NEW ground will be broken at the beginning of next month, when Scottish Borders Council Museum and Gallery Service establishes its first international exchange link.
It comes through a visit to India being undertaken by the museums service’s Shona Sinclair, area curator with specific remit for the Borders Textile Towerhouse in Hawick.
She will join Dr Britta Kalkreuter, a lecturer in contextual studies at the School of Textiles and Design at Heriot-Watt University’s Galashiels campus, and Louise Butler, a freelance curator whose background and expertise is textiles.
Funded by a grant from Creative Scotland, the three textiles experts will travel to the city of Ahmedabad and then on to the town of Bhuj, both in the north eastern Indian state of Gujarat, during the first week of December.
The aim of the visit is to discuss a proposal to set up a residency programme for textile designers and artists in the respective countries.
During the visit, the Borders trio will have meetings with potential partners and make connections with recommended artisans and designers.
If the preliminary meetings in India are successful, it is hoped the programme can be rolled out in August and then again in June 2013, but it will depend on funding coming from various sources, including, hopefully, Creative Scotland.
The project would see two Indian designers/artists travelling to the Borders for four weeks, with a reciprocal visit by two Scottish designers/artists jetting out to India.
Shona explained how the project had come about: “It started with Louise, who was out in India last year as part of a Creative Scotland initiative.
“The aim of that trip was to help develop curatorial expertise. As a result, Louise had this idea for a residency exchange programme and came to see me about it. We then approached Heriot-Watt which already has a lot of links with India.”
Now with Dr Kalkreuter on board, next month’s visit will see the trio visiting India’s National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad which, along with Heriot-Watt’s campus in Galashiels, would be the twin work bases for the scheme.
Shona told TheSouthern how the exchange programme would target practitioners in the area of textiles and allow them to pursue their own practice for the four-week periods, with an account of their experiences being communicated on a dedicated website and in a curated exhibition to be shown at the Borders Textile Tower/ Hawick Museum and in Ahmedabad.
And she added: “It is envisaged that the Scottish artists and designers exchanging to India will reside at the Arts Reverie in Ahmedabad from where they can engage with academics and use facilities at NID, and build on existing links with local projects and design communities in Gujarat.
“Some time might be spent at the Kala Raksha initiative in Kutch which is an established centre for community engagement and offers access to textile collections with an emphasis on embroidery and surface decoration.
“Practitioners from India will reside at Heriot-Watt in Galashiels and benefit from dialogue with academics and access to facilities, as well as the school’s international network of students and designers within Scotland.”
The Indian designers would also engage with agencies such as Creative Arts Business Network (CABN), Scottish Borders Council Museums and Galleries Service, Borders Textile Tower (BTT) and possibly initiatives around industrial engagement with local companies to achieve as much exposure as possible to local initiatives.
The hoped-for outcome would be shared knowledge on diverse practices, materials and modes of engagement within Indian and Scottish communities of practitioners, industry and higher education.
There would also be research projects, mainly in areas of curation, archive, collaborative design and contextual studies, with opportunities to share skills and knowledge with the wider community, particularly in the Borders.
Shona, who visited India some 20 years ago, says the upcoming trip will be exciting.
She told us: “India has a fantastic history in the field of textiles and if the project can get the funding and go ahead, who knows what other spin-offs might flow from it?
“The museums service has never been involved in international exchanges before, so that’s also a first for us and something we could build on if we can get the funding.”