Sustaining Making as the World Pivots

“I think makers are amazing people” observed AAS Chair and ceramicist Carol Sinclair at the 2020 AAS Annual General Meeting in October as she reflected on a tough year which has strengthened the making community and informed an exciting new AAS project.

She started the meeting by introducing two new phrases that build on the existing AAS mantra ‘by makers for makers’ which sits at the heart of what the organisation does.  The first ‘nurturing the creative heart and soul of making practice’ is about supporting the whole of a makers practice, the creative part as well as the business part. The second ‘making sustainable livelihoods’ brings these phrases together and is at the pinnacle of AAS’s updated strategy and core to all our activities. 

“We have all really had to just rethink how we do things this year” explained Carol. “At an early stage Board Member Stefanie Cheong did a blog about her lockdown experience and used the phrase rethinking our rhythms, and that became another kind of mantra for us, and led directly to the creation of our Voices of Makers blog. This is now an intrinsic part of our communication with the membership and the wider craft community of sharing maker experiences. People have been very open and sharing some of the things that have been positive but also a lot of the difficult stuff. It feels a really bonding thing, we’re doing it together, so thank you to all our contributors.”

She also thanked the board for being amazing, stepping up and putting in lots of extra hours in providing services and support for the membership.

This was followed by an overview of AAS projects and activities. Here are a few of the highlights.

In collaboration with Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh and Creative Informatics AAS held a workshop called Closing the Loop, originally to have taken place at RBGE in March it became a digital event.  This has evolved into a research group that meets monthly to talk about matters of sustainability. Environmentally responsible practice remains an important part of AAS work, underpinning our ‘making sustainable livelihoods’ strategy.

A critical part of conversations during lockdown were about money, particularly sharing information about financial options and grant funding.  AAS partnered with MAKE, a manifesto that exists to support the craft sector in Scotland, and Visual Arts Scotland, who were offering emergency grants to practitioners in the arts and crafts, and delivered the MAKE Support programme to help makers with financial advice and information.

When lockdown began an evaluation report of the AAS apprenticeship project by Helen Voce was poised to be published and AAS had funding from Creative Scotland to hold an event to share the findings with the creative sector.  This is on hold at present, although background conversations are still taking place with potential partners about future iterations. It is likely that apprenticeships will become even more important over coming months with so many young people disadvantaged due to the pandemic.

AAS has been working with the British Council Crafting Futures programme on a number of projects over recent years in Mexico and Thailand and an exciting new project with India is in development.

The pandemic also impacted on Meet Make Collaborate, an exhibition showcasing new collaborative works resulting from an AAS international exchange project funded by Creative Scotland comprising three international residencies bringing together makers from Canada, Mexico, Thailand and Scotland with the overarching themes of identity, sustainability and collaboration. The exhibition and accompanying ‘Old stories, new narratives’ international craft symposium were postponed and have now been rescheduled with the exhibition due to open on 9 January 2021 at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery and online, with plans being developed for an international digital conference.

The residencies were in progress when the pandemic happened and although they could not meet in person the participating makers continued digitally.  The delay actually benefited the project as it gave the makers more time to refine their work and they embraced the challenge of working together without meeting in person.   Their innovative approaches to this was one of the inspirations for DISTANCE, a new AAS project funded by Creative Informatics’ Connected Innovators to explore using immersive digital technology to enable making, skills exchange and collaboration at a distance which will launch shortly. 

Top image: Hand heart – nurturing the creative heart and soul of making practice

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