AGM Celebrates Remarkable Year for AAS

“It has been a phenomenal year for Applied Arts Scotland” were the opening words from AAS chair and ceramicist Carol Sinclair as she welcomed Members to the 2019 AAS Annual General Meeting at Edinburgh Printmakers, and as news was shared of activities ranging from international residencies to training and apprenticeships it was clear that 2019 has undoubtedly been remarkable.

A lightening tour of AAS projects began with AAS Vice Chair and Aberdeen based textile artist Lynne Mennie who took part in a residency in Mexico in January through British Council Crafting Futures. She described how introducing artisans to the concept of turning sounds into textile patterns had invigorated young people who wanted to be involved with textiles again and that participating women were pleased their domestic sounds were just as important as those from men.

This new relationship between the two countries is continuing to grow, in September three Mexican artisans came to Scotland to work with two Scottish textile designers, and in November a Scottish maker will take part in a second residency in Mexico.

The tour of projects then travelled to Afghanistan as Lewis based AAS Board Member and textile artist Netty Sopata discussed another British Council Crafting Futures project working on digital training with female artisans to develop their skills in design and craft. She described facilitating their need to create their own materials and learn to do natural dyeing as they are surrounded by manmade materials.

A trip to Nova Scotia was next as Highland based AAS Board Member Pamela Conacher explained Shift Canada, a partnership between AAS, Edinburgh College of Art and Nova Scotia School of Craft and Design, which brings makers from Scotland and Canada together on exchange residencies to collaborate and create new work.

The new works from Shift Canada and the British Council Crafting Futures projects in Mexico and Thailand will be presented in a touring exhibition which will open at Swanson Gallery in Thurso on July 2020 with an international symposium at North Lands Creative in Lybster and Lyth Arts Centre in Wick on 3/4 July 2020 exploring the themes of Collaboration, Sustainability and Identity which is funded by Creative Scotland. Sign up to our newsletter for news on the call for papers in December and for tickets available from January 2020.

The international journey ended in Thailand with Glasgow based AAS Advisor Helen Voce describing a training project carried out earlier in 2019 in a community under military rule because of war where women have to make money to live on while the men are fighting. AAS worked with Wanita, a social enterprise to support and empower women, delivering training which will enable basketmakers to develop new products and markets.

AAS has been working with British Council Thailand since 2017 to create a digital craft toolkit which supports artisans and communities to develop professional practice and this will be launching in Thailand and Scotland in 2020. The toolkit is flexible and will provide support for makers at all stages of their careers and is simple and quick to use. In Scotland AAS has been testing a model for short shared apprenticeships and will be holding an event to share these findings and ideas with the wider creative sector. Interesting conversations are taking place with potential partners to develop the model particularly in the Highlands.

This growth in AAS activities over the past two years has led to a review of the membership structure and in November two new types of membership will be launched and a small membership fee will be introduced to contribute to the administration costs of running the events and activities of the organisation. The three types of membership will be Professional, Associate and International and each will offer a range of benefits for makers.

After lunch and networking there was a talk on the new Edinburgh Printmakers building which was the venue for the AGM by the project architect and new AAS Advisor Suzy O’Leary of Page & Park Architects. This was followed by a session led by Fife based AAS Board Member and jeweller Stefanie Cheong exploring environmental and ethical practice within the craft sector and a discussion on what AAS can do as an organisation to support makers in developing sustainable practices.

Look out over the next year for more information about the outcomes of the afternoon discussion and the other exciting projects discussed at the AGM as AAS continues to grow and make a real difference for the making community in Scotland.

Image: Edinburgh Printmakers

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    Applied Arts Scotland SCIO is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SC022604)