Makers Experiment with Reality in Response to COVID-19

Makers and craftspeople typically experience making first-hand through the primary senses of sight, touch and sound. Sharing craft-based experiences at a time of physical distancing is challenging, both for craft makers and for people who want to interact with craft objects, processes and materials.

A groundbreaking new project being launched by Applied Arts Scotland will support craft makers to experiment with virtual and augmented reality as a way to overcome this challenge and help sustain livelihoods, with funding of £44,342 from The National Lottery through Creative Scotland and £9,990 from Creative Informatics.

The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown had a dramatic impact on craft makers across Scotland. Many have been unable to access their studios, workshops were postponed, galleries closed and annual selling fairs and events cancelled or moved online. This creates a critical need for craft makers to be able to continue making at a distance and to share their skills and work under circumstances of restricted travel or meeting with other people.

The DISTANCE Project (Digital Immersive Technologies and Craft Engagement) will identify new and engaging ways for craft makers to meet with others to make, collaborate, exchange skills, and innovate to interact with a range of audiences.

The project was developed in collaboration between Applied Arts Scotland and Soluis Heritage and will introduce accessible immersive technology to makers and explore the ways in which they can use it to share aspects of their craft practice. These uses are not limited to lockdown situations, but can also support future national and international working while limiting the need for travel.

Applications are now being invited from makers in south east Scotland for the first phase of this project, with phase two opening to makers from across Scotland in March.

Carol Sinclair, chair of Applied Arts Scotland, said “We have been supporting the making community throughout the pandemic and understand how crucial it is for makers to be able to continue taking part in creative collaborations, sell their work and to be able to share their skills, so we are very excited by the potential of this new project to discover new creative approaches to making and sharing making processes.”

Jessica Bonehill, creative industries officer, Creative Scotland said “At this extremely challenging time for makers, and the wider cultural sector, this project from Applied Arts Scotland is an excellent example of the potential of innovative thinking and technology to foster connection, collaboration and creativity in the most difficult of circumstances. Projects like these ensure that makers and creatives can not only continue to work, but to flourish.”

Chris Speed, director of the Creative Informatics programme said “We are delighted to see the DISTANCE project kicking off and providing innovative new opportunities for makers in South East Scotland. This project is an excellent example of the work that the Creative Informatics programme is here to support and fund, enabling individuals and organisations across the creative industries to explore the potential of data and data-driven technologies to open up new possibilities for making work and sustaining creative businesses. I look forward to seeing the DISTANCE project progress over the coming months.”

Steve Colmer, creative director, Soluis Heritage, said “We at Soluis Heritage are very much looking forward to collaborating with the artists and makers of Applied Arts Scotland on , and introducing the virtual world as a shared innovative space where the normal rules of the physical world need not apply. We are excited to see what can be created when location, gravity, scale and materiality are no longer barriers to the creative thinking”

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