V&A Dundee launches the Scottish Design Relay

11 July 2017

V&A Dundee is today launching the Scottish Design Relay, a national project inspired by a selection of objects visitors will see when the new museum opens.

The relay, which will start in Dundee before travelling to five other parts of Scotland, aims to encourage and nurture a new generation of designers.

In each location, a group of young people will work alongside local designers and be introduced to an object with a link to their community.

These include museum exhibits such as a 100-year-old ‘hooded’ Orkney chair, a model of the Dounreay Fast Reactor and a Fair Isle jumper once worn by the Commander-in-Chief of the British Home Forces.

Taking these objects as their inspiration, the young people will then develop new designs and create prototypes that will also be displayed in V&A Dundee when it opens next year.

The Scottish Design Relay is being supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and the Mathew Trust. V&A Dundee is being developed with support from the Scottish Government, Heritage Lottery Fund, Dundee City Council, the UK Government, Creative Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, University of Dundee, Abertay University and many trusts and private donors.

Philip Long, Director of V&A Dundee, said: “When V&A Dundee opens next year Scotland will, for the first time, have a museum exclusively dedicated to design. Our galleries will be home to a great array of objects that will tell the story of Scotland’s fantastic design heritage.

“The Scottish Design Relay highlights just how special and varied this collection will be and, even more excitingly, has the potential to inspire a new generation of designers.

“The new prototypes produced by the young people will be displayed in the museum, providing a great opportunity for everyone who visits V&A Dundee to see the vibrancy of Scotland’s design future.”

The Scottish Design Relay starts next month (August) in Dundee where inspiration will be taken from the RRS Discovery, berthed just yards from the new museum.

The second leg of the relay will take place in Orkney where those taking part will study an Orkney chair designed by David Kirkness. Orkney chairs have traditionally been made with locally sourced bent grass and straw because of the shortage of timber on the naturally tree-less islands.

In Caithness, the young people will be inspired by a detailed model of the Dounreay Fast Reactor; a landmark in the area, and the first fast reactor in the world to supply electricity to a national grid. A ground-breaking design, the housing was devised as a sphere so that it could tolerate the greatest possible build-up of pressure within, with no weak points.

The fourth leg of the relay in Shetland will focus on a Fair Isle jumper from the V&A’s collection that was worn for golfing by General Sir Walter Kirke, a Commander-in-Chief of the British Home Forces. Knitted jumpers, stockings and hats from Shetland were the height of fashion in the 1920s, but had been made on the island since the 17th century.

A ‘Clutha’ vase designed by Christopher Dresser and made with trademark bubbles and streaks by Glasgow glass-makers James Couper & Sons, will inspire participants in Govan during the second last leg of the relay.

Finally, the participants in Aberdeen will study an enamelled plaque from the V&A’s collection by Aberdonian James Cromar Watt, an architect and jeweller of the Scottish Arts and Crafts Movement. The plaque shows a botanical design, revealing Watt’s interest in the natural world.

Mhairi Maxwell, V&A Dundee Project Coordinator, said: “V&A Dundee will celebrate Scotland's design achievements and this project is a great opportunity to help inspire the young designers of the future.

“At each stage of the Scottish Design Relay those taking part will define a problem and come up with a solution after being guided through the design process.

“This is a real opportunity to connect young people to their design heritage and create something that could have a positive impact on their community.”

Those taking part in the Scottish Design Relay come from a range of different backgrounds and include students, engineers, factory employees and young adults affected by a range of social and wellbeing issues.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, said: “The Scottish Design Relay offers a great opportunity for young people across Scotland to discover their design heritage and has the potential to shape a whole new generation of Scottish designers who will further enrich Scotland’s vibrant cultural scene.

“I am proud to say the Scottish Government has been among the main supporters of V&A Dundee and I look forward to celebrating the opening of the museum in 2018, which will represent a key milestone towards achieving Dundee’s ambitions to become the Scottish capital of design, strengthening Scotland’s culture and tourism economy, attracting visitors from Scotland and from across the globe, redefining Dundee’s offer as a place to visit, live and work.

Clara Govier, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said: “Players of People’s Postcode Lottery have awarded an incredible £825,000 to V&A Dundee since 2014 to allow them to work closely with people in Dundee and also across Scotland.

“I am delighted that as a result of this support that the Scottish Design Relay has launched today to find and cultivate new design talent across Scotland.”

In each location, V&A Dundee will work in partnership with local cultural organisations including Dundee Heritage Trust, the Pier Arts Centre, Caithness Horizons, Shetland Arts, North East Scotland College, Gray’s School of Art and the GalGael Trust.