Three professional craft makers are working with Banff Academy students in a first for Aberdeenshire to develop contemporary design pieces inspired by Duff House, and the current Early Scottish Silver exhibition currently on loan there from the National Museum of Scotland.

The Meet Your Maker project – a collaborative partnership project between Craft Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and Aberdeenshire Council – has tasked senior art and design students with researching, developing and creating new pieces of contemporary art. They’re learning why silver, not gold, became the most important precious metal in Scotland over the course of the first millennium AD and the part that silver played in the transformation of society in Scotland during this period. Banff itself was a silversmithing town from the 14th to 19th century.

This project hopes to explore and express the connections between our heritage and the modern world of technology we live in today, while thinking about the materials used to convey this fusion between the traditional and modern.

Led by craft makers – David Powell (Willow Sculptor), Naomi McIntosh (Interdisciplinary designer) and Megan Falconer (Silversmith), and art teacher Angus Lillie – the students will then have the opportunity to have their pieces displayed at Duff House before moving down to an exhibition at Stirling Castle later next year. They will be spending part of their project time working in The Smiddy, a centre of excellence for silversmithing and jewellery in Banff, with Megan who is based there as part of her work with social enterprise Vanilla Ink.

The Smiddy was refurbished through a Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) project which secured funding from the Scottish Government, HES and Aberdeenshire Council to restore a unique example of a Scottish Meal House. Through a call for operators, Vanilla Ink were selected to reignite silversmithing in Banff and have been developing a portfolio of workshops and activities since launching in September 2018.

The work produced in the Meet Your Maker project will count towards the students’ portfolio collection. Specialists from Media Education commissioned by HES will also work with two photography students to record the project and edit a short film, which will be shown as part of the exhibition and on social media platforms.

Councillor Gillian Owen, chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee commented: “This exciting project has been made possible through a special partnership between a local school, our Cultural Services team who support this local historical attraction and contemporary artists and makers working together in the community to inspire our young people. We applaud all of those taking part and look forward to seeing some fantastic new pieces of contemporary art.”

Gillian MacNee (learning officer) from Historic Environment Scotland, said: “The Meet Your Maker project is in its fourth year across Scotland and we’re pleased to run it this time for Banff Academy students using that local connection to Duff House. It is a great opportunity for participants to work with professional artists and co-design new work, and it will be particularly special to see the outputs following the Year of Young People 2018. Those taking part will gain an insight into the world of work and learn new skills through collaboration. It is great to develop the partnership between Duff House and Banff Academy, and we look forward to supporting further collaboration in the future.”

Craft Scotland director, Irene Kernan said, “Craft Scotland is delighted to partner with Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and Aberdeenshire Council on this Meet Your Maker project, part of Craft Scotland’s year-round outreach and engagement programme. This project has allowed us to take a new and successful approach, enabling a greater number of outstanding makers to take up residencies in schools and within the wider community.

“There are several pleasing aspects to this particular project. First and foremost, it showcases the importance of bringing craft into the lives of young people – for health and wellbeing, for creative learning and as a route to potential future careers. Secondly, it expands the opportunities for makers to be involved in education and in the local business environment. This project has successfully replicated popular Central Belt models (such as at Stirling Castle) in rural areas, which is a very positive development as we know that community making can bring people together and reduce isolation.

“We thank Historic Environment Scotland for their outstanding support of this project, and as well as Aberdeenshire Council, and the local schools and businesses who took part.”

The project is running for six months, until the end of March 2019 and the pupils’ exhibition will be launched on March 29, 2019.

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