Sustainability at the Heart of a Kind of Crazy Year

“It’s been really kind of quite a crazy year” reflected AAS Chair and ceramicist Carol Sinclair at the 2021 AAS Annual General Meeting which gave an insight into current and future activities before the election of a new Board with Lynne Hocking-Mennie voted in as the new AAS Chair.

Carol began by thanking the team behind the scenes and the Board for the huge amounts work and voluntary effort which had made another remarkable year possible. 

She then discussed the remit of AAS as an organisation ‘by makers for makers’ which supports and nurtures making practice explaining it is underpinned by AAS’s making sustainable livelihoods strategy.

This brings together all AAS activities and over the past year sustainability has become even more important and crucial.

The sustainability of the organisation has been strengthened by the addition of four sub-groups comprising Board Members and Advisors which focus on project management, making money, membership and making communities. 

Lynne explained the role of the making communities working group is to focus on how well AAS reflects the maker community in Scotland, identifying who is not being reached and how to address this.  It runs through all project ideas, activities and plans for the year ahead. The AAS action plan can be downloaded from AAS website.

Carol then introduced a tour of AAS projects and activities explaining they are fundamental in creating opportunities for Members and for raising the income to run AAS.

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, opened at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery then travelled to the Barn in Aberdeenshire.  Next venue is the Lochty Gallery in Carnoustie (24 November 2021 to 19 March 2022) and it is hoped it will visit Canada.

The accompanying four-day online international festival of craft in September 2021 produced by Helen Voce spanned time zones from Mexico to Thailand and over to Australia and New Zealand.  Over 200 people attended, with all talks, panels and discussions recorded and available to watch on the dedicated AAS Craft Festival 2021 Vimeo channel, with the majority captioned.

Another exhibition wrap around activity was the Crafting Interconnections: between ways of making and living season of online and in-person activities around the exhibition at the Barn which developed through conversations on sustainability and their work focused around ecology. AAS is hoping this partnership will continue.

Lynne introduced the DISTANCE project which is looking at the ways in which digital immersive technologies can be used by craft practitioners as a way to engage others with their processes and with the objects that they create, such as through exhibitions or experiences. Nine makers from all over Scotland are taking part in the second phase funded by Creative Scotland, with the final creations to be presented in January 2022. She said that what they are making is amazing.

Helen reported on the Road to COP26 Innovation Grant Programme – Nepal, co-delivered by AAS with Edinburgh Napier University and Creative Informatics, the British Council Nepal and Kathmandu University, which helped businesses develop innovative ideas for sustainability that benefit people, planet, profit, purpose and place. This shifted from being an in-person incubator event in Nepal in April 2021 to online, with six grantees supported to develop their nature-inspired and craft-related solutions to climate change.

Netty Sopata outlined a British Council Crafting Futures India project working with partners to support a group of Indian puppet makers in Mumbai.  It was not possible to visit so work was scoped from a distance and training delivered digitally looking at design, materials and new ideas.  The final report with images and films will be available soon. 

Netty, also a lecturer at Lews Castle College, University of the Highlands and Islands, explained that working with Carol, AAS are developing apprenticeship opportunities.  It is in the final stages and AAS hope to deliver it in February/March 2022.

The Craft Toolkit, an online tool for makers, developed by AAS with the British Council Thailand has now added translations in Spanish, Indonesian, Malaysian and Hindi, with funding just awarded to add Arabic.

Carol outlined the Resilience Programme,  a mentoring programme developed and delivered by AAS with Craft Scotland, to help makers based in Scotland navigate the particularly challenging circumstances resulting from COVID-19.

She reported that paid membership had been introduced following a postponement due to COVID-19 and said it was a priority to make sure membership provides benefits that are practical and useful to makers.  She introduced Ciorstaidh Monk who has joined AAS as Membership Co-ordinator and Clare Waddle shared ideas being discussed by the membership group and highlighted the new online Members library.

Garvin Sealy reported on the online AAS coffee mornings and said these had been helpful, particularly during lockdown, and continue to be useful with local groups in Fife and Angus and special interest groups for older makers, socially engaged practice and the Closing the Loop group on sustainability.

Lynne discussed the new online Constructive Feedback sessions which are about encouraging a group of makers to get together in a comfortable environment where they can present work and gain an insight into how others see it which may help them move it forward.

Barbara Shearer outlined a competition she developed for AAS with City of Glasgow College for students focused on sustainability. Due to COVID-19 causing restrictions this was judged online and was won by Chloe Fea now studying at Queen Margaret University.  Chloe received publicity, AAS Associate Membership and mentoring from AAS Member Mairi Brown.

The new AAS Board was then elected with new Board Members Amy Dunnachie, Jeni Reid and Carrie Fertig joining Netty Sopata, Stefanie Cheong, Clare Waddle, Garvin Sealy, Ica Headlam and Anne Marquiss, with Lynne Hocking-Mennie as the new AAS Chair. The theme of sustainability continued into the afternoon with discussion about the circular economy and environmental wellbeing while AAS Members created their own unique AAS Membership badges in an Ostrero workshop.

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