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!

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.

A Tour of Scotland: Inverness

This time last week I was putting the finishing touches to the first web marketing workshop presentation. With all the information, resources, tools, advice, tips and tricks out there to make sure you’re getting the best results from your web presence, it really was a matter of filtering down to the most relevant and essential tools and tips.

With all the information floating about in my head, it would be a lie to say I wasn’t nervous about my first workshop. But I need not have worried, because the first workshop went down a treat with the first group of web marketees.

The discussions, stories and tips shared by the group demonstrated how the web sits firmly within the domain of the user, and that by bringing this unique group of people together we had created a new network, a new community, one who wanted to continue the conversation and share their experiences.

But the conversation does not stop with the end of the workshop, oh no! Let’s keep the conversation, sharing of stories, ideas, tips and tricks going…

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Next Tour Stop: Orkney 14th April, Pickaquoy Centre, Kirkwall.

IMAGination

IMAG Badger

IMAG Badger

IMAG – The Inverness Museum and Art Gallery is located at the top of a steep hill in the heart of Inverness’s high street. Set behind a large, 1970’s design monstrosity, when you do make it up to the top of the hill, you’ll find a beautifully modern entrace, and usually some locally commissioned art on the walls ahead of you.

 
The first museum in Inverness was founded in 1826 for the ‘Northern Institute for the Promotion of Science and Literature’. Its collection was inherited by IMAG, which has been opening its doors to visitors since 1880. My sister and I joined the ranks of visitors who have come to learn, be educated, and enjoy the combination of modern art and a historic trip around scotland within the confines of the warm, sheltered, and cosy four walls of the museum.
 
Both my sister and I have been going to museums with our father for as long as we can remember, the Edinburgh Museum on Chambers Street being a particular favourite summer time destination. However with its refurbishment we have been forced to look elsewhere for our museum fix. So when she arrived the other weekend I thought this was a great opportunity to rekindle our youthful memories as well as give her an insight into the highland way of life.
 
Needless to say, we certainly did recall our youth, to be more accurate we reverted back to our youthful selfs. IMAG is fantastic for its interactive elements, most of which are designed to stimulate learning and understanding in actual children, rather then two adults in their mid-twenties. But it was fantastic, I couldn’t remember the last time I actually drew with crayons, bullied my younger sister into dressing up like a highlander, and attempting to play tunes on a synthesied organ. Brilliant.
 
However, what really made the visit enjoyable, was the dead animal section towards the end of the entire exhibit. Never in my life have I ever seen a seductive badger…I have now!
 
If you’re ever up in Inverness you need to check out IMAG. It’s a brilliant way to spend an hour or so rediscovering the excitement and laughter of youth.
 
The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent HI-Art’s positions, strategies or opinions.