On Saturday I went to an event called Craft Connected which was organised by craftscotland. I just want to record here how valuable and interesting the day was. In advance of the event I was a little bit apprehensive, as I am weary of encountering the sort of discussion which privileges art school graduates over the rest of us. However, three thousand cheers for Garth Johnson who nailed that one in his opening address and set a completely different tone for the whole of the rest of the day.
Garth reported that he had prepared his talk in advance, but then arrived in Scotland and realised how different our craft culture is compared with what he finds in the US. Where he sees barriers coming down in the States, over here we are putting them up. He read aloud from an essay in Crafts Magazine which criticised a speech by John Hayes (Minister for a bunch of things including “Skills”). Now John Hayes has turned out to be a Good Thing — in a government which otherwise tends to reduce me to tears of rage and despair — because he speaks up for craft skills (you can hear the sort of things he says here). Most people who make stuff are absolutely delighted to be working with him and suddenly having their ideas, e.g. about apprenticeships, taken seriously after years of neglect. Not so Crafts Magazine, who appear to think that he can’t be talking to them if he is polite to “heritage” and trades. So Garth gave us a ticking off for this sort of attitude. It was a tremendous relief to hear this spoken aloud in a public forum! He gave a big thumbs up, however, to all the making that is going on here, and his talk was full of enthusiasm and encouragement.
And from there the day snowballed into a celebration of community projects, innovative uses of craft skills, unusual collaborations and cross-fertilisation and all things bright and beautiful. We heard from the Grassmarket Community Project, Castletown Heritage Society, Lauren Currie of Snook and Tom Hopkins-Gibson and if you follow those links you will appreciate what a diversity of views and experiences they shared with us. We also chatted a lot and ate very good carrot cake.
I’m afraid I am not doing a good job of conveying anything very specific from this day (apart from the type of cake). However, I came away feeling noticeably less depressed than I usually am about the state of relationships between craftspeople in Scotland, even though I am not sure where we go from here. There are things that I would really like to do to change the way things are, if only because I am fed up with feeling so isolated; but at the same time I am aware that I am ludicrously overstretched already and, as my PhD funding comes to an end, things are only going to get worse. I need to get past a few big hurdles before I can even think straight, never mind commit to action. However, at least my antennae are now tuned to some of the action taking place elsewhere, and that is a very positive outcome.
I forgot to take my camera on the day, so I’ll just have to leave you with another scaffolding picture.