Preparing for the Crafting Futures residency reminded me of being a teenager going on “exchange.” One’s bag would always include some representative souvenirs for the family one was visiting: a tin of biscuits or confectionery, a small book about one’s local area. I wanted to bring gifts for my compatriots on the Crafting Futures residency that similarly spoke a little about who I was, and where I came from. So I packed four snoods; a few skeins of Milarrochy Tweed, and worried, as I did so, if this was the right thing to do. Would it be that sort of exchange?
I soon realised that I needn’t have been anxious: that the wide range of things, that all the different objects we’d brought with us in our bags, were just brilliant ways of starting to talk to one another and to begin our conversations. The first morning we spent together revolved around discussion of all the different things we made. So we talked about texture when handling Fiona’s beautiful sheer and napped and puff-paint printed fabrics; we considered process through Sol’s indigo, cochineal, and handspun wool; we admired Pili’s innovative and stylish hairy shoes and we marveled at the artisan paper Dalila had produced from her work recycling fish waste.
Our shared friendship was quickly consolidated through simple things. Sol admired the mountain-peak earrings I was wearing, so I took them from my earlobes and put them into hers (Oaxaca, like Scotland is a place of mountains. Mountains made both of us feel at home).
Drinking chocolate made from the heavy, paper-wrapped lumps that Sol had carried with her from Mexico to Scotland gave me a taste of her home landscape.
And so we exchanged our things with one another . . .
. . .and we also exchanged our words, our ideas, our processes, our skills . . .
All of these things became part of the residency’s wider conversation.
Incidental things and occurrences also became, in their own way, important parts of our exchange. I think, for example, about the conversation Pili and I had one morning about the design and branding of a particular kind of yoghurt pot; about how Fiona and I somehow managed to get lost in a place with literally one road; about how our Mexican friends’ first experience of British TV, having turned it on in a hotel room, happened to be channel 4’s naked dating show; about how, after walking into Braemar one evening and finding the fish & chip shop closed, we made do with supplies from the co-op, and ate my favourite “posh” fish finger sandwiches instead (fresh white loaf, rocket leaves, capers, pickled beetroot, mayonnaise). And then I think about how Pili later made the same fish finger sandwiches for her Mexico City friends, when also introducing them to the delights of Scottish Gin.
Chance discoveries, unintended consequences, completely random moments contributed to what ended up being so special about our residency. Aren’t these in their way, also artefacts or documents, also things?
I didn’t think about it at the time, but our time together, our residency, definitely became, under its own volition, its own distinctive thing.
The best way I can think of describing our residency’s thing-ness is to compare it to the way that the idea of a couple is something entirely separate from the two people that comprise it. We were five separate makers, thrown together. But we also became one entity, sharing the same experience, within the same parameters – one thing.
The very particular thing-ness of the residency immediately became, for me at least, the focus of a certain kind of nostalgia. I returned home, to daily life, and all the projects I’d put on hold. The residency was behind me, over there: a closed-off halcyon time of unfettered potential, 10 days of creative sharing that could never be recaptured.
But though the thing-ness of our residency was certainly impossible to return to, it was something upon which we could now begin to build.
And that’s what we’ve all continued to do.
Exploring each other’s practices, cultures, contexts and making identities
Thinking carefully about how we might bring little pieces of each other into our own work
Finding ways to honour the residency, celebrate each other as individuals, and articulate the new shared identities we’ve developed, through the creative making of things.