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Published: 12 August 2021

By Andy Ross

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The joy of making art

Often, the time it takes and the processes that have to be gone through to weave cause visitors to the studio in Yell to comment "That must be very therapeutic". Perhaps that holds the key to reviving an industry?

This month there have been a couple of events that I have attended online. Run by the World Crafts Council these events are around the role of crafts in cultures around the world, how to help communities to revive and revalue their own traditions and how to use data to inform policy around craft. They are fascinating insights into the global phenomena of craft; people from across the world have been sharing their stories and ideas freely, and the conversations have been lively and informative. 

One of the subjects that keeps returning is the role of craft in the modern-day. What compels people make things, and how can craft utilise that information to present a strong case to those who make the laws and rules that govern us all? A common theme appears to be wellbeing. From Pakistan to Scotland, Eastern Europe to Western USA craft is being used to support mental and physical health. In Shetland too, wellbeing is a Hot Topic. Our own Creative Wellbeing Festival has been using drawing, music, writing and craft to help ease loneliness and support people isolated by the pandemic and others too are using artistic discipline for health gain. 

Shetland Tweed may find an unlikely saviour in this turn towards health. If those therapeutic aspects of weaving - taking time away from frenetic activity, considering colours, experimenting with structures, etc - can be monitored and analysed there may be very good data to back up the mental and physical health reasons for making something.

While I am keeping an open mind, I remain to be fully convinced that this is a viable way to save an industry, but it is certainly worth a look. After all, those of us who participate in art and craft know how they can help in even the most difficult situations. Perhaps there is an aspect of Shetland Tweed that could benefit by this turn to healthier lives? More research remains to be done but, in the meantime, craft and art is helping us all.