Role of Sustainability, Identity & Collaboration in the Future of Making

In July our International craft symposium Old stories, new narratives will bring together makers, designers and the craft community to consider sustainability, identity and collaboration in their broadest terms and what they mean for the future of making practice in a globally connected world.

Taking place in the beautiful landscape of Caithness at Scotland’s most northerly arts centre the three days of discussions, conversations and making will be a time for creative reflection, nourishment and new inspiration.

The three themes being explored – sustainability, identity and collaboration – were chosen for their current relevance to makers and to the heart and soul of making practice. 

As the importance of sustainability grows in the way we live today, what does it mean for makers?  Last year AAS began to explore the topic with an event for makers to consider sustainability in their making practice. 

Speakers included Professor Sandra Wilson, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, who shared information about her latest research on extracting gold from post-consumer electronic waste; currently only 11% of metals are recovered from high tech equipment such as computers and mobile phones. Dr Sam Vettesse, Edinburgh Napier University, who discussed fusing PLA (poly lactic acid) with waste materials from the textiles industry to create a compound that could be used for 3d printing and laser cutting.  Jeweller and AAS Board Member Stefanie Cheong reported on the day for AAS to share the discussions.

The way craft and identity are bound together was evident throughout all the residencies in AAS projects.  An example is the residency in Chile offered to Scottish furniture designer Isabelle Moore through the British Council Crafting Futures Programme.

Living in a traditional wood carving community in the town of Liquiñe she experienced the skills and techniques passed down through the generations of Indigenous Mapuche woodcarvers in this region.  Theirs was a valley of wood and wooden structures, without the material diversity of the west, and she worked with the artisans to explore ways they could develop their personal styles or range of products while retaining the provenance of work produced in this town.  Her experience led her to consider the traditions subconsciously imbedded in the objects she creates, the importance to connection and association with place and the political act of making as identity and a statement of values.  Isabelle reflects on her residency and skills exchange in this blog post.

The third theme of collaboration had particular resonance to handwoven textile designer Lynne Mennie who took part in a residency in Oaxaca in Mexico last year, also through the British Council Crafting Futures programme.  She worked with members of the Bii Daüü collective of artisan rug weavers to create a new collection of patterns inspired by sounds, building on an ongoing collaborative project in Scotland – Aural Textiles – that explores the co-creation of textile patterns inspired by the sounds around us.

She describes the personal and emotive sounds that had significance to them and inspired their new works – such as birds from the area, church bells ringing, crickets chirping at dusk or their daughter counting to ten in their native language, Zapotec.  Afterwards she said the experience of working together with a collective of weavers who produced the co-designed pieces allowed her to think differently about the way she works and ways of working with collaborative partners. Read more

Collaboration, identity and sustainability within the context of making continue to be among the most exciting and inspiring aspects of every AAS project and over the months leading towards the symposium we will be talking to the Scottish makers who are part of these projects and exploring the three themes in more detail.

Papers are currently being invited for the symposium to consider these themes, so if you have a story to share take a look at our call for papers and consider taking part. The deadline for submissions is Monday 2 March 2020. 

Alternatively, get in touch with AAS and tell us your experiences and stories, either by email or social media. 

And if you want to take part in our exciting three day programme investigating the themes and comprising an exhibition opening (Wednesday 1 July), symposium (Thursday 2 July) and skills sharing workshops led by Scottish and international makers (Friday 3 July) – Early Bird tickets are now available with a range of options, and AAS are eligible for a 20% discount on all tickets.  Book today! 

Image: Wool dyed with indigo hanging up to dry on the terrace at the weaver’s home studio, Oaxaca, Mexico Photo: Lynne Mennie

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