Contemporary craft and the commodification of national identity in 1970s Scotland: what can be learned from cultural policy?
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PEACH, A. 2011. Contemporary craft and the commodification of national identity in 1970s Scotland: what can be learned from cultural policy? Making futures [online], 2: proceedings of the 2nd international conference: the crafts as change maker in sustainably aware cultures, 15-16 September 2011, Devon, UK, pages 230-239. Available from: http://makingfutures.plymouthart.ac.uk/media/75860/peach_andrea.pdf
Scotland benefits from a long and rich cultural heritage, which is readily associated with its material culture (Butler 2000). This heritage has, in the latter half of the twentieth century, provided economic opportunities for the craft practitioner, in satisfying the demand for objects representing ‘Scottishness’. The production of such objects, ranging from indigenous folk art to contemporary studio craft, has been actively supported and promoted by cultural agencies and policy because of its importance to the Scottish economy and cultural identity. Indigenous Scottish craft and its associated iconography have been adopted in Scotland since the eighteenth century as a means of promoting Scottish national identity at home and abroad. However the use of traditional iconography is curiously at odds with Scotland’s rise as a modern industrial nation in the twentieth century, the demise of its more traditional rural economies and the move towards devolution after the 1970s (McCrone 1995). By exploring notions of national identity and heritage, often associated with indigenous Scottish craft objects, this paper will consider whether a cultural legacy can be successfully reconciled in contemporary craft practice, both commercially and aesthetically. Does a strong national identity or material culture ‘brand’ (McCrone 1995) associated with heritage and tradition, provide a viable means of economic and cultural sustainability to the contemporary Scottish craftsperson? This research will focus specifically on contemporary Scottish craft practice in the 1970s, by looking at the impact of cultural policy on the production and consumption of the contemporary craft object in Scotland. Craft historians acknowledge the 1970s as a period of revival and reinvention of craft practice in Britain (Harrod 1999; Adamson 2007), with the creation of funding bodies to support the crafts nationally and promote the concerns of the craftsperson. However Scotland had its own funding bodies for the crafts at this time and followed a different trajectory in terms of craft policy to that of the rest of Britain (Harrod 1999, p. 370; Wood 1996, p. 29). Whereas England and Wales witnessed the promotion of the craftsperson as ‘artist’, Scottish funding enterprises were more concerned with positioning craft as ‘small business activity’ (Peach 2007). This disparity in focus and ideology, with respect to Scottish craft and its economic and cultural sustainability, is something this paper aims to address. Scotland provides an exemplar of how the targeted support of particular forms of craft production by cultural agencies, under the aegis of economic and cultural sustainability, can influence representations of national identity through its material culture. This research will therefore provide a valuable case study of how cultural policy and strategy impact upon craft practice, in terms of its production and consumption, and should provide lessons which might inform future craft policy.