Icelandic and Highlands and Islands designers exchange creative knowledge

A group of five designers from the Highlands and Islands will visit Iceland next week (23-26 March) as part of a project that brings together a diverse group of Scottish and Icelandic designers.

Through a series of exhibitions and activities, they will investigate one another’s locations, environment, influences, skills, experience, materials and techniques.

The delegation is being organised by Emergents, the craft, fashion and textiles wing of Highlands and Islands Enterprise's (HIE's) innovative creative industries network, XpoNorth. The designers will visit Iceland during Iceland's DesignMarch festval which is held in Reykjavik 23-26 March.

In turn, a group of talented craft, fashion and textile entrepreneurs from Iceland will visit Inverness this summer when they join a showcase of work and panel talks at this year’s XpoNorth on 7 and 8 June.

XpoNorth is funded by HIE and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). As well as being Scotland's leading creative industries festival, it also supports businesses in the creative sector throughout the region, all year round.

Iceland’s DesignMarch event is a celebration of the fresh and exciting Icelandic design scene which showcases the best local designs alongside an increasing number of international collaborations.

The scope of the festival covers all fields of design including graphics, fashion, furniture and architecture.

Now in its ninth year, there are over 100 events – exhibitions, workshops, seminars and parties spread across Reykjavik.

The designers from the Highlands and Islands attending are, Julia Smith, ceramic designer based in Ardersier near Inverness; Hilary Grant, knitwear designer from Orkney; Netty Sopata from Isle of Lewis based kilt maker Diggory Brown; Eileen Gatt, jewellery designer from Munlochy and Clare Waddle from Yellow Broom product designers from Grantown-on-Spey.

Iain Hamilton, head of creative industries at HIE, said: “This project is full of fresh ideas and new approaches to creativity, making contact with new audiences and markets and fostering a deeper connection between the two cultures. We look forward to the Icelandic designers’ visit to Inverness as part of XpoNorth this June.”

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“Creative Industries plays a really important part in the economies of Iceland and the Highlands and Islands, and we are really fortunate to have Halla Helgadottir, the managing director of the Icelandic Design Centre, speaking at XpoNorth on how design has helped to grow the Icelandic economy, and how his approach might work in Scotland.”

One designer set to go is Netty Sopata, from Ness, Isle of Lewis, who has been practising as an independent kilt maker for the last nine years under her label ‘Diggory Brown’. She creates contemporary kilt designs using Harris Tweed and other locally woven clothes such as Breanish Tweed and Scalpay Linen.

She said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for businesses involved in this industry from the Highlands and Islands to develop new contacts, buyers and distributors in Iceland. This will be hugely beneficial to my work and I look forward to networking and understanding more about how the Icelandic market place works.”

Accompanying Netty and the group to Iceland will be Emergents director of craft, fashion and textiles, Pamela Conacher.

She said: “We are delighted to build on our initial research visit to DesignMarch in 2016. Working with our partners in Iceland, we will be showcasing our makers work for four weeks and Gallerí Grótta in Reykjavik throughout DesignMarch. This is a fantastic opportunity for our designers to build new contacts, create new work and for both groups to learn from each other. We look forward to welcoming the Icelandic designers and the Director of Icelandic Design Centre and DesignMarch, Halla Helgadóttir to XpoNorth in June.