Carrie Fertig with work / Image courtesy of Craft Scotland via The Herald / Photography by Gordon Terris.

Craft Scotland

Craft Scotland Director, Irene Kernan in conversation with North Lands Creative Director Karen Phillips.

network organisation 


1. Firstly can you introduce Craft Scotland?

Craft Scotland is the national development agency for contemporary craft. Scotland’s makers have a well-deserved international reputation and we promote Scottish craft and support makers as they develop their careers and practice through events, exhibitions, and our professional development programmes. Our website provides a platform for craft enthusiasts to engage and learn about Scottish-based makers and craft destinations.

2. Craft Scotland was founded in 2004. How has the organisation and craft more widely changed over that period?

I feel that craft is rightly being valued for the skills, innovative approaches and material processes involved. There is a very positive interest in craft processes in art colleges and I can see that Scottish craft is regarded with a great deal of respect outside of Scotland. And there are many great organisations and businesses operating within the sector which helps to create exciting new opportunities for more makers.

Craft Scotland at Collect, 2018 ©Sophie Mutevelian

3. Craft skills contribute a whopping £3.4bn to the UK economy. Why do you think they are still so undervalued, especially in schools? And what can be done to turn the tide?

It is really disappointing that there are fewer opportunities to access arts skills in schools, it’s something I feel very strongly about. As well as the value that comes from learning through creative approaches, craft skills can develop other transferable skills of use in many other non-creative careers. We are working with Panel at the moment to explore how craft might be supported within schools but it is just a start and we will continue to advocate for the benefits of craft in all aspects of our work.

4. What do you think Craft Scotland’s role should be in art in education?

We are part of a dynamic sector – of experienced and committed organisations, institutions, craft collectives and businesses – and I think working in partnership is crucial to help support and develop aspects of the sector such as education. I feel Craft Scotland does have an important role in nurturing talent and in helping develop and signpost routes into craft to help makers establish their careers, or to enable people to learn about and develop an appreciation for craft and we will continue to focus on this.

5. The contemporary glass world is built on mobility: artists and their projects are not subjected to national borders, they travel and work in different countries, and their works are exhibited globally. How do you think the international glass scene will change after this crisis?

It may well be more difficult for makers to travel or participate internationally but I hope other opportunities emerge, and we are certainly looking at how we can support makers to establish connections beyond Scotland. Craft Scotland is a partner on a three-year collaborative EU-funded project, which includes the Glasmalerei Peters Studio and because of travel and participation restrictions we will have to test models for remote working over the course of the project, so we will have some useful experience to share with the sector. There is a lot of innovative thinking within the glass sector and the wider craft sector and I do think this will lead to new ways of working and new ideas for supporting the glass community.

6. Do you think projects such as ISGNE make a difference to Scottish glass? And if so, why?

Absolutely! Projects of such significant scale and ambition are so important in widening access to glass skills and for sharing knowledge, but also in reminding audiences and sectors like education of the essential value in retaining and developing such specialist skills. As I know from attending the Northlands conference, watching the incredible performance involved in making glass and talking to enthusiasts and experts about the process is what excites people and inspires them to find out more and ultimately to support the sector.

Craft Scotland - Summer Show, 2017. Credit- SusanCastillo

7. Do you have any advice to young people who might wish to enter the craft industry?

I would recommend (of course) checking out the Craft Scotland website and signing up to the Crafts Scotland newsletters which promote professional opportunities and give an overview of what is happening in the sector. We always welcome contact from anyone who is interested in beginning their careers, or finding out more about the sector and are happy to chat. And professional membership organisations such as Scottish Glass Society and Applied Arts Scotland offer very useful benefits and access to a supportive professional network.

8. Tell us something we definitely won’t know about Craft Scotland or your role.


9. How has Covid-19 affected the Scottish craft sector including Scottish glass makers?

We have been hearing positive stories from the sector during and post-lockdown but we know from our impact surveys that many craft businesses and individuals have been hit quite hard. Makers generally manage portfolio careers and work across all areas of society as a fundamental part of their practice – figures from our recent survey showed that 72% of makers work with young people, 86% in informal learning and 65% within the local community for example. Over half of makers we surveyed reported that 100% of these projects and sources of income were either postponed or cancelled as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19).  And Over 49% had lost 80-100% of their income for 2020 due to cancellation of trade shows and events; retail outlets being closed or loss of income from classes and workshops.

10. What’s been keeping Craft Scotland busy during lockdown?

We had to move elements of our programme online which took some time, and were particularly prioritising activities that would help makers, including professional development webinars and advice sessions. We have also been meeting Creative Scotland and Scottish Government regularly to ensure we can inform the sector about funding and other support but also to make the case for support for the sector.  And to replace our Summer Show, which had to be cancelled, we have developed an online national campaign – Craft Week Scotland which runs 9-15 November. This aims to promote makers’ websites and online shops and any craft experiences or events which are happening across the country. We hope to help boost sales for makers and craft places in the pre- Christmas period, and to raise awareness of the diversity of craft skills and the range of work available.

Grainne Morton COVID-19 Studios

©Sophie Mutevelian238A8971

Harry Morgan, Craft Scotland at Collect 2018. Photography by Sophie Mutevelian.

11. Have you noticed a change in what customers and collectors are interested in buying? Do you think this pandemic will change how and what we buy?

The increase in online buying will hopefully continue to benefit many makers or craft businesses. There seems to be a lot of interest in supporting local and independent businesses and a growing focus on areas like ethical sourcing and products with a lower carbon footprint, all of which is positive for craft.

12. What is Craft Scotland doing to support other ways to engage the broader creative industries and art sector?

We work with great partners such as Historic Environment Scotland, and we are members of advocacy organisations such as Culture Counts and the World Crafts Council, so we keep in touch with developments across the arts and creative industries sector and promote craft through these channels.  We are also have a partnership with Department of International Trade (DIT) through which we can promote Scottish craft beyond Scotland.

13. How resilient is the craft sector particularly glass at this time?

I feel that as a highly skilled, adaptable and supportive sector, craft feels very resilient at the moment. Makers are very often well connected to their communities and so have networks and connections they can rely on outside of the sector, as well as their professional networks. And within the glass sector there are many passionate advocates who are able to explain why a focus on support for Glass is so important.

14. In what ways do you think technology and the digital pivot will continue to push craft, and vice versa?

I think digital technologies are now part of the set of tools that makers use regularly which is really interesting, particularly when you see how this can work so well with traditional or established craft processes and materials. And of course a lot of makers are excellent at online marketing and sales so are developing that aspect of their business as well.

15. You communicate with artists, studios and educators in the UK and other European countries. What is the prevailing mood currently?

Of course there is concern about the uncertainties that everyone faces. And it is so disappointing for students who should be building their networks and accessing the wonderful resources in colleges.  But there is still a lot of positivity and hope from members of the World Craft Council for example, with everyone determined to identify how makers and craft businesses can be supported.

16. Where can people find out more information on Craft Scotland’s work and opportunities?

You can visit our website  and sign up to our newsletters and social media

platforms to start a craft conversation.

Craft Scotland Maker Bryony-Knox, image credit - Caro Weiss

Choi Keeryong, Craft Scotland at Collect 2018. Photography by Sophie Mutevelian.

more interviews...