#makingmatters - crafting the future
#makingmatters - crafting the future
A multi disciplinary practice encompassing ceramics, creative development, arts management and the power of people and place!
I combine my ceramics practice, working as an independent craft curator/ producer and my role as a freelance contractor, focussing on creative-led and regeneration projects - I'm currently commissioned as Programmes Manger for DG Unlimited, a membership organisation that works with, and provides a voice for, Dumfries and Galloway's creative sector. In my 'spare time', I love to sing as a member of The Glasgow School of Art Choir - an inclusive, non-auditioned choir with no requirement to read music, we perform classical and contemporary classical choral pieces and also commission new choral works.
I returned to education in my early 30's at the same time as my youngest child started primary school. Accepted to study at the Glasgow School of Art in 1993, I graduated with BA (Hons) Design (Ceramics), won a GSA Travelling Scholarship and the GSA's Chase Charity Award in 1997. After graduating - and thanks to the cash award from the Chase Charity Foundation - I set up my own ceramics studio and exhibited work across the UK, in Ireland and Amsterdam. I also balanced my gallery based work with private commissions, commercial and educational projects; all of this has given me first-hand knowledge and understanding of common issues and concerns of creative practitioners - we have to be good 'plate-spinners' too!
Having also worked at operational, senior management and strategic level within Creative-led and Community-led regeneration since 2004, I've developed a broad perspective on the value of creativity to Scotland’s cultural, economic and social life and supporting creative practitioners and genuine ‘grass-roots’ cultural activity.
My mother taught me to make things; to knit, to sew, in the way she’d been taught by her mother...so my early view of craft was that it was something every-day and practical.
I applied to GSA's Fine Art Degree course /Painting Department, inspired by the ‘new’ Glasgow Boys (and Girls) and German Expressionist painters and printmakers like Käthe Kollwitz. I was redirected from Fine Art to the Ceramics department, discovered I ‘knew’ clay and that I could use it to express my deep affinity with a culture and heritage that had making and the land at its core (I’m first generation ‘off the island’; the grand-daughter of a crofter weaver from the Isle of Lewis).
For me, Craft is the keeper of tradition and the subverter of tradition; makers can innovate, commentate and challenge. I find endless fascination in our multitudinous approaches to craft and its ‘shape-shifting’ across boundaries and barriers – and artificial divides between design, making objects and making art.
I’ve worked at senior level within creative-led regeneration, with an honest commitment to embedding art, making and creativity in communities, supporting creative practitioners and promoting skills.
I played a major role in driving forward West Kilbride Craft Town, raising its national profile whilst developing its asset base. l succeeded in securing capital and revenue funding of £2m, delivering a capital project and launching a major exhibition venue.
Responsible for advising the organisation’s Board of Directors at strategic level, I also developed the venue's creative programme and was responsible for managing all aspects of the organisation's operational activities. During this time the project was recognised at national level through various awards including Enterprising Britain 2006, a Scottish Urban Regneration Forum Award in 2006, a Creative Scotland Creative Place Award in 2012 and the Village Category of the Great British High Street Awards 2015.
My contribution to the place-making agenda has been recognised by inclusion in various advisory groups, including the Scottish Government’s External Advisory Group assembled in September 2012 to take forward a national review of town centres.
I've been involved in selecting and hanging exhibitions since 1996; my first experience as part of a group show in the Baird Institute, Cumnock as a 3rd year undergraduate at the GSA. Setting up my degree show in 1997 came at the end of a taxing yet exhilarating final year - representing a 3rd of my final degree award, it was the culmination of academic research, technical experimentation, material knowledge and creative challenge; it also represented a huge emotional and time investment on my part...and it was nerve-wracking on opening night having put so much of myself out there into the public gaze. As a graduate, I was used to the process of submitting work for exhibition selection - and having to take rejection in my stride; as a member of Visual Arts Scotland selection and hanging committee from 1999 & 2000, I had to look at individual submissions in their own right but also consider how the exhibition would work as a whole and represent the breadth of visual and applied art.
Since then I've managed and programmed a small gallery space as well as programming a major exhibition space, bringing in national and international touring exhibitions whilst curating and hanging self-generated exhibitions of contemporary craft, promoting the work of emerging and established practitioners. My approach has remained firmly rooted in retaining respect for those who entrust the presentation of their work to others; I remember all that has been invested in each and every object. I continue to take inspiration from many sources and am intrigued by the work of other gallerists, curators and those who expand our ideas of exploration, explanation and presentation. For example, the following essay extract planted the seed of an exhibition idea which resulted in the development of "Exhibit A", my first exhibition as a freelance curator in 2018.
“When talking about exhibitions, it is urgent to understand what an exhibition is. The word ‘exhibition’ has its roots in legal terminology – the display of evidence in a court of law...provided for the jury to inspect and evaluate, and it can either strengthen or weaken the defendant’s defence.
Turning to art exhibitions, the exhibited works serve as evidence of an overall narrative. An important aspect, in my opinion, is the jury who evaluate the objects, and in the context of an art exhibition, the jury could consist of art critics and/or the public. The exhibition can be perceived as the medium through which works of art become meaningful. And it has to do with presenting them to the public”.
A Norwegian Crafts Publication
Documents on Contemporary Crafts no.3: Crafting Exhibitions
New Modes of Curating and Presenting Craft
An introduction to the craft of exhibition making, Andre Gali.