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Shetland Arts’ Creative Project Manager, Kathryn Spence, has been looking back at The Visual Arts and Crafts Makers Award (VACMA) 2018/19 and the way in which it has allowed local artists and craft makers opportunity for progression and development. The fund specifically looks at development; how an artist can use it to develop, and how that, in turn, allows their work to develop too.

I am very grateful for the opportunity given to me by being awarded this grant.

It has enabled me to explore new design ideas and ways of working which will give me a wider customer base. (VACMA awardee)

Having been a freelance artist for many a year, I recognise the difficulty in being able to prioritise development when so often it’s making ends meet that become the priority. There’s an excitement that lies in this also; responding to current opportunity and need and it is joyous to make your living from doing what you love. And so often development happens along this journey, but what I love so much about this award is that it encourages an artist to think about what they want to develop and actually allows them to do so!

Development can be nurturing and encourage your work to go on a whole new journey.

The award gave me a confidence boost at just the right time. (VACMA awardee)

We recently visited some of the VACMA 18/19 round 2 awardees to see how their award had been spent.

We visited Anne-Marie Anderson, aka Peerie Oorick, Whalsay and saw how her felting machine had completely changed her timescales for making work. Her work is rather delicate, and being able to use a machine as opposed to the felting needle allows her to make so much more in so much less time. What really struck me is how she is using her work as a method of engagement, using the books and the characters to reinforce Shetland Dialect.

This award will enable me to produce a varied array of stock (VACMA awardee)

Amy Gear from Gaada in Burra used the money to be able to buy more colour drums for her Risograph machine. These have allowed her to use more colours in their printmaking and will allow her to buy more colours for less cost in the future as you can replace the cartridge once you have the drums. Gaada have been delivering a variety of community workshops as well as making new works of their own. It was a real delight to see how they have converted the auld kirk into an artist studio.

VACMA has allowed me to develop my practice through the purchasing of new materials and equipment. I was able to explore new printing techniques through Risography, and create new print works within Shetland (I haven't had to travel south to a print studio). Being able to explore work materially, also allows for exploring work conceptually, they go hand in hand. (VACMA awardee)

Gilly B used the money to make wallpaper and fabric with her cut out designs. This has allowed her to make designs in a slightly different way, enabling her to increase or decrease the scale. A repeat pattern can be more versatile, therefore developing her work in such a way to reach more customers.

This award has enabled me to develop new connections with other designers in Shetland and to show another side of my work. (VACMA awardee)

Linda Newington used the award to get her work framed for her exhibition, and to make a book that ran alongside it. She worked alongside GAADA to commission this printed book, which helped explain her process to audiences. It was lovely to see how the money can support the artists directly, but also, how spending this money back into our local artist economy can help support other local artists too. Linda has a beautiful exhibition, Dazzled, at Shetland Museum and Archives - it was great to see the award spent in such a practical way for an upcoming event.

Helen Robertson used the money to buy new tools that enabled her to make jewellery in new shapes, allowing her to explore a new range inspired by seabirds and eggs. I loved learning the different ways to use enamels to create different impressions from the enamel.

There are more artists that have received this development fund - These are just a few examples to provide some idea of how the money has been spent and the impact it has had on the artists.

‘Thank you for the award. It has helped my peerie business immensely’ (VACMA awardee)

It’s so important that artists are supported, and I am delighted that VACMA can go a little of the way to helping that to happen.

I found the application process easy to follow with the guidelines. If I needed any advice the Shetland Arts team were on hand to answer any queries. (VACMA awardee)

If you are interested in applying for VACMA look out for the next round of funding being announced later in the year - https://www.shetlandarts.org/you/creatives/support/visual-art-craft-awards

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