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High Quality Arts & Crafts

by Deborah Leggate -

Shetland Arts is proud to announce that it has completed the quality assessment of work by almost thirty visual artists, photographers and craftmakers; members of the Shetland Arts & Crafts Association. The assessment was commissioned by Shetland Islands Council for the Shetland Arts & Crafts Association. This year members" work achieved a high average pass of 80 % on assessment criteria such as originality, design and skill, production methods and presentation.

Shetland Arts put together objective teams of designers, artists and specialist Shetland Arts staff, to evaluate the work, which is presented for assessment in a completed form, as a buyer would receive it at the point of sale. Separate assessment categories covered the increasingly diverse forms of craft, visual art, and product made by the Association membership; such as photography, printmaking, painting and sculpture, jewellery, furniture making, bookbinding, knitting, metalwork, leatherwork, basketmaking, ceramics, fused glass and textiles.

The quality assessment process supports the Shetland Arts & Crafts Association's aim to maintain and improve the standard of work exhibited annually at its annual Craft Fair at Clickimin Leisure Centre. Organised and delivered each year by the Association's volunteer committee, the Craft Fair in 2011 saw an increase of 20% in exhibitor numbers, and, as well as Shetland attendees, it was attended by trade buyers from outwith Shetland who were impressed by the event presentation, the variety and quality of exhibits.

A quality assessment pass is required by the Association for work shown by all the artists and craftmakers taking part in their Shetland Craft Trail. Now beginning its second year, the Shetland wide Craft Trail of open studios and workshops is available for exploration by visitors from Shetland and abroad.

Ian Gidney, the Shetland Arts & Crafts Association Chairman said: “The assessment is very important to us; it provides a gentle upward pressure on quality year on year. Shetland Arts does an excellent job: testing is rigorous, and with great care taken to remain objective, which must be difficult with such a wide range of craft and art to work on. The whole process is designed to be, and is, encouraging and informative rather thanintimidating. We get plenty of feedback, with useful suggestions, rather than a simple pass or fail.”

Wendy Inkster is the Association Secretary, Exhibition and Craft Trail Organiser. She said: “Over the years, we see the quality of arts and crafts in Shetland increase, with new makers joining to become full members by going through the Quality Assessment process, something we are very proud of. With the recent success of our first ever Craft Trail we intend to build on this and increase and improve what the Association has to offer.”

Nicola Halcrow of Shetland Islands Council Economic Development said: “The Council has funded the quality assessments in recent years and we are delighted to see the standard of the craft industry improve year on year. Not only does it show the commitment by individual craft makers but it gives the craft industry as a whole the confidence to take forward initiatives such as the craft trail.”

The work of the Association's membership and their new Craft Trail is attracting the attention of travel journalists promoting contemporary Shetland craft beyond UK. A TV travel documentary, being filmed soon for Japanese television will include Shetland craftmakers. Elizabeth Johnston of Shetland Handspun and Wendy Inkster of Burra Bears are featured in the Channel 5, “Holiday Heaven on Earth” programme later this month, and a researcher for, who explored the Craft Trail last summer, selected the Burra Bears Open Studio as one of the top 15 cool shops to visit in Scotland.

Through development projects and exhibitions delivered by their Arts Development team, Shetland Arts supports the work of creative practitioners and groups working at all levels of visual art and craft in Shetland.

Hazel Hughson, Shetland Arts Development Officer for crafts said: “At Shetland Arts we are very pleased with the assessment results and congratulate everyone involved. We worked closely with Association Committee members to design an objective and critical assessment of the work of creative practitioners. Of course we are delighted with the high quality result, but we will continue to enable new levels of contemporary craft and art practice in the community through the development projects and exhibitions we offer.”

For six weeks each summer, Shetland Arts exhibits selected contemporary craft by members of the Shetland Arts & Crafts Association, in the Bonhoga Gallery Lower Gallery Craft Cabinet. This year the selling exhibition runs from 16th June until 29th July.

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