The DISTANCE Project (Digital Immersive Technologies and Craft Engagement) is a multi-stage project that offers makers opportunities to collaborate and to share experiences and objects in new and exciting ways through immersive digital technologies.

DISTANCE builds on our experiences of supporting international, cross-cultural residencies and the Scottish making community, including throughout lockdown periods during the global pandemic of 2020-21. It also supports our aims to promote sustainable making practices.

Through these activities, we recognised the clear need for makers to be able to share their skills, processes and creations with a range of audiences and colleagues at distance. This might be with an international collaborator when you cannot travel (due to pandemic restrictions or home/work commitments) or you choose not to for environmental reasons; or with someone in the same street during periods of physical distancing.

Soluis Heritage testing VR headset and controllers for DISTANCE Project

The Project

We are introducing accessible immersive technology to maker, in the form of virtual reality headsets pre-loaded with a range of creative applications, in order to understand the ways in which makers could and would want to use immersive technology to engage themselves and others with their craft practice:

  • What aspects of craft practice do makers want to be able to share, and with who?
  • (How) does the available technology support makers to do this? What are its limitations?
  • What aspects of makers’ practice cannot be shared in this environment, as currently available?
  • What else might makers need (in terms of equipment, applications, training) to support any ongoing use of immersive technologies?
  • What, if any, of this would makers consider adopting as a routine part of their practices?

Participating makers’ learning, findings and responses to these questions, as well as any others that arise, will be collected during the project and will be shared with the wider making community.


Six makers from SE Scotland and a range of making disciplines experimented with immersive technology, individually and in collaboration for two months during March – April 2021: Chris Harrison (lighting sculpture), Chris Hunt (fashion & interiors; pottery), Eleanor Symms (jeweller), Kate Livingstone (visual artist & surface pattern designer), Inge Panneels (glass artist) and Maija Nygren (Alma Borealis, knitwear designer). What a journey!

Watch the recordings from the Phase 1 dissemination event that took place on Wednesday 28 April 2021 to learn about the ways in which these makers applied virtual reality applications and used immersive technologies to think about new ways to prototype work, collaborate at distance, and share craft processes and creations.

Presentations describing the learning from and next steps for the DISTANCE project have been made at the Plymouth College of Art “Making Futures” conference on 16th September 2021 (read the abstract here), and at various Immersive Scotland meetings.

Phase 1 was funded by Creative Informatics via the University of Edinburgh.


Nine makers have joined us for a seven month period to experiment with immersive technology. In June 2021, makers were provided with Oculus Quest2 headsets and introduced to the technology through a series of guided workshops. These workshops were developed in response to feedback in Phase 1, and evolved to accommodate the needs identified by Phase 2 makers as they began exploring their practice within the immersive technology space.

Makers were also matched into collaborative trios, allowing them to learn together and consider how they share information and experiences with each other. A goal-setting workshop supported makers and collaborative groups to identify achievable objectives and timelines for experimentation, creation and dissemination.

Makers participating in DISTANCE2 are Ann Marie Shillito, (jewellery) Aubin Stewart (jewellery), Carrie Fertig (multidisciplinary), Chris Donnelly (ceramics), Clare Waddle (Yellow Broom, lighting and product design), Lara Townsend (Rock Paper Chisels, stone carving), Maija Nygren (Alma Borealis, knitwear), Mariam Syed (woven textiles) and Niela Kalra (Nielanell, knitwear).

At monthly meet-ups, we are sharing progress and learning within the group and gaining peer feedback. These sessions are recorded so that participants and the project team are able to access and review them after the event, and to support ongoing evaluation of the project.

Events and activities that showcase the work created and the learning along the way will take place during January 2022. Meanwhile, follow #DISTANCEProject on Instagram and Twitter for in-progress updates from individual makers.

Phase 2 is supported by The National Lottery through Creative Scotland.

Project Team

The freelance team who have developed and deliver the DISTANCE Project on behalf of Applied Arts Scotland are Lynne Hocking, Netty Sopata and Carol Sinclair. Lynne, Netty and Carol have worked together for 4+ years on a range of activities that support AAS strategic aims, including those supporting cross-cultural international collaborative residencies and maker training.

AAS are collaborating with digital designer Steve Colmer (initially at Soluis Heritage and now Lateral North), a recognised innovator in enabling access to digital experiences and content for audiences of all kinds.

The project team at AAS are also exploring immersive space as it relates to their own practice while supporting DISTANCE participants to do the same.

On Twitter

.@GsmithsCentre seek up to 10 individuals to join their Community Advisory Group to support the developments of initiatives & programmes that are informed, #innovative & #inclusive. Apply by 28/01/2022 https://t.co/85B1pWMqY3