How do you view Scotland as a place for celebrating craft?
There is an openness in manufacturing that has really enabled craft makers to utilise the best of hand, machine and digital facilities in Scotland. While that has been beneficial to making, I think that there is an issue when you think about market. You have a relatively low population interested in craft, and while there has been a cultural and fashionable resurgence of handmade skills, the artisan, the unique and the ethical, it’s still really small-scale. My observation is that successful craft businesses need to operate in an international market. Craft Scotland is doing really well to support this by opening up its policy of touring to international trade fairs.
I also think there has to be more support for genuinely, locally-made quality crafted work. There are a lot of what could be described as hobbyist makers, but it’s relevant and it has to feed in to what craft in Scotland is. We have some great examples, like Ardalanish Weavers in Mull.
What actions do you think would positively impact craft and making in Scotland?
It would be nice to see Scotland’s craft sector continue to gain its autonomy from the rest of the UK in a cultural sense. There is something much more relevant to Scotland, which is being generated through the universities, the art schools, through support organisations such as Creative Scotland, Craft Scotland, The Cultural Enterprise Office, Highlands and Islands Enterprise etc. There is more of a progressive support for craft and the arts in Scotland in general – and I think we need to capitalise and celebrate that and respond to it by gaining a confident voice that projects itself well in an international arena.
What actions do you think would positively impact the craft sector in Scotland?
Exploring non-accredited forms of education at an intellectually high level beyond the academic institution. Inviting graduating students from other design and art courses to consider the canon of craft beyond just a form of making. Developing policy that navigates the variety and disparity of what is under the umbrella of craft, whilst looking for the ethical and the excellent.
Underpinned by all of this, an examination of the craft audience. We need to reconsider such label. A ‘craft audience’ is made up of people with a multitude of interests. We need to ensure that the presentation of craft functions in a cross-disciplinary manner that competes with the best contemporary art, the best theatre, the best music, the best literature. Craft centres on process, human connection, skill, style, history, identity and story-telling. In this way it must present itself accessibly, beyond a craft community.
Katy West teaches at Glasgow School of Art and is an independent curator specialising in craft and design subjects. Research outputs include exhibitions, conferences, commissioning projects, live curated projects outwith the gallery space, touring programmes, organising local and overseas residencies, research by design.
Concurrent to her teaching and curatorial practice, Katy West has specialist studio expertise as a designer for ceramics, working under Katy West Design, in collaboration with ceramic production facilities to produce her own work that researches and references ceramic history.