V&A Dundee Scottish Design Relay coming to Aberdeen!

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A major new project to inspire the next generation of designers by tapping into Scotland’s unique heritage will come to Aberdeen! 

V&A Design Museum artists impression

A team from V&A Dundee, the first design museum in the UK outside London, will travel around the country for the Scottish Design Relay.  Over the next eight months, around 100 young adults from six areas across Scotland will study a design object with a connection to their community.  Taking inspiration from these objects, they will work alongside local designers and develop new ideas before creating a prototype design. Their work will then be displayed in the museum when it opens next year.

The Scottish Design Relay is being supported by the players of People’s Postcode Lottery and the Mathew Trust. V&A Dundee is being developed with support from the Scottish Government, Heritage Lottery Fund, Dundee City Council, the UK Government, Creative Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, University of Dundee, Abertay University and many trusts and private donors.

Mhairi Maxwell, V&A Dundee Project Coordinator, said: “This is a real opportunity to connect young people to their design heritage and create something that could have a hugely positive impact on their community.

“In each area, the participants will work with an inspirational designer and together they will define a problem and will come up with a solution. The project will see them learn new skills and build their aspirations and confidence. 

“For the Aberdeen leg of the relay, we have chosen an exhibit that will form part of V&A Dundee’s permanent galleries to inspire the young people. All the objects in the Scottish Design Relay have a special link to the communities and help tell a part of Scotland’s largely untold design story.”

Early next year the relay will arrive in Aberdeen where those taking part will be challenged with designing something inspired by Aberdonian designer James Cromar Watt, an architect and jeweller associated with the Scottish Arts and Crafts movement. 

They will study an enamel plaque designed and made by James Cromar Watt around 1900 that was originally intended for setting in the back of a hand mirror. The enamel’s botanical design was inspired by Watt’s interest in horticulture, and the jewelled effect was created using the ancient technique of translucent foil enamelling. 

The object, from the V&A collections, is currently in storage and will go on permanent display in V&A Dundee.  The young people will be asked to come up with a new design after exploring the connections between architecture and jewellery using new 3D fabrication technology. 

Working alongside Naomi Mcintosh, an Aberdeenshire-based jeweller who, like Watt, originally trained as an architect they will decide what to create. The finished prototype could be anything from a design for a building to a pair of earrings.  Naomi is particularly interested in exploring space and scale in her jewellery designs and uses a wide range of materials including paper and wood.  She has also designed several large installations including a pavilion in Pattaya, Thailand, made from recycled metal and bamboo.

Naomi said: “The Scottish Design Relay is a wonderful project and shows that the world of design can be opened up and approached in different ways. 

“For me, heritage is really interesting and so is collaboration, and this project has both. I love working with other people as that’s when the most interesting things happen.  

“The relay involves different and varied ways of looking at design and I’m really excited to see the results.”

The young people taking part will undertake several workshops designed in partnership with North East Scotland College (NESCol) and Gray’s School of Art. Students from both the college and art school will be involved in the relay. 

Janice Scott, NESCol Curriculum Manager, said: “This is an excellent opportunity for our students to engage with a live project with a prestigious organisation and promoter of innovation and creativity in Scottish design.

“A number of NESCol second-year textile students will be taking part in the relay when it reaches Aberdeen and I can’t wait to see what they design. James Cromar Watt’s craftsmanship was renowned in Aberdeen and he is an important part of the city’s design heritage. This project is an excellent opportunity for the young people involved to engage with his architecture and jewellery designs.”

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, said:

“The Scottish Design Relay offers a great opportunity for young people across Scotland to discover their design heritage and has the potential to shape a whole new generation of Scottish designers who will further enrich Scotland’s vibrant cultural scene. 

“I am proud to say the Scottish Government has been among the main supporters of V&A Dundee and I look forward to celebrating the opening of the museum in 2018, which will represent a key milestone towards achieving Dundee’s ambitions to become the Scottish capital of design, strengthening Scotland’s culture and tourism economy, attracting visitors from Scotland and from across the globe, redefining Dundee’s offer as a place to visit, live and work.”

Clara Govier, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said: “Players of People’s Postcode Lottery have awarded an incredible £825,000 to V&A Dundee since 2014 to allow them to work closely with people in Dundee and also across Scotland. 

“I am delighted that as a result of this support that the Scottish Design Relay has launched today to find and cultivate new design talent across Scotland.” 


  • An enamel plaque intended for setting in the back of a hand mirror by James Cromar Watt will go on permanent display in V&A Dundee when the museum opens in 2018. 
  • James Cromar Watt trained as an architect, but is best known as a designer and maker of jewellery
  • Largely self-taught, Watt specialised in gold granulation, an ancient technique revived in the 1870s, as well as enamelling techniques such as grisaille and the use of translucent enamels over foils
  • Associated with the Scottish Arts and Crafts movement, James Cromar Watt was a contemporary of Phoebe Anna Traquair and fellow Aberdonian and stained glass designer Douglas Strachan
  • During the First World War Watt was engaged in secret government work which remains classified to this day 
  • Watt was a keen horticulturalist and grew rare species at his home on 71 Dee Street, Aberdeen
  • He also had a large collection of works of art, including ancient ceramics and East Asian metalwork