DISTANCE Project

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.

Image credit: Carrie Fertig, DISTANCE2

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.

Phase 1 – DISSEMINATION EVENT

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.

Phase 2 – SHOWCASE

Nine makers joined us over eight months from June 2021-January 2022 to experiment with immersive technology. In June, 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 across the rest of the project.

Makers who participated in DISTANCE2 were 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 shared progress and learning within the group and gained peer feedback. These sessions were recorded so that participants and the project team were able to access and review them after the event, and to support ongoing evaluation and contextualisation of the project.

Find out more about what was created and what everyone learned below.

A bundle of soft blocks of different sizes, each with colourful woven surfaces patterns.

Visit the digital exhibition space to see examples of work created by makers during DISTANCE2. Enter the space and you’ll see the main themes that emerged throughout our sharing workshops, then jump out to side rooms for more detail from individual makers and collaborative trios.

This exhibition is presented using FrameVR. An account is not required to access the exhibition, but creating one will allow more flexibility in how you navigate the space.

Image credit: Mariam Syed, DISTANCE2

A white virtual bust is set against a grey background. Draped around the bust is a necklace composed of differently-sized yellow discs with graphic elements.

Watch the recording of the showcase event that took place on 2nd February 2022 where eight makers described their very different journeys with incorporating immersive technology into craft practices, as individuals and within collaborative groups.

[Captioned version coming soon]

Image credit: Aubin Stewart, DISTANCE2

Close up of a hand holding a small blue 3D printed model. The model has a circular body with eight legs. Alongside sits a full-sized pottery version glazed grey.

Listen to a series of podcast interviews on the project hosted by Ica Headlam of Creative-Me-Podcast.

The series is made up of four episodes where Ica interviews each one of the three collaborative groups as well as the project management team.

Image credit: Chris Donnelly, DISTANCE2


Phase 2 was 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.

Follow #DISTANCEProject on Instagram and Twitter for latest updates.

On Twitter

#AASMember @CTDceramics has suggested the latest addition to the #AASLibrary. About ‘Uncommon Clay’, Chris begins by saying ‘This book captures what I believe and strive for being a maker.’ Intrigued? Log into your #AAS account to visit the virtual shelves & read more. https://t.co/PrkEdEdBBu