Designs of the Times

A tiny container outside Edinburgh Airport has become one of the most talked-about exhibits in the city this month

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Designs of the Times

credit: Ross Fraser McLean / StudioRoRo

Move over Royal Mile: one of Edinburgh's buzziest attractions this month is happening way out west – at the city's airport no less. Just outside the main terminal, you'll find a wee container filled with bright objects: an umbrella, a backpack, a blanket. These are the designs of Local Heroes, an exhibition that aims to showcase the artistic flair of Scotland's designers at a time when the world is playing in its capital and passing through its doors.

'The name came from the film Local Hero,' explains curator Stacey Hunter, 'which is about people getting their head around the intrinsic value of something rather than the market value. Those principles are at the heart of this project.'

Hunter is a design curator, and Local Heroes is perfectly timed, falling within Scotland's Year of Architecture, Innovation and Design – whose programme, by and large, has focused on that first category.

Hunter's exhibition is a wonderful contribution to the design strand, though, with each designer commissioned to create their own contemporary take on the 'souvenir'. There are nine pieces in Local Heroes: Hilary Grant's Geelong lambswool blanket; Laura Spring's screenprinted travel pouch; a necklace from Tom Pigeon; two backpacks from Glasgow's Trakke; Warriors Studio's take on a classic souvenir poster; Rebecca Torres' one-shoulder swimsuit; RISOTTO director Gabriella Marcella's tropical beach towels; a playful umbrella from Karen Mabon; and a sleek, minimalist watch designed by Instrmnt.

'We played with the idea of what a souvenir could be,' says Hunter, 'thinking about place and tradition and how modern day Scottish designers are being playful with traditions. On the Royal Mile, there is a souvenir shop every two yards, so there's not much differentiation in what you can get. You can get things made by local designers, like a nice Harris Tweed purse, but we wanted to do something that was a really colourful, vibrant snapshot that would stop people in their tracks.'

'I travel a lot,' she adds, 'and it always annoys me when I see other airports, like Helsinki Airport with their beautiful Marimekko pieces. We've got people doing work like that but you just don't see it.'

The result of Hunter's project is a delightfully playful addition to Edinburgh Airport's landscape. And unsurprisingly, attention to detail has been paid in every quarter. 'The watch even comes with a little screwdriver because it's part of the Instrmnt brand that you have to build it,' explains Hunter. 'We've had that go through the security scanner just to make sure that it's alright.'

Importantly, there's a shop at the airport alongside the exhibition and it's essential to Hunter that people are able to buy these designs too. And through Local Heroes, she's helped make these designs much more widely accessible to design enthusiasts, and consumers.

'I love the world of design,' she says, 'the democracy of it. A beautiful teacup that's really well made might cost just £5 or £10, but means you look forward to getting up and making a cup of tea. It's such a small thing but also huge. If you came over to my house you would probably see lots of objects you didn't expect to see. I'm not a design snob, I get excited about going to IKEA and then later think "why did I buy that?". I love vintage stuff, I love bad taste. I don't think design is about trying to be perfect. It's about taking pleasure in an object that someone has put a lot of love and thought into.'

Local Heroes, Edinburgh Airport, until 31 Aug.

Local Heroes: Scottish Design at Edinburgh Airport

Work by contemporary designers based in Scotland.

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