How do you view Scotland as a place for celebrating craft?
Scotland’s creative industries and its craft sector is determined and committed to growing. Online presence is important, however, I feel physical events are just as important when you make and sell physical things. I think there is an appetite for public audiences to understand how things are made and where they come from, not just through online media.
My view is that there is a lot happening in the central belt connected to contemporary craft, though this is often focused around selling. Could there be more opportunity for craft to collaborate with museums, heritage or other institutions or art forms? How can we expand an understanding of craft?
I also think there could be more opportunities to use craft as a tool for broad learning through making, learning through experiencing objects, or the commissioning of pieces in response to social history as part of larger exhibitions.
What actions do you think would positively impact craft and making in Scotland?
I would like to see more research and narrative-led commissioning and exhibiting projects such as India Street and Seine Net Queens, where there are important stories and aspects of social and industrial history brought to attention though craft and objects. I think this could lead to a greater appreciation and understanding of craft’s place within our culture too, which would impact it’s value beyond something which can be consumed.
The development of a knowing national identity for craft in Scotland that is self-aware and that doesn’t draw on pastiche feels vital. And an acknowledgment of the symbiotic relationship between design and craft and their divergent histories – design rooted in industry and craft rooted in community. I think craft must be understood to be rooted in our cultural history, in a way that is critical and research-driven, rather than simply a focus on surface aesthetic. Craft has a role to play in questioning identity and culture politics that could be harnessed more.
What actions do you think would positively impact the craft sector in Scotland?
The craft community in Scotland is very supportive and I think, though we may not be connected to each other in terms of aesthetic, we’re certainly connected in terms of values. I don’t think this is limited to location either, whether it’s the Central Belt or Highlands and Islands. However, exhibitions and events can feel quite exclusive and reserved for an ‘art’ audience. How can we make work more accessible and inclusive in a general sense, to those of different backgrounds? How can we make sure there are lots of different voices being represented and contributing?
Scotland is a small country, but through tourism has a very large audience and I think that could be drawn from more. Can craft be harnessed to celebrate and promote our shared identity and values? We must learn from countries like Iceland and Finland. Makers and small design companies in Scotland are very good at getting together and holding their own curated selling events. There are also a number of brilliant outlets in Scotland, a small number of design and craft-led lifestyle stores, that actively support contemporary makers. There could be more of this – how can we support growth in this area?
Fundamental to all of this work, I think there is a responsibility for both education and industry sectors to collaborate and to ensure that students are aware of the many professional applications of their skills in industry, and to ensure that these skills are being usefully employed beyond education, what are a craft maker’s career path options in Scotland and how can we widen them?
Hilary Grant is a design partnership and knitwear studio by Hilary Grant and Robert Harvey, founded in 2011 and based on the remote Scottish archipelago of Orkney. They are known for their explorative, design-led approach to knitwear, algorithmic pattern, and an intuitive and optimistic sensibility towards colour.
All Hilary Grant knitwear is made in the Scottish Borders, by established specialist knitwear mills – who understand the inherent qualities and characteristics
of premium fibres and luxury knitwear. Each piece is hand-finished to the same impeccable standard for which Scottish knitwear is known worldwide. The luxury-grade lambswool yarns used throughout all their collections are spun and dyed in Scotland – the fibres being sourced from farms which practice the highest standards of animal welfare. Hilary Grant knitwear can be found in discerning, independent fashion boutiques, lifestyle / design stores, and major department stores in the UK, Europe, Japan and Hong Kong.