School of History, Classics & Archaeology

Dr Nenadic awarded Leverhulme Trust Project Grant

Artisans and the craft economy in Scotland c.1780-1914.

Photo showing interior of Danny Thompson#0027s workshop

From June 2013, Dr Stana Nenadic and Dr Sally Tuckett will be undertaking a new three-year research project on nineteenth century artisans and craftwork with funding from the Leverhulme Trust (£243,000).

Today there is a significant interest in craft production, articulated through evolving theory on workmanship and the meaning of ‘things’; debates on the role of craft traditions within changing national and global identities; and exploration of craft’s moral value in an age of ‘fair trade’. Craft for the masses is ubiquitous on the British highstreet and museum exhibitions of art-craft attract wide public interest. This new historical project will build on contemporary questions and approaches to explore artisans and their impact in the past and create linkages with modern craft workers. It seeks to challenge a conventional historiography in which modern industry destroyed the craft economy, replacing it with machine-made goods for the nineteenth-century masses and ‘arts and crafts’ hand-made luxuries for the moneyed few. The project will demonstrate that the craft economy was not destroyed, though it changed and evolved new types of product, such as the quintessentially Scottish highland ‘pebble’ and enamel jewellery or kilt ornaments, or horn wares, or knit wares, which were widely consumed and sustained vibrant craft communities.

The research is comparative, drawing on English and European studies for parallel insights and also exploring the impact of colonial imports, such as craftwork from India, to cast new light on developments in Britain. It takes a range of methodologies including biography, artefactual biography, prosopography and statistical survey, and also involves a survey of exhibitions of craftwork in Scotland, including prizes granted as part of the design education movement and through the great exhibitions. The outputs, including a database and online exhibition of craft artefacts, tools and contemporary photographs derived from museum and archive collections, with catalogue and associated web essays, will become a public resource, available to other academic researchers and craft practitioners and also available more widely for educational use.

The three year project, which includes a doctoral studentship, further develops the expertise and working relationship of the PI, Dr Stana Nenadic, and project researcher, Dr Sally Tuckett, which has been forged through a Royal Society of Edinburgh/Scottish Government research, exhibition and outreach grant (May 2011-April 2013) titled ‘Colouring the Nation: Turkey Red Textiles in Scotland’s Culture and Global Impact since 1800’ - a collaboration with the National Museums of Scotland. As with the work on the mass-produced Scottish textile industry, this project seeks to overturn a dominant narrative in Scottish history, based on the ‘muck and brass’ of heavy industry and its dire social consequences, and replaces it with a narrative that emphasises colour, design and individual creativity in the past and as a living tradition that informs and enhances Scotland’s economy and culture today.

Dr Stana Nenadic

Principal Investigator

Dr Sally Tuckett

Research Assistant