Craft tourism might be a new concept to you, but getting your head around the opportunities could prove lucrative to your business. We spoke to Sheena Kitchin, Craft Tourism Manager at Craft Scotland to find out why.
What is craft tourism?
The term craft tourism describes an increasingly popular form of tourism whereby participants travel to seminars, workshops and craft schools often in remote and inspiring rural settings.
Extending the boundaries of craft tourism
Makers often have their heads down working in the studio to create their wares, taking time to talk to passing visitors who stop by for a look around and hopefully selling a few pieces. The fact that there’s a huge network of craftspeople means that opportunities are out there to connect craft with tourism, and provide a truly authentic and unique visitor experience — a link with both traditional and modern Scotland.
Some crafts people have started to realise how they can extend the appeal to visitors. For instance Liz Gaffney runs Heartfelt by Liz, a feltmaking studio in the idyllic setting of Dalmally railway station. She's built up a reputation that means visitors actually stop off to visit her studio, attend a workshop and possibly purchase a unique souvenir of their holiday.
Another great example of craft tourism is Moss-side Farm in Thornhill near Stirling. Workshops in a host of arts and crafts are offered to visitors, as well as training events and even corporate away-days, and it offers accommodation on the farm too. A number of visiting makers offer courses in ceramics, willow weaving, furniture restoration, paper making and creative writing and many more, in an idyllic setting of a 19th century farm steading. It's an immersive experience.
Realising greater potential
Craft Scotland is working to bring together craft makers and tourism businesses to enhance the visitor experience with unusual and inspiring designing and making activities, whether traditional or modern.
Increasingly, opportunities are opening up in unusual places. Imagine providing a hen party with an afternoon of learning how to throw pots on a potter's wheel. Or, offering a bus tour stopping off on the way to the Highlands to see a wood-turner in action, with coffee and cake around the log fire.
Craft Scotland is working to bring together Scottish crafts people with tour operators, and encourage the industry to think more broadly about new and innovative ways to harness the appeal of crafts.
Meet your Maker
In an effort to put craft makers on the tourist map and raise awareness of the incredible range and number of skilled makers around Scotland, Craft Scotland set up the craft tourism section on their website. It includes a database of designers and makers so that you can find local craftspeople. "It's a growing database and worth checking out if you’re looking for ideas for visitors to your area," says Sheena.
Craft Scotland also organises the Meet Your Maker programme at venues throughout Scotland. Visitors can watch a maker at work and learn about design, techniques and the creative process first hand.
"Building on the obvious appeal of purchasing unique, handmade gifts directly from the maker, we've been working with the National Trust for Scotland to offer Scottish crafts through their network of retail outlets," Sheena told us.
There's a real un-tapped opportunity in sourcing unique hand-made corporate gifts too.
Interested in exploring the opportunities in craft tourism?
"The best place to start," says Sheena, "is our website. We'd encourage tourism providers as well as corporate events organisers to visit the site and see case studies, read about the events going on around the country and check out craft people in their area."
The site has a craft tourism section which is constantly expanding too, so be sure to check out Craft Scotland's website.