Google ‘gift giving’ and you might be surprised at the number and range of interesting links that show up. From business blogs to scholarly journals, the culture of giving and receiving presents is vast and varied.
Every month we welcome delegations from partner countries all over the world, made up of stakeholders who want to learn about and engage with Scotland’s education systems and our arts sector. In turn we support outward visits, most recently accompanying Scotland’s Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney, on an education and trade mission to India.
On these occasions we are often presented with gifts, which we are always delighted to receive. But what should we give in return? How can we present a representative and culturally sensitive token of our thanks that will be meaningful across cultures, not to mention portable enough to fit in your hand luggage?
That’s a question we now have an answer to. Earlier this year we held an open call inviting Scottish designers to produce a gift we could present to international visitors. We had a great response, with 29 proposals received from practitioners working in a range of disciplines.
With assistance from expert colleagues at Craft Scotland, Creative Scotland and Panel, we selected Edinburgh-based Studio Niro, run by Rowan Mackinnon-Pryde and Nicky Thomson, as the winning designer.
Entitled ‘Handsel’ Studio Niro’s proposal encapsulates elements of Scotland’s history, language, culture and landscape, all in one beautiful and thoughtful object.
There is also a rich concept behind the gift, as noted by the designers:
"This Handsel is imbued with the generosity of the Scots. In essence the Handsel is a shared drinking cup held in a base. It is composed of three elements: the vessel, the foot and the measure, each of which makes reference to traditional offerings made at Hogmanay in the Scottish custom of First Footing. The First Foot arrives as a mark of the New Year bringing a coin for prosperity, coal for warmth and a wee dram to be shared with friends.
"From the Scottish quaich to the Japanese tea ceremony, the act of sharing a drink is relevant to many cultures. It is symbolic of equality: a democratic levelling; and recognises a shared occasion. The gesture of giving the Handsel is therefore more than a simple souvenir: it provides an opportunity for a shared moment and a meeting of two cultures."
We are delighted to share a prototype image of the gift, as well as details on the concept behind it.
Production will begin soon – watch this space for updates.