Diana Sykes

Diana Sykes
ImageNexus – meetings at the edge (image shows work by Wanshu Li, Jackey Puzey and Lynne MacLachlan), Curated by Dr Elizabeth Goring, Photograph by Michael Wolchover

How do you view Scotland as a place for celebrating craft?

Scotland is a small country with a very high quality and rich community of craft practitioners. There are a number of different support organisations and an infrastructure of organisations like ours, or galleries that are promoting work. And there’s the national agency Craft Scotland, Applied Arts Scotland and Visual Arts Scotland who include craft and design within visual art and exhibitions. Whilst there are a number of different organisations, there are only a small number of people involved, so resources are thin and we need to maximise them.

What actions do you think would positively impact craft and making in Scotland?

The idea of having a national platform showing work from around the country, such as a craft festival, could be beneficial in the same way as existing arts festivals, to recognise the craft industry as equally relevant.

We have the Craft Development Network which is great to bring people together, but we need to consider how this can work longer-term and who is involved. We also need to connect with organisations outside our sector, for example The National Trust for Scotland to develop their knowledge of quality craft for retail, and to support funding for the sector. Nationally there are difficulties with the Business Gateway and tourism bodies, who have access to considerable funds but perhaps don’t understand craft and how to fund it. Tourism is starting to engage and there is huge potential there. The tourism strategy could be improved to recognise high quality craft and craftsmanship as a real asset. Craft is something that is really connected with place and there are really unique aspects which will appeal to visitors to Scotland.

What actions do you think would positively impact craft and making in Scotland?

The formal recognition of craft as an art form in addition to a creative industry by Creative Scotland in their work and plans would be very meaningful. Further to this, we need to look at the availability of funding from Creative Scotland and agencies working with them, ensuring it recognises craft has multi-dimensional needs and requires coherent and sustained support programmes.

There is an opportunity to review local and national policies, approaches and practices, developing these through partnerships. Perhaps there needs to be an analysis of what organisations currently offer and how they could better work together as a coherent programme for makers and the public?

The issue of apprenticeships comes up as an alternative to college, and can offer study options for people on lower incomes and avoid potential debt issues. Current apprenticeships in the arts are fairly new and could be developed, for example to increase access, bring back technical skills, at risk of being lost, and support the development of individuals’ creative voices. 

In terms of diversity and inclusion of craft practitioners and audiences, we need to widen this from middle-class, middle-aged women who are predominantly white, to better representation of the diverse communities and cultures in Scotland. Craft Scotland’s ‘Meet Your Maker’ and residency projects are useful ways to bring different community groups into contact with high quality craft. Further, a review of current provision of craft for young people and people with disabilities, increasing our awareness of how to connect and reach them, would increase access.

In Scotland there are restricted markets and fewer outlets for collectors and buyers to access higher end work. It is vital to support the development of this infrastructure and nurture collectors through third parties, as the people that can afford to buy work are often completely at odds with the value systems of the people who make the work, so direct selling isn’t always the best route. People like Christiana Jansen at and Amanda Game, formerly of the Scottish Gallery, have expertise in this area.

Diana Sykes studied at the University of St Andrews, Sweet Briar College, USA and the University of Manchester before embarking on a Scottish road trip as Curator/Driver of the Scottish Arts Council’s Travelling Gallery. She was Director of the Crawford Arts Centre from 1988-2006 when the organisation morphed into the venue-free Fife Contemporary. This works across Fife through partnerships to deliver a programme of support for artists and exhibitions and engagement projects for a wide public. Exploring the dialogue between craft and visual art is a key concern.