How do you view Scotland as a place for celebrating craft?
In our globalised world, access to materials and making is now limitless. In terms of selling, though my work is mostly sold in Scotland, there is work to be done beyond internet sales. I focus on developing sales online without the tactile part of selling objects through galleries, shops and fairs which does limit what you can sell to a certain extent.
In saying this, the internet also allows you to network, despite geography, through platforms like Instagram. This has fostered a more international network for Scottish craft, which I also use as a way of researching and making connections.
What actions do you think would positively impact craft and making in Scotland?
Scotland has a good reputation across the rest of the UK and a strong community of makers. Scottish jewellers have a reputation for quality and professionalism. We need to uphold this reputation by supporting emerging makers and the set up of new businesses.
I run a commercial business and therefore I shouldn’t have to rely on funding. But I recognise that emerging makers do need support to set up and run their business. So funding for the material costs and business development costs for new makers are essential; ideally staggered over the first ten years of a business. Makers need that space and time to work out where their market is and how their business should be positioned.
Marketing and PR around craft can often be ‘smoke and mirrors’. We need to make sure makers can actually run viable and profitable businesses. How can we develop realistic business models?
What actions do you think would positively impact the craft sector in Scotland?
A re-opening of closed departments within Scotland’s art schools would be very positive, if there is demand. Jewellery education is strong – how can we replicate this for other disciplines? More funding for apprentices would cement this approach, for example, a widening out of the Applied Arts Scotland Shared Creative Modern Apprenticeship Pilot Programme. Could we look at skills-based education in a more independent way? Do we focus on further education? Is there a way of harnessing across educations streams? I also support Craft Scotland’s international shows, including their programmed participation in NY NOW.
More ‘Meet the Maker’ style opportunities will educate prospective buyers and collectors. Craft is all about the narrative behind the work and if we could develop this, I feel this would develop the buying market. I have always admired Manchester Craft and Design Centre. It is a good model to look at, helping buyers to understand process and to build relationships with makers. Makers need to be present in order to generate sales at craft fairs, how can we support them to tell the story of craft: process, ethical making and the elemental.
Alison MacLeod set up her studio in 2003 after graduating from Edinburgh College of Art. Following 10 years in Glasgow Alison has returned to the Dumfriesshire countryside where she grew up. She makes jewellery inspired by antique treasures and the stories they tell. Heirlooms passed through generations building significance.