Bag O’ Clews

Creative Communities and
Flourishing Small Island Economies

Bag O’ Clews explores how creative practice in remote and rural areas of the Highlands and Islands can flourish.

Responding to Professor Irene McAra-McWilliam’s ‘Distributed City’ concept, Bag O’ Clews takes a collaborative, cross-generational approach to its research. The project, which sits within the Creative Futures Partnership, supports the understanding and development of material practices, including innovating traditional craft and textile practices, which connect to the indigenous landscape and culture of the Highlands and Islands.

Initially focusing on two distinctive remote Scottish communities, the Orkney and Shetland Islands, Bag O’ Clews explores the value of design and craft to the local community and its economy. These islands offer rich contexts for our research thematics.

The project aims to connect creative communities and creative industries through exploration of the indigenous landscape and culture and aspires to enhance social connectivity and economic renewal.

How can design approaches and practices sustain flourishing creative communities and industries in small island economies and contribute to societal wellbeing?

With this question in mind, we visited the islands to meet local organisations and communities and learn about their skills, practices, and aspirations.

After capturing rich local insights around the creative industries and mapping indigenous capabilities and community assets, we will develop a series of innovative workshops with the aim of creating ground-breaking concepts in Orkney and Shetland.

By nurturing our relationships with local communities and creative and cultural organisations, these activities will build a network that can pursue key actions and shape individual directions and collective ambitions.

Projects are currently being defined around the themes of placemaking, re-engaging youth in traditional material practices, careership and livelihood, and connectivity.

This is a project within the Creative Futures Partnership, a partnership between The Glasgow School of Art and Highland and Islands Enterprise.

Project Contact:

Lynn-Sayers McHattie:



Traces, Orkney Journal 2015

Orkney Journal Cover GSA

Yarns, Shetland Journal 2015

Yarns Poster Cover

Hands holding lace

Bag O’ Clews Scoping Visit: Gaining an insight into the making of Shetland Wool. Image Credit: Giulia Fiorista