“Crafting Futures supports the future of craft around the globe. This British Council programme strengthens economic, social and cultural development through learning and access. Crafting Futures’ projects support practices and people, through research, collaboration and education.”  British Council Crafting Futures

Crafting Futures Mexico, Oaxaca 2019 (photographer, Ana Paula Fuentes)

In 2017 Applied Arts Scotland (AAS) was delighted to be invited to be one of the UK partners in the British Council’s Crafting Futures Network. Through this network we have the opportunity to work on projects with craft makers and communities in a wide variety of countries around the world.  We have taken these opportunities to develop and promote projects for Scottish makers to meet and work with their international counterparts, and our projects are currently taking place in Thailand, Mexico and Afghanistan.  

“There’s something about deeply understanding and learning about another culture that’s transformative.  When individuals work abroad, such experience exposes them to a larger number and more diverse array of new inputs, concepts and ideas than they could have access to in their own country. In addition, exposure to different environments will make individuals more able to take risks. This will occur because new inputs, concepts, and ideas will make individuals comfortable with challenging the status quo, as they will have a greater ability to recognise non-traditional opportunities in changing processes.” Adam Galinsky

In our experience the process of making is a strongly unifying force that transcends cultural divides and unites makers globally. Communication through making processes overcomes language barriers and brings people with very different cultural backgrounds and identities together to co-operate, exchange and share skills and ideas to achieve a common goal. While day-to-day working practices and business models can be very different, making communities worldwide share the desire to preserve and update traditional craft skills, ensuring sustainability of materials, business practices, the environment and communities. 

The Crafting Futures projects AAS are and have been involved in are all very different. We shape our activities to fit the needs of each country, or specific areas within that country.  However our projects broadly fall into two categories, Residencies and Professional Development Workshops.

Residencies

Thailand

We first began working with the British Council in 2016, when the Scottish – Thai Craft & Design Exchange brought together Scottish and Thai makers in Northern Thailand to exchange making ideas and skills. In early 2020, with the support of the British Council Thailand and Creative Scotland we will be bringing Thai makers to Scotland for  a residency with Scottish makers at Cove Park.  Look out for the opportunity to be advertised through our newsletter.

Scottish – Thai Craft & Design Exchange, Phrae 2016

Mexico

On the back of our work in Thailand, AAS was invited to be the UK strategic partner for a two-year Crafting Futures Mexico project to create residential and creative development opportunities for Scottish and Mexican makers in Mexico. The first residency took place in Oaxaca in February 2019 and Scottish weaver Lynne Mennie was selected to work with a cooperative of rug weavers to co-create a new collection of work using a data-driven design process.  AAS is now being supported by the British Council Mexico and Creative Scotland to bring three Mexican makers together with two Scottish makers in Scotland in September 2019. This will include cultural activities, studio visits to Scottish makers with skills sharing activities, and structured and unstructured studio/workshop time to support co-design and co-creation of new work for exhibition.

Crafting Futures Mexico – exhibition of work produced by weavers in Oaxaca following Lynne Mennie’s artist residency, 2019 (photographer, Netty Sopata)

In addition we are woking with the British Council Mexico to offer the opportunity for a Scottish maker to undertake a three week residency in Oaxaca in December this year. Applications for this residency opportunity are open until 7 August 2019.  

Professional Development 

Thailand

AAS is currently working on two projects. Firstly the development of a digital toolkit to support artisans and craftspeople to build business capacity. And, secondly delivering business support for basket-making communities in conflict zones in the deep south of Thailand. Each project draws on the experience, knowledge and skills of makers in Thailand and Scotland to enable conversation, support and exchange. 

Crafting Futures Wanita, Hat Yai 2019

Mexico

As well as the residency in early 2019, AAS were commissioned by the British Council Mexico to develop and deliver a four-day workshop programme to include wider maker community participation in skills sharing and creative learning.

Skills exchange workshop, Crafting Futures Mexico, Oaxaca 2019 (photographer, Ana Paula Fuentes)

Afghanistan

Our most recent project with Crafting Futures is in Afghanistan, were we are developing and remotely delivering training for a group of 56 women artisans seeking to develop their own craft businesses. For this project we have commissioned films from five Scottish makers who share the details of their practice and product development.

Crafting Futures Afghanistan, 2019 (photographer, Turquoise Mountain)

Exhibition and Symposium

We are delighted to announce that we have received Creative Scotland funding to support Scottish makers to take part in our international residencies, including those above, and for the development of an exhibition of the resulting work. We will also be delivering a symposium to bring all our international makers networks together to explore the themes of “Identity, Sustainability and Collaboration”  The symposium will take place at North Lands Creative in June 2020. We wish to share our learning and insight with the wider Scottish craft and making community and continue conversations about international opportunities, their benefits and impact. More details to follow!

Applied Arts Scotland SCIO is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SC022604)