)  So we were a smallish group this morning and it was a more relaxed affair. Again the conversation only really got going when social media was introduced into the mix, this time concerns over privacy was most prevalent on people’s minds. There appear to be a lot of concerns over using social media, and the access that these platforms seem to have into our personal lives, but remember the Facebook’s, Twitter’s and Bebo’s of this world only hold the information you give it, they can’t read your inner thoughts and secrets, don’t share what you don’t want people to know. But again it’s incredibly important to know what level of privacy these platforms offer, and I will be investigating further the privacy issues surrounding social media in a later blog post. 

After the workshop was finished and I’d bought some Unst Bus Station fudge (vanilla and orange – yum), I then had the long journey back to Lerwick, and then onto my last B&B in Levenwick. 


On Wednesday morning I was up and out by 6.45am to be at the airport for my flight back to Inverness. I had an excellent week in Shetland and feel I have been granted a privilege of working with the local artists, makers and practitioners of the arts and cultural sector here. It is an amazing array of Islands, with an enterprising, independent and self-reliant community, a group of people in which we can all learn from when it comes to getting things done. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay, and all the wonderful people I met along the way. A couple of things really struck me on my return to the mainland, firstly that there were no tress anywhere in Shetland, it really is a rocky and barren island, although there are some fantastic sites, cliff tops, natural causeways, mountains and lochs, it really is the richness and diversity of the local communities which make Shetland a fantastic place to visit. I was also overwhelmed with the sense of distance, especially when I was in Unst, I felt really far away, it felt isolating and remote, even though I have visited remote communities across the Highlands, here in Unst, with a plane journey, drive up to the top of ‘mainland Shetland’, two ferries and a further drive all the way across the Island of Unst, you have a physical sense of the distance between you and your home, but also the distance between you and anyone else. Standing atop of Saxa Vord looking down and out over Unst, I really then began to appreciate and respect the communities and individuals who have made their lives here and welcome travelers and visitors as if they were one of their own.   

Looking out over Unst

Looking out over Unst

eMarketing Music Special

Last week I delivered another web marketing workshop, this time it was designed specifically for musicians and bands, an eMarketing Music Special if you like.

emarketing music special

emarketing music special

I’ve uploaded the presentation onto Slideshare so please if your interested take a gander.

 If you think there might be opportunities for other eMarketing Specials please do get in touch, everything from visual arts to theatre, I can deliver more tailored made sessions. Contact me at or drop me a comment here.

Promote Your Art

Promote Your Art

Promote Your Art

 Are you an artist based in the Highlands and Islands? Perhaps you’re an art gallery or a theatre company, maybe your a musician.

Whatever your artform I invite you to be part of my Highlands and Islands Art Blog. Every month I’d like to change the Banner on my Blog to promote the great work, design and events that happen across the Highlands and Islands. This month is the Belladrum Festival, a fantastic festival in the heart of the Highlands! 

If you would like to promote your art why not send me a ‘Blog Banner’. Images need to be 700 x 200 pixels and in a jpeg or gif format. Include your website or any relevant contact details that we can promote you through the Banner. 

If you’d like to ‘Guest Post’ for the Highlands and Islands Art Blog please do get in touch with me. If you have a great event running, a inspirational story to tell, or want to write about an arts and cultural issue, then please consider this your portal to a wider Arts community. 

As always contact me at or drop me a comment below. You can always find me on facebook and twitter as well. I look forward to hearing from you!

The lay of the land



Over the next couple of months HI-Arts will be working hard to develop a new and exciting audience development project. While I can’t go into the specifics at the moment, I would like to ask for your help.

We’d like to get a real picture of the landscape of arts and culture across the Highlands and Islands. In order to do this I need a couple minutes of your time.

If you are a Highlands and Islands based artist, musician, promoter, arts venue, community group… anyone involved in the Arts and Cultural sector basically, be part of this Highlands and Islands wide audience development survey.

Just click here to complete the survey.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me on


Tour of Scotland: Orkney Day 2

I am back in the office today, after a great 3 days in Orkney. After a beautiful journey up to Orkney and across from St. Margaret’s Hope to Kirkwall, day 2 unfortunately was not nearly as sunny and warm, but then I wasn’t too bothered, as I was preparing to spend day 2 talking about web marketing.  
The Pickaquoy Centre
The Pickaquoy Centre

The Pickaquoy Centre, in Kirkwall, was the venue, and what an amazing facility this is. Everything from sports to arts, with a hugely helpful and friendly staff, it was a delight to turn up at 8.30am on this overcast Wednesday morning to find everything ready to go. I also have to recommend the homemade shortbread, that kept us all going in the late morning.  

