Pamela Conacher

Pamela Conacher
ImageSHIFT Exhibition

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

Scottish craft is very highly regarded across the world. When you see Scottish craft displayed at events like Collect, SOFA and London Design Fair it does really stand out. We are extremely fortunate to have some fantastic makers in Scotland and we need to keep building on what we have achieved.

I started working in crafts development with HI~Arts 11 years ago and over the years it has become clear that the professionalism of our makers has changed. New graduates are coming back to the Highlands to set up their businesses primarily because they have support and they realise they can run a business in a rural area to a level they may have struggled to achieve in the past.

Domestic and international customers and collectors of Scottish craft differ in terms of money and markets. In Scotland we do not have the same level of collecting and I believe that having an international strategy, targeting international collectors could bring more opportunities to the sector.
I think it would be fantastic to have a national centre for exhibiting and promoting craft in Scotland. Somewhere that people can go to see craft. Could a centre like that curate its own exhibitions that could be toured?

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

I personally think we should have a Crafts Council for Scotland, with an overarching strategy that would cover professional development, international working, exhibitions, and have a national reach. So, you have a centre for craft, but also a team of people delivering the services that are needed…and for the craft sector, a voice.

In terms of varying support levels across Scotland, and the role of Scottish Enterprise (which doesn’t effectively support small craft businesses), perhaps they should look at the successful models emergents CIC developed along with support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which saw £9 going back into the local economy for every £1 of investment. To have a version of this programme together with other examples of good practice from organisations who operate successfully to support craft, as a standard across Scotland, would be fantastic.

What actions do you think would positively impact the craft sector in Scotland?

Geography is an important factor. Rural makers are faced with very particular challenges that makers in the central belt don’t have to deal with. In the Highlands you are not on an equal footing and that is why in the Highlands and Islands we invest in supporting makers in the way we do.

Until emergents closed in 2017 we were fortunate to have funds available to help people attend events locally and in London. This enabled us to bring people together, to network, to attend exhibitions, and then to discuss the experience together. Bringing together makers from the Highlands and Islands with makers from the rest of Scotland, London and the UK to work together and to take time away from their practice costs money and our support helped them do this. It made a huge difference to maker’s practices and outlook.

For curators, group trips to places like New York and Australia are so beneficial, enabling cultural managers of the sector to spend time together.

How does a national strategy for craft reflect an outward looking and international idea of quality and ambition? You can’t do that if you don’t support people to go out and experience culture outside Scotland. We need to think of ways to support our makers so that they can go out and experience craft in an international context.

Pamela Conacher has over 30 years experience supporting the development of creative careers, enterprise and the creative economy in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and beyond. She achieves this by nurturing creative talent and businesses through general and specific support, mentoring, training, advice, networking, project development and consultancy. Pamela provides advice to organisations and individuals to develop and support creative talent in the wider rural economy and believes in the sustainability of rural communities through a strong and professional creative economy.

Through her previous post with HI~Arts, as a founding Director of emergents CIC and as a specialist sector advisor with XpoNorth Pamela work’s with a wide range of organisations including Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Applied Arts Scotland, Creative and Cultural Skills, Highlife Highland, Craft Scotland, Crafts Council and Business Gateway.

Emergents CIC closed in November 2017 and support for the creative industries in the Highlands and Islands is now provided by HIE and XpoNorth.