Craft Scotland have been building a partnership with the American Craft Council over the last five years or so, which now means that twenty Scottish makers have the fantastic opportunity to showcase and sell their work in an exhibition in Baltimore, widening their international audience.
The Fountain spoke to Fiona Logue, Craft Scotland Director about the opportunities that they provide to the Scottish crafting community and what they look for in work when it comes to exhibiting makers’ work internationally.
TF: Craft Scotland obviously champions the works of makers of Scotland – can you go into more detail about what precisely it is that you do?
Okay so we are the national development agency for craft. We are funded from the Scottish government through Creative Scotland, so that’s mainly where we get our money from, and we try to create opportunities for makers, we try to support them throughout their creative and their business development. That includes providing opportunities to show and sell their work. We also run training programmes to help them develop their skills, particularly their business skills. We always give them some support on how to run a business.
We run a number of events over the year, in Scotland, throughout the UK, London, Baltimore, internationally and these are opportunities to showcase the craft work that is being produced in Scotland. We provide opportunities for the makers to make contacts longer term. Those contacts might be people that will commission work from them, they might stock them from one of their shops or give them a teaching opportunity, you just don’t know what might come out of it. We also want to build the audiences for craft which is really quite important. I am interested obviously in people that will buy or commission craft but we also want craft to be important to people and for them to understand the skill, dedication, the hard work that goes into it.
TF: This is wonderful news about this new partnership with the American Craft Council – what will that mean for work of Scotland’s skilled makers? Is this the first time that you have partnered with the ACC?
About five or six years ago the organisation did a piece of work that said what markets would be right to take Scottish crafting to and the American one was identified as one we should target for a number of reasons. The Americans get craft, they really understand it. At some of the exhibitions in the states, the people who collect craft really do understand and appreciate the work. They talk about the techniques, they love it. Also, they have money and are willing to pay for it. And of course there are the conversations about Scotland, as there are people that have family back here in Edinboro and that’s an attraction. We have something unique when we go there, we have the richness of heritage and culture which they love and appreciate.
Several years ago we identified the US market, which then led to an exhibition in Philadelphia which was very successful but you have to be invited to be there so you cannot go back every year even if you would like to do that and that exhibition in Philadelphia was where we started building those links with the American Crafts Council and it has taken about five years for this exhibition in Baltimore to come to fruition as the ACC have gone through various changes but they have now invited us as a guest country at the show in Baltimore.
In the meantime we have been at an exhibition in Chicago for the last four years, so the last four years we have been at SOFA which is Sculptural Objects and Functional Art and Design, and taking the work of makers there.
TF: And there are twenty skilled craftsmen and women that will be representing this heritage in Scotland – it must have been a difficult process to choose that twenty?
Yes, because there is a plethora of talent but the way we go about it is because we are publicly funded we always advertise the opportunity through our website we will put it out there as an opportunity and invite people to apply. And then what we do is we always have a jury selection. As well as Craft Scotland we invite a couple of other people who are peers in the sector to select the work.
TF: What was your criteria?
We were thinking about the audience and it is a selling exhibition so it has to be work of quality that we are proud to say is made in Scotland. We were looking for a varied selection of work, and at the moment Scotland has a lot of jewellers and people working in textiles so maybe those working in ceramic or glass but it was important that we are able to show a range of work and it had to be work that could be sold at a price point. So there are some very highly talented makers whose work is at a high price and we thought this is not right. It’s the type of thing you would go along to and probably make more of an impulse purchase.
TF: And are we likely to hear of more partnerships such as this in the near future, providing platforms for Scottish makers to get their work in new audiences? It’s all very exciting stuff – is this something at the moment that you are working hard to build upon?
Yes and no to the answer. A number of opportunities present themselves but we have limited resources and limited funding. We were invited to take part in a show in Germany called Unique which would have been a showcase of makers. At the end of the day we reviewed it and in terms of priorities it probably isn’t one that we could do.
The main place that we are looking to focus on, well as the U.S., at the moment is London, which is an international market for the makers here in Scotland. London attracts a lot of buyers from Europe, from the East, from Japan now. So we think we have not quite told the full story about Scottish craft and design in London, and for the next two or three years we are going to try and focus on this.
You can read more about Craft Scotland and what they are up to if you click here.