 The second workshop went down well again, and like the Inverness workshop, there was allot of discussion and conversation about the merits and return on time social media provides makers, artists and the heritage sector. While there are huge benefits from using social media, in terms of developing different and possibly new relationships with your current audience or your potential audience, social media also allows you the opportunity of presenting a human face and personality to your brand. However, with so many social media and social networks available the real question is ‘Where do I find the time to do all this?’ and ‘What is the real benefit, how can I see that this is making any difference?’  What needs to be stressed is that like all marketing strategies, be it posters and leaflets, exhibitions or your web presence, marketing is something which you need to consider as part of your craft or business, rather then something you bolt on as an extra, as something of an necessary evil. Let’s face it, none of us would be able to do what we do, sell artwork, put on performances and shows, keep museums and heritage centers open, if it wasn’t for public interest and ultimately audiences and customers. So if your public sits at the heart of what you do, and why you do it, then marketing and promoting that work should be as central to your day as making sure you have the right materials to create your work.   

Back to the issue of Time and Effort. Previously marketing was a task you set aside a week or two to concentrate on, then once your marketing and publicity is confirmed, printed and distributed, you could then sit back and wait for the customers and audiences to arrive. However the way we schedule and implement marketing today has seen a shift from the focused 2 weeks to marketing everyday. Social media particularly requires input on at least a daily basis, which will obviously seem like more time and effort spent, without the immediate and obvious impact or effectiveness. Facebook have since introduced an Insights page, a basic analyzer for your business pages, with Twitter you can monitor the impact of your conversation by charting your hashtags, with youtube you can clearly see how many people have viewed your videos on a daily basis, and with similar analytics to Facebook, you can analyze who your viewers are. So social media is developing to include the necessary analytics that businesses and organisations need to identify whether a strategy of social media is worthwhile or not really worth the time at all. But by focusing strongly on the impact; time versus effectiveness; we are in danger of forgetting what social networks are about and why we, as well as our audiences use social networks.   

Social networks are just that, communities of people coming together to find out and keep informed, in an informal way, of the news, events, activities, thoughts and conversations had by the businesses, organisations or artists that they want to know about. Remember your Fans on Facebook or your Followers on Twitter, have consciously decided to follow you, to not only keep up to date with your activities and news, but also to show their loyalty to what you do. These are not just fans in name, but most likely in nature too. What other marketing activity enables you to have direct conversations with your customers or audiences in real time, when they might be on the other side of the world? And with the nature of social media, people feel more at ease in having those valuable informal and social conversations, so use your social media and networks well, and you can elicit information from your audiences or potential audiences which you might not have been able to gather using the more traditional e-marketing techniques.   

Ultimately, social media is something you embrace or not, you need to use Facebook like a Facebooker and Tweet like a Tweeter to get the most out of these platforms…if your still not sure, your not convinced, then just give it a go, you can’t do any harm by experimenting.

Tour of Scotland: Orkney Day 1


Orkney Sunshine
Driving across to Kirkwall

Yesterday morning I set off in earnest Orkney bound, and I couldn’t have hoped for a better journey up the road. A 3 hour drive to Gills Bay, to embark upon the Pentland ferry to St Margarets Hope, and a smooth, wave free crossing was on the cards – hurray. I’d visited Orkney back in October last year, and it was amazingly good weather then, however I was not prepared for what awaited me once I’d cautiously disembarked from the ferry, it was absolutely stunning. Orkney has a reputation for capturing people’s hearts, and I can completely see why, instantly I was surrounded by beautiful crystal clear bays, blue skies which seemed to go on for miles, and white cotton-like clouds floating peacefully above.      

