Meet Your Mentor

5th Sep · Dawn Hawkins

the Barn, in partnership with Craft Scotland and Aberdeenshire Council.

From April to July this year, the Barn, in partnership with Craft Scotland and Aberdeenshire Council, facilitated a craft mentoring scheme ‘Meet your Mentor’- pairing local emerging craft practitioners with established designer-makers.

Through a combination of ongoing dialogue and practical support sessions, the scheme focused on assisting early career makers in building their confidence and creative skillset in key areas of professional practice such as: practical skills development, cultivating a brand, e-commerce, marketing and self-promotion, and business development.

This year we were pleased to have supported three mentoring partnerships, and these are their stories:


Partnership 1:

Mentor:Kevin Andrew Morris

Mentee: Kerry Mehaghy Marr

Kerry runs her own fledgling ceramics business ‘CeramiKer’ based in Aberdeenshire, while Kevin, the ‘nomadic ceramicist’ divides his time between tutoring and exhibiting his ceramic pieces nationally and internationally.

Kerry and Kevin’s mentoring partnership had a strong focus on the development of Kerry’s practical skills as a ceramicist- the principal motivation in her application to the scheme. Together they sought to push the capabilities of Kerry’s current throwing and glazing techniques, as well as experimenting with different types of casting.

Kerry described the mentoring scheme as ‘a hugely valuable experience at the perfect time in my ceramics career’, building her confidence in not only her technique, but in forging connections within the wider ceramics and creative community in Aberdeenshire. Kerry states that without the scheme, and the support of her mentor and partner organisations, ‘I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to go forward with this’.


Partnership 2:

Mentor:Clare Robertson Moore

Mentee:Mhairi McDowall

Textile designer Mhairi runs her own independent design label- Paper_Houses_Design which, after initially focusing on scarves, has expanded to include fabrics for interiors and soft furnishings. Clare is a multidisciplinary artist and designer, and co-founder of luxury brand ‘Strathberry’, with considerable experience in project management.

Mhairi came to the mentoring scheme with the intention of developing her business acumen to the same level as her design skill. In the resultant pairing, Clare’s long-standing background in design and brand development proved to be an excellent match. Through their structured and focused sessions Clare encouraged Mhairi to take a practical and thorough approach to managing all aspects of the production of her design items, as well as interrogating the ethos and motivations driving her brand.

Of the scheme Mhairi said, ‘The Barn Art’s mentoring scheme came at the perfect time for me and my business’, and at the end of the process felt, ‘much more confident that my brand now portrays the quality of the work that I create’.

Partnership 3:

Mentor:Laura Spring

Mentee:Amy Benzie

Amy graduated from Gray’s School of Art in 2016 and has since gone on to win several design awards and participate in numerous residency programmes. Laura is a textiles designer based in Glasgow who has exhibited nationally and internationally, with a significant portfolio of commissions, residency experience, and has regularly received funding awards from bodies such as Creative Scotland.

Together, Amy and Laura worked on key issues such as costing and developing a saleable collection. As well as focusing on these core areas of professional practice, Laura also encouraged Amy to free up her creative thinking and take a more playful approach to her work- producing what Amy describes as ‘unexpected results’. Part of Laura’s mentoring ethos is encouraging makers to be ‘a bit kinder to ourselves’, and this nurturing yet structured approach was ideally suited to Amy’s needs- ‘it armed me with reassurance and confidence at a very lonely and scary time in my career’.

This scheme has provided a valuable foundation from which to build a high quality, nurturing support network for emergent creatives in the Aberdeenshire area, retaining and supporting the richness and diversity of resident talent.