Craft overload?

6 Oct 2011 in Crafts Blog, Visual Arts & Crafts

September has been so jam packed with events, I felt it best to chart them from the beginning and work my way through!

From Skye to London via Inverness, I have seen work that has ranged from community knitting to dresses made from 20,000 pins, from exquisitely crafted jewellery to automata made from scrap.

Deirdre Nelson

Starting off in Portree in early September, the Bàta Brèagha / Bonnie Boat event and the Fish Exchange project saw the community create hundreds of knitted fish with Deirdre Nelson to raise funds for the RNLI; shop windows were filled with shoals for colourful silver darlings and £350 was raised at the auction on the 10th September. Visit the ATLAS Facebook page to see lots of the silver darlings which were produced as part of the Fish Exchange:

As Deirdre is also one of our mentors on Making Progress we took the opportunity to host a catch up meeting and exhibit work from some of our mentored makers in shop windows during a week which culminated in the Bonnie Boat event on the Saturday.

Craft Spotlight window in Portree, Sep 2011

Avril and I were then off to Helmsdale for 2 days of workshops with the Cultural Enterprise Office. Starting Out and Costing your Work gave us a chance to meet new makers and catch up with some established ones all in the inspiring setting of Timespan. It is always good at these events to network and make contacts and sometimes it feels that this is really what it is all about as we all know that being a maker in the Highlands can make you feel very isolated.

The noise level at lunchtime is always a good indication that things are going well!

No chance of peace and quiet at my next stop – London! Last year Origin relocated to Spitalfields market with a new date to coincide with the London Design Festival. Many makers were hesitant about the move and felt that the venue was not ideal. Not only that, the current economic climate makes taking on shows such as this a huge undertaking financially. In the good old days, makers could be confident that when they were selected for Origin they would go home having made lots of contacts, a full order book and having more than covered their costs.

Gilly Langton at Origin

Not any more, so it was with some trepidation that Gilly Langton and Eileen Gatt made the long journey on the sleeper train laden with work. Luckily for them it proved worthwhile and it was a real pleasure to see that their hard work had paid off. They both proved that having good images of your pieces, exquisitely crafted work and a beautifully designed stand are worth it – both were featured in the catalogue with Gilly’s image on the front cover and on all the posters!

Whilst in London I took the opportunity to visit Tent and 100% Design, both shows on a large scale featuring work that covered product design from small makers to large businesses.

Eileen Gatt at Origin

A real treat was to see the Power of Making at the V&A. I always love going to the V&A even when there are not large exhibitions on and this time I could only fit in the one visit.

45 minutes waiting in a queue to get in tested my patience but I consoled myself that it was really impressive that so many people were interested in seeing a craft exhibition! The 100 pieces celebrate the role of making in our lives and present an eclectic range from a life sized crochet bear, dry stone walling to new technologies.

Entrance to the V & A

I would like to go back when it was hopefully quieter as being herded round in a crowd was not ideal but at least I got the chance to view this inspirational show!

To complete my London trip I managed to go to the Royal Academy to see the stunning Degas exhibition, just to immerse oneself in the colour and line was a tonic after all the running around.

Home to the Highlands (always the best bit about going to London no matter what I have been to see!) and the change in weather was a shock but there was no let up in my travelling.

The Ganseyfest was an international celebration of the fishing heritage and gansey, the beautifully crafted patterned sweaters worn by fishermen. The Moray Firth Partnership is running a three year project focusing on the tradition of hand knitting in fishing communities and researching ways to introduce the craft to new audiences. This has included showing work at London Fashion Week and to forming a cooperative knitting group.

The two day event took place in Inverness on the 1st and 2nd October and was feast for both the enthusiast and the general public.

Helen Lockhart at Ganseyfest



Finally, Inverness Museum and Art Gallery completed my month by showing part of Lizzie Farey’s beautiful Spirit of Air exhibition alongside the amazing Sharmanka show of automata.

Work by Lizzie Farey

So 4 weeks of inspiration, innovation, exhaustion, many miles and many words.

Seeing such a range of work in such a short space of time really brings home the amazing work that can be called Craft by no other name. Craft overload? There is no such thing!

Enjoy it all when you can, here or further afield!

Pamela Conacher
5th October 2011