“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, Afghanistan and India.

“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 brought Thai makers to Scotland for a residency with Scottish makers at Cove Park. Natural dyer Prach Niyomka of Mann Craft (Sakon Nakhon, Thailand) collaborated with weaver Lynne Hocking-Mennie (Aberdeen, Scotland) and designer Kawisara Anansaringkarn of Coth Studio (Thailand) with jeweller Stefanie Cheong (Glasgow, Scotland). Read more Lynne’s collaborative residency in her Cocooned from the Elements blog. 

Scottish – Thai Craft & Design Exchange, Phrae, Thailand 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. Read about Lynne’s experiences in her Weaving an Adventure of Sounds in Mexico blog.

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

In September 2019, with support from the British Council Mexico and Creative Scotland, AAS brought Mexican makers Dalila Rubicela Cruz Fabián, Soledad Ruiz and Pilar Obeso together with Scottish makers Fiona Hall of Camban Studio and and Kate Davies of Kate Davies Designs. Their 10-day group tour of the Highlands and Hebrides taking in cultural activities, studio visits to Scottish makers including kilt maker Netty Sopata at Diggory Brown and weaver Belinda Rose with skills sharing activities, and structured and unstructured studio/workshop time, supported their co-design and co-creation of new work. Read about Fiona and Kate’s experience of meeting their collaborators and continuing their creative journey in their respective blog posts: The Dual Meaning of Sustainability and Cadáver Exquisito Inspired by Dressing Up & Rituals

Visiting the Calanais standing stones in the Hebrides at sunset, photographer Soledad Ruiz

In addition, with the British Council Mexico, AAS were able to support Scottish lighting and product designers Yellow Broom to undertake a three week residency in Oaxaca in December 2019.

Professional Development

Thailand

AAS has recently completed two projects in Thailand with the British Council Thailand. Firstly the development of CraftToolkit to support artisans, craftspeople, designers and makers to makers to identify, understand and action the creative and professional development of their businesses, and make a start on a simple business plan. And, secondly Crafting Futures – Wanita, delivery of business support for four female basket-making communities in conflict zones in the deep south of Thailand. Each project drew 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 detailed above, 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)

In November 2020 AAS is delighted to introduce CraftToolkit, developed as part of the British Council Crafting Futures programme, at the ‘Hybrid Crafts Festival and Seminar’ in Guanajuato, Mexico during Festival Guanajuato. The event is a joint initiative by the International Network for Crafts Development – RIDA and the Latin American Network of Designers – DEFACTO and falls within the framework of the Regional Action Plan ‘Transforming a global crisis into local opportunities in the Crafts sector’.

Afghanistan

Our most recent project with Crafting Futures is in Afghanistan. We are  currently progressing to Stage II of the project with UNESCO in 2020/21, which builds on our work to date, ‘Design in Craft’. In Stage I we developed and remotely delivered training for a group of 46 women artisans seeking to develop their own craft businesses. For this project we 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 for development of our international work with makers and the craft community.

Firstly, to support the Scottish makers detailed above to create new work with their collaborators in Thailand and Mexico in the exhibition ‘Meet, Make Collaborate’ originating in Scotland and touring to Canada. Secondly, to support Shift, a new international residency and exchange  project for Scottish and Canadian makers, whose new work will also be showcase in the exhibition.

And thirdly, alongside the exhibition we will host the international craft symposium Old stories, new narratives which will bring all our international makers networks together to explore the themes of sustainability, identity and collaboration.

Through the exhibition and symposium 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. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the exhibition and symposium have been postponed to 2021.