Arts: Crafty characters

"Getting into the mind of the creator is a terribly important part of appreciating a piece of work," explains textile artist Jilli Blackwood, a participant in the National Museum of Scotland's ominously titled exhibition, Meet Your Maker, which runs from this weekend until 14 March. "If you're drawn to an object, then meeting the person behind it can bring more credence to the piece."

If you agree with Blackwood, get along to this new show, which has been organised in collaboration with craftscotland, and will allow members of the public to get up close to nine talented makers and rising stars of the craft scene, who boast various specialities including jewellery making, silversmithing and metalwork, or make art using ceramics and glass.

Some of these creatives (apart from those, such as glassmaker Elin Isaksson and ceramicist Frances Priest, both of whom need kilns to create their sculptural pieces) will be setting up makeshift studio spaces in the museum's level 3 exhibition area. They will then work in shifts, popping in for a couple of hours each day to work "live" on their projects and provide a rare opportunity for those who'd like to witness the creative process "behind the scenes".

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"Even those who collect contemporary work don't often have contact with the person who's actually made the object," explains Rose Watban, senior curator of applied art and design at the National Museum of Scotland. "So, what's interesting about this show is that the artists won't be sitting in isolation, as they normally might. Instead, visitors will be able to chat to them and discover what goes into making individual objects."

If the public feel like tapping any of the workers on the shoulder to ask a question, browse their sketchbooks, handle their samples, or simply study their technique from afar, the artists are happy to oblige. However, 28-year-old Glasgow School of Art silversmithing and jewellery graduate Leah Black, one of the five jewellers in the show, has come up with a slightly more interactive concept. Her work, which is based on monuments in Edinburgh and Glasgow, consists of knuckle-dusting rings that feature silhouettes in silver and brass, some of which are dotted with colourful precious gems. She'll be inviting Meet Your Maker visitors to step on to a plinth so she can take a quick digital snap of them, before creating (in around 30 whirlwind minutes) exclusive "exhibition pins" that are based on her subject's outline. As Black says: "They'll be immortalised."

Her models can then choose whether or not to buy their tribute, which will go on sale alongside various work from the other artists.

To realise her project, Black will spend a lot of time in the gallery during Meet Your Maker – a commitment only matched by 45-year-old Blackwood, who will also be working in the museum for four hours every day. The latter designer will be creating an organic-looking hand-pleated "kilted skirt", which has been inspired by the meaning of the colour red (via Tilda Swinton's hair and Mark Rothko's famous Seagram Murals) and will eventually be going into the National Museum of Scotland's permanent collection.

Probably, out of the nine artists, the most established in the creative world, Blackwood, is relaxed when it comes to waxing lyrical about her work. As she explains, "My job is to raise the profile of my medium." However, some of the newer graduates are slightly more nervous about the exposure.

"I might go bright red," says 22-year-old jeweller Pauline Edie, who creates delicate work inspired by childhood stories. These include ivory-hued necklaces that are inspired by Rapunzel's hair (but are reminiscent of fish scales), and pale etched porcelain brooches featuring illustrations of imaginary fairy-tale furniture.

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As one of the most recent graduates in the show, Edie completed her jewellery and silversmithing degree at Glasgow School of Art just last summer and, at Meet Your Maker, can be viewed moulding porcelain clay, as well as making wax moulds from which to cast jewellery ("If the health and safety people will allow me to," she adds, nervously). The designer, originally from West Lothian, feels that this exhibition could be of most significance to young people who are pondering a creative career.

"When I was growing up I didn't really think it was possible to be a designer," she explains. "Perhaps because I was from a small town and making jewellery didn't seem like something that people could actually do as a living. If, however, I'd seen this show when I was a child, I could have been a lot more certain about what I wanted to do with my life."

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Blackwood, who spends much of her time teaching and running workshops, agrees. As she explains: "There's nothing like meeting the real McCoy and seeing them in action to make or break you."

So, if you know any small people with artistic leanings, make sure to take them along to the show to view its all-female ("A coincidence, as they were all chosen anonymously", explains Watban) cast of makers. When they're not there they can be viewed "making" in a series of short films that will be running in the gallery space. And, before you go, it's also worth compiling a few original questions. Jewellers like Edie and Black explain that they're most commonly asked about the materials they use (especially the cost of gold, silver and gemstones), while Blackwood is used to enquiries about her influences.

"Well, that's the most important thing, as it's the 'kicking off' of the creative process," she explains. "That's the seam of gold that everybody is looking for – inspiration is like the artistic brain's muscle. While other people are making sure their stomachs are toned, this is the area that we're constantly working on."

Meet Your Maker (Level 3, National Museum of Scotland, Chamber Street, Edinburgh, 0131-225 7534, Open from 10am-5pm, until 14 March. See website for artists' hours in the gallery. Admission free.

• This article was first published in Scotland on Sunday, January 31, 2010