Earlier this year Applied Arts Scotland’s Closing the Loop Group, which brings together makers who build sustainability and environmentally conscious ways of working into their practices, travelled from their studios across Scotland for a micro residency at Hospitalfield in Arbroath to share thinking processes and develop new exploratory works for an exhibition that opens next month.
A significant part of the experience for all the makers was meeting in person. Jeweller Eleanor Symms explained “It was a weekend filled with collaboration and inspiration. Many of us had only met before via our group’s monthly Zoom meetings established during lockdown. Meeting face-to-face, talking, sharing ideas and materials and experimenting together was such a rewarding experience, enabling me to learn so much more about my fellow group members and their practices.”
The residency was a full three days. Each maker arrived in the studio with a box of materials relating to their own practice and a skill set for sharing. It started with each maker giving a small demonstration of the tools they brought and how to work the materials. The coming days were take any material and tools, experiment and play. There were informal presentations of what they did, with feedback given if desired, planning and ideas exchange for the exhibition and a tour of the house and collection.
Maker and artist Lar MacGregor also described the impact of meeting together. “Stepping into a new communal work space with those peers enabled me to focus on enriching my practice through experimentation, without the pressure of resolving anything. At a time when my creativity was in flux, these amazing women gave me permission to be ok with that. Paradoxically, knowing that I was allowed to ‘play’ with my materials and methods of making, the pieces for the exhibition just happened with ease.”
Jeweller Ann Marie Shillito expressed the ethos as “serious playfulness” and said “With all the activity and reflection, discussions and observing, I could absorb what it is to just make, be a maker for the pure pleasure of doing, and this lightness was a release from the pent up stress of the previous two years. How good is that! For our exhibition I am enjoying designing and creating within constraints and closing the loop principles by using 3D printing as a construct to frame and add value to materials that would otherwise end up in our waste bins.”
Ceramicist Carol Sinclair described it as a catalyst for thinking fundamentally differently about existing making habits. “Working with porcelain, I automatically create items that are high fired to make them permanent, so how would I work with impermanent materials that are soft and mailable such as soap or wax? What natural materials could I use to create the decorative patterns I wanted, but that could be returned to nature after use with a nutritional benefit to the ecosystem? Big shifts in my thinking, but a fascinating challenge that led me to working with insects, hair and other unexpected materials. It also made me reconsider the perception of value in the work that we make especially in relation to rare or plentiful resources.”
“I found the experience utterly inspiring, as I experimented with the different materials and tools that each member had brought” said participatory artist Hannah Ayre. “The residency also helped me to think through questions about my work, including the making processes and the end of life of my art work.”
Designer Clare Waddle of Yellow Broom summarised the experience. “The residency gave us the precious gift of ‘time to play’, time to experiment freely without the need for product outcomes. It allowed us to be free and material led with the bonus of technical support to take our ideas deeper. We all talked design, making and all things circular, we were hands on from morning until later at night. Our creative cups were all overflowing . Our time concluded with the optional sharing of the makers playful experiments alongside discussions/ ideas of how or if they may filter into each practice. We left creatively energised.”
The |MATTER| Earth, Materials + Making exhibition of exploratory works brings together ceramics, jewellery, lighting, textiles and more will be at the Barn in Aberdeenshire from 10 September until 11 November 2022, open Thursday to Saturday from 12-3pm.