When were you first aware of SOFA?
Whilst I’d heard mention of SOFA in the first few months of being in post at Craft Scotland, I didn’t fully understand it until I received a place on the Scottish Arts Council Curator’s trip to New York in April 2009. The entire visit was centred around SOFA New York with guided tours of the show, trips to the penthouse homes of collectors and tickets to the lectures that are hosted as part of the event.
What were your first thoughts?
The Opening Night party was a complete eye opener for me. I’d been working in the craft sector for less than a year so hadn’t experienced shows at home in the UK such as Collect at that point, and SOFA was so dramatic. I remember being mesmerised by some of the jewellery people were wearing, and having a conversation with someone about them getting stuck when trying to get out of their limo because their necklace was so big.
However once inside it was the soul of the show that struck me. The work was incredibly unique and in the most part inspiring. I liked the way that traditional and contemporary sat together side by side in a way that I still haven’t seen here in the UK. I met Alison Kinnaird for the first time during this trip. She spoke of how successful a show it had been for her and how there was definitely a gap to be filled. Coincidentally, the panel selected Alison’s work for Craft Scotland’s presentation in New York 2013.
I came back to Scotland and reported to my board that I expected Craft Scotland to be launching in the US within two years.
I’d had meetings with lots of organisations during the trip and shared ideas about what Craft Scotland intended to achieve. The reception was always overwhelmingly positive and previous research also suggested there was an untapped market within the USA for Scottish craft. I was very keen to push ahead with SOFA, as were two of our Board members who were in the trip with me, and there were also lots of other opportunities opening out for us.
How did things progress with SOFA?
After meeting with the directors of SOFA at Craft Scotland’s Scotch Egg Party during Collect 2010, they then introduced me virtually via email to their newest member of the team Donna Davies. Donna and I continued conversations virtually until November 2010 when Donna flew down from Chicago to Philadelphia to meet me during my reccie trip of the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show (PMA). During this trip we met a couple of times and really hit it off.
I was enthusiastic to secure SOFA for Craft Scotland as early as possible, but as we had funds for one show in the USA in 2011 we decided to launch our brand with the PMA Craft Show. This would allow us to introduce a greater number of makers to the market (26 in total), build a strong relationship with the team at SOFA and do some developmental work with other contacts in the States ready for a SOFA presentation in 2012.
Thankfully we had a successful launch and as a result of Creative Scotland funding we are now in the position to take six craftspeople to Chicago and seven people to New York next year.
What are you most looking forward to with SOFA Chicago?
Well as I’m pregnant I decided it might not be a great idea to travel to Chicago as I know how much hard work there is involved at shows such as these. I was incredibly excited about being at the show and visiting Chicago itself as I’ve never been. My plan was to stay on for a wee holiday and to take in the US election. I was also excited about seeing the other galleries and the work on show.
Now it’s more of a virtual experience for me I’m particularly enjoying the films we’ve created as part of the promotional campaign. They are providing me with an insight into the work that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
I’m also really enjoying the conversations I am having with our friends and contacts in the American craft sector. Everyone is delighted that we’re involved and I feel welcome despite not being there in person!
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