Maakin Lab

“I was initially inspired by waste yarn windings … The sculptural forms question the social, economic and aesthetic value of wool. Wool is fundamental to the Shetland economy and is internationally associated with the islands.”    Freddie Robins, Lab participant, London based textile artist

“For me, the beauty of the Lab was the creation of a space in life and work for new growth.”    Norma Anderson, Lab participant and Shetland textile artist

“This learning represents a fundamental shift in how craft is thought about in culture and in education.”   Anne Douglas, CD booklet essay

Editor Anne Douglas

Essay (jewel case booklet) by Anne Douglas, OTE Principal Researcher How might we revalue traditional ways of making?

CD of web site
Price £15
Published in 2004 by The Robert Gordon University
in collaboration with the Performing arts Laboratories,
London (
ISBN: 1 901 085 82 1

The Maakin Lab project was developed in partnership with the Shetland College Department of Textiles and Design, On the Edge research and artist Susan Benn of PAL. The research challenge offered up by the project partners was how to revalue traditional Shetland knitting in terms of its relevance in the lives and livelihoods of Shetland people. Although indigenous Fair Isle pattern and the fine Shetland lace knitting are known world wide, the different socio-economic picture in the wake of the oil boom of the 70’s and the old fashioned image knitting has for many of the younger Shetlanders contributed to the decline of interest in the knitting. Finding ways to revalue these forms of making in artistic-cultural, and economic terms was a complex question.

The artist Susan Benn has developed over a number of years a methodology for bringing multi skilled groups of individuals together in a collaborative learning environment. The Lab deliberately challenges perceived disciplinary boundaries and hierarchies of production and consumption. It creates a level playing field for producing new ideas.

The Maakin Lab website on the CD re-presents the experience of an intensive eight days spent in Shetland. A dairy of events, images, testimonials and reflections by the participants narrate the discoveries and problems of taking part. Shared thinking and exploratory making between and across the skills of knitters, artists, designers and researchers brought together from throughout the UK reveal the sometimes intimate details of creative thinking and its development.

The booklet accompany the CD is a critical reflection on the whole project. While the Maakin Lab produced tangible outcomes – embryonic ideas, products and artistic tools and proceses, the lab also raises deeper questions on the nature of production and consumption and proposes a new relational model of working based on shared judgment and decision making between creative practitioners and those with the power and influence to take ideas forward – a radical model where contributors are part owners of the whole cycle of making and trading.

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