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This summer saw the launch of ShetlandMade, a programme of applied art and craft showcases delivered in the main gallery at Bonhoga. The contemporary visual art programme moved off site to take advantage of a diverse range of spaces and opportunities around Shetland, enabling Bonhoga to celebrate craft and its role in Shetland’s culture and economy.

The ShetlandMade programme featured 15 local designers and makers over three exhibitions and ran from 31st March to 9th September and included current ranges, new work, and one off larger pieces.

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“a really exciting range of work showing that craft is not only alive but evolving and responding to changing times”

“Lovely to see innovative new ideas for textiles”

“Wonderful collection, I want to buy it all”

“Beautiful work, amazing skill”

“Lovely to see local art and craft shown at Bonhoga"

The showcases provided a unique opportunity for each designer/maker to sell their work within an exhibition context allowing a deeper level of engagement from the visitor. Included in the offer to makers was the creation of an online feature, fully tailored to them, from which they received full marketing support.

Each maker delivered an online Creative Insight into their practice, the inspiration behind their work and the realities of running a creative business in Shetland. This activity helped to develop audience awareness of local craft practices and an understanding of the value of ‘handmade’. As well as a development opportunity, this was a highly successful marketing tool. These Creative Insights proved hugely successful and the Shetland Arts website and social media platfroms saw a significant rise in traffic over the showcase period, with over 7300 views of a combination of diary entry, blog, instagram and video interview, eg.

This is an exciting new opportunity for Shetland makers. Craft is recognised as an art form as well as a creative industry and makers play a key role in the local creative community. With an increase in demand for local work, we are keen to increase our support of this sector by establishing a retail and exhibition platform for applied art and craft at Bonhoga.

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This opportunity brings together some of Shetland’s finest practitioners, allowing them to showcase their work alongside their peers and take advantage of the high levels of footfall which Bonhoga enjoys during the tourist season. During the ShetlandMade showcases, the exhibition footfall was over 10,500 and sales in excess of £20,000. The exhibition context makes this the ideal platform to celebrate Shetland creatives.

Feedback from the public was very encouraging and almost exclusively positive, which is a great indicator to the success of a craft exhibition and retail model like this going forward. To celebrate the success of the programme, a networking event for the ShetlandMade makers was hosted at Bonhoga Gallery, and everyone given the opportunity to feedback about the programme and make any suggestions they wish as we consider options for 2019.

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