Orkney has an incredibly rich culture and history, and seeing the wrecks of WW2 ships emerging from the sea bed, rusty and broken, it is a stark reminder of the reality of life the people of Orkney endured during that stressful and violent time. And then sitting atop of a hill is the stunning Italian Chapel on Lambs Holm. Small, but oranately designed, this is testement to the character of the Orkney Islands. Built by 550 Italian prisions of war, brought to Orkney in 1942, they were charged with the task of constructing the Churchill Barriers to the east of Scapa Flow. The chapel was constructed from very limited materials, joining two Nissen Huts together, using corrugated iron, plasterboard, and painted by a POW Domenico Chiocchetti, the prisoners created a santuary for themselves and their religion. Chiocchetti remained on to finish the chapel, even though his fellow prisoners were released shortly after the war. In 1958 the Chapel Preservation Committee was set up by a group of local Orkadians to preserve this beautiful church, and in 1960 Chiocchetti, who had left Orkney sometime after the end of the war, returned to assist in its restoration. It stands now in Lambs Holm for all to take some form of santuary within.      

So aside from being distracted by the scenery and history, I did eventually make it to Kirkwall. Easy bit over, now to find the B&B. Now, unless you know anything of my past scottish travels, then you’ll know that I have a terrible ability to find my final destination, no problem getting to the area, but find a specific road, a specific place, be it an art venue, someones home or a B&B, maps and my iphone just don’t seem to do the trick. So I ended up on a car-tour of Kirkwall before I was able to get my bearings, after several 3 point turns and driving past the St. Magnus Cathedral numerous times, eventually I arrived at the Eastbank House.     

It was then off back into the town centre, to soak up the rays and enjoy the summertime vibes. What strikes me about Kirkwall is its obious unique character, and this is so prominent along the main drag. Yes, you’ve got the obligatory Boots and newsagents, but other then that the shops here are all independent and definately Orkadian. Something which I think larger towns and cities have lost, their own identities. Two such shops sum up this independent culture, Sheila Fleet, the award winning jewelery designer and Tait and Style, a crafts and needlepunching designer with a reputation for using innovative and unique fabrics. Both are clearly influenced by their natural and cultural surroundings, reflecting the sky, sea and landscape as well as the folklore and traditions of the Orkadian way.      

What struck me was the ingenious of Tait and Style’s Wool and Wine idea. What a brilliant way to shop, oh I want that wool, and while I’m kniting I’d like a wee glass of wine – oh I can buy them both in one shop – ace!   

Craft is a major element of what makes Orkney so unique. The Orkney Crafts Association demonstrates the influence and attraction of craft for many people across the UK and beyond. The OCA designed a Craft Trail across Orkney and its many outlying islands. What I feel sets the Orkney Craft Trail apart from other arts trails is that you, as a visitor, have the opportunity to see these craft makers work in their own studios and workshops, you get the chance to see behind the scenes, set against the backdrop of this beautiful and inspiring island. But I was saddened to see that the Craft Associations shop, which was once full of craft and design, now sits empty along the Kirkwall coastline. I will need to investiagte further tomorrow to find out why, 6 months on from my last visit here, their shelves are now bare. (NB. Turns out the OCA rent the shop space over the summer months, so to my relief the shop will be open once more.)

After my ramble along winding narrow streets and dodging cars on single track lanes, I found myself inexplicably in a bookshop. The Orkadian Bookshop to be precise. I love books, and i wanted to see if there were any interesting books about the island I was currently a guest off. My word, I hadn’t anticipated the wealth of literature on Orkney, everything from your typical tourists guide, to books on the bird life of the island, to Island writers. I could have spent an age browsing, but then something really unique took my eye: ‘The Mermaid Bride and other Orkney folk tales’ told by Tom Muir. What better way to gain an insight into the nature of this beautiful island, then reading about the folklore and fairytales thought up and told for generations to the children and people of Orkney.   

The Mermaid Bride - folkstories

The Mermaid Bride - folkstories


After a much needed cup of tea and a bite to eat, in the Trenebies Bistro, it was back up the road to the Eastbank House. So here I am soaking up more rays while rooks gobble up the bits of leftovers thrown out by the landlord. It’s a far cry from the wet, wild and wintery picture painted of the North over the last few months, and it has revitalised me in a way which was much needed.      

But, I am not here to gush about Orkney, and I am not here to wile away my time between tea and cake and crafts. No, tomorrow is the second web marketing workshop, lets hope that tomorrow is just as beautiful. Perhaps if we’ve got sufficient power cables we should move the workshop outside and do a bit of online work, offline and in the sun.