Craft Scotland Conference 2016

At the end of August I heard about the Craft Scotland Conference for 2016 which was to be held at the University of Dundee. I thought it would be a great thing to attend to help me feel part of the wider craft community. Sometimes I feel a little detached in that way since I'm in the very early stages of my weaving business and as it's not my main job (although working in a wool shop is probably the next best thing!). Anyway, I know I need to make a bit more of an effort to connect with like-minded people and get myself out there and involved. I subscribe to Craft Scotland's Opportunities mailing list and also to Emergents, who offer support in many ways to creative people in the Highlands & Islands. This is how I heard about the Go and See fund from Emergents. Living in a remote area means travel costs can be prohibitive, and this can really impact on an individual's ability to attend all the amazing creative events going on, even just getting to mainland Scotland.

My trip didn't go quite as planned unfortunately, but I did benefit from it and I'm very grateful for the assistance from Emergents. If you haven't read my last post then it might make more sense if you read that first.

The morning after the conference felt like a good time to review the half day which I'd managed to attend. So over tea and toast in bed, I gathered my notebook and the booklets I'd picked up the day before.

Reading through the annual review, ideas immediately started coming to me about my own practice. I started to see where I wanted to be and how my practice could take centre-stage in my life.

As I continued to read about the opportunities which other makers had utilised I felt more and more encouraged. The feeling that this is right for me, that the creative community is where I fit, became stronger. Particularly after my doubts during the Conference day I was reassured that my panic had been a temporary (very badly timed!) blip. I won't talk about what I missed out on in the afternoon, but for the speakers I listened to in the morning I'm glad I was there as each one passed on something different to me. There were two in particular with whom I connected:

Nicholas Oddy - Head of Design History & Theory at Glasgow School of Art, talked about the consistent importance of craft, although it seems still a bit lost between fine art and design. This struck a chord with me as I certainly found this in my own creative education, it is exactly as he said - "there is intellect behind it", and for me a great deal of meaning. This combined with technical skills and knowledge, which do take time to build and which were slightly missing from my more design-based education. I think it's something like 10,000 hours of working, learning and improving in a particular discipline before you are considered a master. Craft takes time and I like that. Consideration and the care taken is a great part of what makes craft special.

Dominic Wilcox - The standout phrase from Wilcox, which also links to my thoughts above from Oddy's talk, is, "...you can see the person in the object." I love that! For me making is such a personal thing, I imagine artists and writers sometimes feel quite exposed when releasing their work to the public and I have often felt like that with my textile designs, weaving, photography and this blog. But I think that vulnerability is exactly what I need and it is essential to me that I share part of myself through my practice. Wilcox talked often about play, not restricting ideas in any way, but also how necessary it was for him to have a deadline. This was useful for me when considering the way in which I work as I either seem to come up with a good number of ideas leading on and on to variations, so much that I get a bit lost in it all (deadlines useful here!), or, I get stuck thinking that I need to see the exact end product in my head before I even begin (playfulness required here!).

None of this is perhaps new, or even new to me, but it was a reminder, and it's this reminding that I've found of most value in (part)attending the Craft Scotland Conference. As I said at the beginning of this post, since my creative and weaving practice is not my main job and my studio is at home rather than in a 'hub' with others, it seems easier to get lost and a little disconnected at times. Which is why having the opportunity to take part in what's going on in the wider craft community means so much to me. Although Shetland is a wonderfully inspiring place to live and there are many creative people here, getting away from the familiar can bring a refreshing boost! Support like Emergents and Craft Scotland are wonderful as information can be accessed from a distance and the online presence helps me to still feel part of a larger creative environment. The Go & See funding made the difference for me in even considering attending the Conference. I hope to be able to attend events on the mainland in the future, knowing that the support is there if I need it is incredibly encouraging.