Since its spectacular return to glory Marchmont House has been used as a centre for craft-making skills thanks to owner Hugo Burge who is committed to promoting craftsmanship and wants Marchmont to be a home for arts and crafts in the Borders.
Hugo’s enthusiasm for creative crafts has seen him recently appointed to the board of the Borders branch of Wasps (Workshop and Artists’ Studios Provision Scotland), which is based in Selkirk.
Hugo, who was CEO of the Momondo Group, a travel search enterprise acquired by Booking Group for $550m in 2017, believes there is an urgent need to provide workspaces and showcasing opportunities for creative people and to upgrade their business skills.
He joined the board of Wasps Artists’ Studios in September, along with Weber Shandwick business communications specialist Dyan Owen. After buying work by one of the Wasps artists at Selkirk Hugo decided to support the group.
He said: “Having learned about the great work they do across Scotland I am keen to help them grow their impact. I love how Wasps has developed, starting with modest council grants, and with unwanted buildings in declining areas.
“They have not only supported artists but promoted regeneration and, in the process, become a viable and self-sustaining organisation.
“I find that social purpose and ability to make a difference inspiring. I want to be part of it and help write the next chapter.”
He believes Scottish business can do more to support the country’s artists and makers simply through buying or commissioning work, adding: “Buying from local craft makers does so much, it helps you become part of the local community to support creativity.”
“It’s an easy way and an interesting way to make a difference.”
More broadly he sees a need for society to value craft makers and artists more highly and not focus solely on a globalised and digital economy: “I love the design and technology that are shaping our future, but the grounding values of the arts and crafts are as important as the iPhone. We need balance.”
This, he believes, demands the kind of practical support that will enable artists and makers to build sound businesses.
He said: “We can support artists in so many ways - giving them better tools, better affordable spaces, confidence, support, community, commercial awareness and - of course - exposure.”