Mentoring Supports Resilience in Makers

Image: Riccardo Annandale via Unsplash

Image: Riccardo Annandale via Unsplash

The Resilience Programme 2021/22 was a mentoring initiative led by Applied Arts Scotland and Craft Scotland. It was designed to help makers in Scotland build resilience through using the collective knowledge and experience within the sector including new skills and strategies developed in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.   

The overall aim was to support and encourage a mentoring culture in the Scottish craft community. It was funded by Creative Scotland and included partners Creative Edinburgh and Heritage Crafts. 

Read on to learn more about the benefits of mentoring and the programme.  

Resilience is the ability to adapt and withstand challenging situations and this aptitude has never been more important for makers than now as they navigate constantly changing circumstances from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to Brexit and the cost-of-living crisis.    

The aspiration of the Resilience Programme was to create a supportive environment through mentoring where makers would be able to reflect and develop the resilience and confidence required to re-energise, revitalise and sustain their creative and business practice. 

There were two strands to the programme in which 20 makers participated. Peer to Peer Co-Mentoring which connected like-minded makers at the same career stage interested in exploring skills and knowledge exchange, this was particularly suitable for makers who were less certain about the way they wanted to develop their practice. 

“I was pushed to do the difficult things that I might have otherwise shied away from” - Charlott Rodgers, Mentee

The Mentor/Mentee strand was for makers with 2-3 years' experience who had a clear idea about the direction they wanted to take and were keen to work with an experienced mentor to support them in their development.   

The programme finished last year and in the evaluation, participants described a wide range of benefits which for some were considerable and transformative.   

A boost to confidence was one of the most significant impacts. This began with being accepted on to the programme and grew through having a supporter in the mentor. This had a significant impact on their personal confidence and wellbeing. 

Jenna Carney, who participated in Peer to Peer strand said “Being a creative can sometimes bring with it feelings of loneliness or isolation, so to be in contact with another maker who understands the challenges that a creative can go through is really helpful, and having this type of experience could contribute towards makers not giving up on their creative practice or process in the long term.”   

Image: Charlott Rodgers / Photography by Neil Hanna

There was also an increase in business resilience throughout the process as it gave an opportunity for reflection, clarifying goals and provided the tools to develop plans for how to achieve them.   

“I was pushed to do the difficult things that I might have otherwise shied away from” explained Charlott Rodgers, glass artist, who was a Mentee. “The mentoring injected extra energy and self- belief. That’s self-perpetuating – you present yourself differently (in applications) when you have self-belief. I got what I expected and more. I was blown away by how much I got.”   

For Charlott and several other participants this increase in confidence also led to tangible outcomes in the form of securing exhibitions, residencies and education opportunities. 

Image: Madeleine Shepherd's studio / Photography by artist

“The Co-Mentoring Programme was only a few months long and while it was happening it certainly changed my attitude to my craft business. It gave me the confidence boost to successfully apply for a major grant” said Madeleine Shepherd, textiles, who participated in Peer to Peer.  

“It was very gratifying. The results were palpable. I felt like I was contributing.” - Rauni Higson, Mentor

There were also benefits for the Mentors. Silversmith Rauni Higson shares “It was very gratifying. The results were palpable. I felt like I was contributing.”  It also had an impact on her business “I had to be one step ahead of the game, I would look out resources and that would be a reminder to me and encourage me to reflect and review my own practice.” 

During the programme three themes emerged as making a positive impact on the mentoring experience. These were that participants had to commit energy and time, identifying a specific need and focus made a difference to the outcome, and having accountability to their co-mentee drove action and progress. 

A selection of the participants contacted recently would all recommend mentoring to other makers.  They were keen to see a mentoring culture supported and encouraged in the Scottish craft community. They mention the value of mutual support and the potential for it to become an ongoing process for a whole career. An organisation to match make would be useful. 

“I think mentoring should very much be encouraged amongst makers” said Tina MacLeod, a contemporary jeweller based in the West Highlands who was a Mentee. “For example, a programme could be provided that goes further, where a monthly/quarterly meeting place could be found, that is easy to travel to from across Scotland (not just Edinburgh) where a group of mentees could meet with a group of mentors, then pair off with a suitable match. I believe that cross-disciplinary interaction can really ignite and encourage new ways of thinking and deliver successful creative outcomes.”   

Image: Kirsty Dalton / Photography by Jack Anderson

 “I think it truly allows you to connect and learn from one another” - Kirsty Dalton, Peer to Peer participant

 “I think it truly allows you to connect and learn from one another” said Kirsty Dalton, a designer working with wood who took part in Peer to Peer. “The best advice I have been given over the years has always been from other makers. I feel most of us work alone in isolation most of the time, it is quite easy to get in your own head about things, just those small conversations, advice and little breaks away from your work can help you reflect and develop your practice. In the longer term it has made me more thoughtful about my long-term goals and given me insight into how to both plan ahead and take time to reflect on my practice.” 

The outcomes of The Resilience Programme give an inspiring insight into the difference a mentoring spirit could have on the making community in Scotland and the value of the collective wisdom of the craft sector.


Tina Rose FSAScot is a freelance curator, consultant and the founder of Really Interesting Objects CIC which develops imaginative new ways for people to experience, enjoy and engage with quality craft.   

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