Design exhibition Scotland Can Make It showcases quality Commonwealth souvenirs

The Panel-curated event dispenses with tartan tat in the run up to the 2014 Games

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Design exhibition Scotland Can Make It showcases quality Commonwealth souvenirs

Souvenirs for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, designed and made in Scotland, include woven blankets and Tunnocks teacake medals, writes Anna Burnside

Enter ‘Scottish souvenir’ into your mental Google and what comes up? A crazy straw with a kilted bagpiper at the top? A See You Jimmy bunnet? What about a ceramic jelly mould based on the interior of Glasgow’s Rogano? A picnic blanket inspired by a bottle of French perfume? Or a smartphone app that acts as ‘an audio-visual postcard’?

Thought not. Yet these last three are part of a planned range of souvenirs for the Commonwealth Games, to be held in Glasgow in 2014. Unlike plastic geegaws and acrylic wigs, they are designed and manufactured in Scotland, and relate directly to life as it is actually lived here at the beginning of the 21st century, not in the tartan-draped, haggis-hunting land of legend.

Prototypes of these six alt-mementos – there are also woven scarves, jewellery based on the Jaconelli family’s tenement home in Dalmarnock and a set of Tunnocks teacake medals – will go on show in Glasgow’s People’s Palace in September. The exhibition, Scotland Can Make It!, has been organised by Glasgow curators Panel. They hope that they will then go into production and be on sale in time for the Games.

‘We wanted to step away from mass-branded merchandise and look towards more cultural objects, all designed and made in Scotland,’ says Panel’s Lucy McEachan. They put out an open call to potters, silversmiths, weavers … anyone who fancied creating a keepsake that could be produced this side of the border. ‘We left the brief really open,’ she recalls. ‘A lot of people thought about how visitors would experience the games. So the blankets are for the audience at outdoor events. Scarves are a traditional way to show sporting allegiance at a football grounds, these just make it a bit more wide. The Tunnocks medals take a very standard item of confectionery and turns them into a game.
‘People questioned what a souvenir is and what means to them.’

The final six, chosen by judges including Turner-winning artist Martin Boyce, represent the breadth of the country’s creative talent and what’s left of its manufacturing base. ‘They are very diverse,’ says McEachan proudly. ‘We never said, this is what a souvenir should be, then asked a designers to make it. If we had, I don’t think we would have come up with a jelly mould.’

Beca Lipscombe, one half of design duo Atelier, had already collaborated with Panel, and Paisley-based weavers Begg, on last year’s Inventors of Tradition exhibition. A textile artist, she leapt at the chance to work with Begg again. ‘I had already seen blankets being woven at the mill. Rather than me and Lucy [McKenzie, her Atelier partner] designing something then seeing if it can be manufactured, we let the producers lead us to see where their strengths and skills lie.’ The logical conclusion was a set of three travel blankets – they invited conceptual artist Marc Camille Chaimowicz to create the third – that are, says Lipscombe, ‘the perfect combination of artisan meets artist. Functional but very beautiful’.

Lipscombe and McKenzie’s starting point was thinking about huge outdoor events they had enjoyed. ‘We remembered Glasgow’s Garden Festival and the City of Culture, going with friends and family. The blanket represents this. You can sit on it when you have your picnic, or wrap up your tired child after you’ve been to see a race.’

McKenzie’s depicts her two cats lying at an open hearth. Chaimowicz’s references 19th and 21st century concepts of leisure, while Lipscombe’s is closer to home. ‘My blanket is based on the box of the perfume my mum used to wear: Cabochard by Madame Grès. That smell reminds me of my mum going out, the babysitter coming, everything being cosy and happy. It’s also a homage to Madame Grès, I love her work.

‘I wanted to create something that is a souvenir but not embellished with corporate logos, that is beautiful but still celebrates a time and a moment.’ And then the people who buy it and sit on it to watch the athletics and eat their sandwiches will make their own memories with it. Which is what a real souvenir should be.

Scotland can make it! People’s Palace & Winter Gardens, Glasgow, Fri 7 Sep 2012–Sun 13 Jan 2013.

Scotland Can Make It

Six artists have made six prototype 'souvenirs' inspired by the London 2012 Olympics and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow 2014, which are on display as part of this display aiming to reveal distinct ideas about Scotland. Artists involve art-pop collective FOUND, textile and product designer Claire Duffy, and weaver…

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