At first, the title of the first exhibition from Edinburgh-based shop and gallery Bard—“The Grit and the Glamour”—may catch you by surprise. The cult homewares destination, which launched in November of last year, has developed a distinct identity around its meticulously curated offering of the very best of Scottish craft and design, from mottled, wonky ceramics thrown in a Galloway potter’s studio to lambswool blankets woven in the textile heartland of the Scottish Borders. Essentially, Bard is a beacon of earthy, rough-around-the-edges tastefulness—not exactly what you’d associate with the glitzy visions prompted by the word “glamour.”
Except, as the partners (in both life and work) behind the project, Hugo Macdonald and James Stevens, explain, the word “glamour” has different roots from what you might think. “It’s not about feather boas or hen parties,” Macdonald laughs. “It’s about something otherworldly, or even transcendent in some way.” (It turns out the word “glamour” can be traced back to early modern Scotland, where it was used in reference to witchcraft as a kind of magic spell or charm.) The “grit” element of the show, though, was a little easier for their collaborators on the exhibition to interpret. “The grit is about the graft and hard work and effort and bloody fingers and smashed pots—all the things that go into craft behind the scenes that people rarely see,” says Macdonald, matter-of-factly.
When it came to putting together the exhibition, Macdonald and Stevens decided to give a number of their regular collaborators and makers (at first it was 10, but it quickly ballooned to 21) carte blanche to interpret the theme of “grit and glamour” as they saw fit. Unsurprisingly, this led many of them down a route that playfully engages with the opposing forces inherent to Scotland and its cultural imagination: “It really brought to the surface this idea that craft can be mundane and exquisite, or that it can be painful and beautiful,” says Macdonald. “That Scotland can be both kitsch and profound, both fierce and cozy.”
Staged in their space in Leith, the result is something that fully captures this spirit of contrasting rhythms and textures—or, as they write in their curator’s statement, “the rough and the smooth.” In place of anything as dull as a white plinth to display the objects, they’re positioned on reclaimed packing crates, in a nod to the customs house they’re housed in; once upon a time, its rooms would have held Scottish goods ready to be shipped around the world from the nearby port. “There’s a sort of subliminal idea there of these objects having multiple lives, and the longevity of things that are well-made, generally,” adds Stevens. “Whether it’s craft itself, or the packing material that takes craft around the world.”
That the objects give back to the communities they’re sourced from is also a selling point for many of Bard’s loyal customers. “People understand they’re not just buying a doormat made of sea rope, say, but that they’re also investing in a beach-cleaning project and a village hall enterprise that is teaching people within the community how to pick up rope and turn it into something useful,” Macdonald continues.