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Scottish Album of the Year Award prize design inspired by Edinburgh’s Salisbury Crags

(left to right) Edinburgh designer Emma McDowall, Sweetdram director Daniel Fisher and Local Heroes founder Stacey Hunter
(left to right) Edinburgh designer Emma McDowall, Sweetdram director Daniel Fisher and Local Heroes founder Stacey Hunter

Each year, the Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award commissions a designer to make bespoke prizes for artists who make it to the prestigious shortlist.

And with the ceremony moving to Edinburgh for the first time this year, organisers have chosen a local artist who has created awards inspired by the basalt cliffs of Salisbury Crags.

Edinburgh-based design curators Local Heroes helped enlist designer Emma McDowall to create the ten distinctive cast concrete awards, with costs covered by SAY Award sponsors Sweetdram.

Emma, originally from Alloa, said: “I was delighted to have been chosen. This commission really gave me the freedom to be expressive, sculptural and experimental without any of the commercial pressures.

“The brief was to take inspiration from Edinburgh and specifically the Salisbury Crags – dramatic cliffs located in the middle of the city centre which truly makes our city unique. I mimicked the textures found within the Crags by carving and chiselling plaster which I then translated into the concrete objects.

“I took colour inspiration from Scottish landscape too – deep grey-blues and forest greens dropping into a natural sand tone, creating interesting details where they blend together.

“I also incorporated a UV element on the textured face of the object to add something unexpected and honour the exciting nature of the awards and the nominated artists.”

Three of the concrete totems

Emma created her brand Studio Emma in 2016, having graduated in Textile Design from Gray’s School of Art.

She took her love for colour and texture and expanded into new materials and more sculptural forms – all from her mother’s garden shed.

Working with imaginative colour combinations to create free-form patterns and surface textures, her designs play on the unpredictable and the imperfect, taking shape as bold, decorative pieces.

Each piece is made by hand from start to finish, completely unique in colour, texture and surface pattern, with imperfections celebrated as part of the design.

The SAY Award’s Hilary Goodfellow said: “For me, art, design and music have always been inextricably linked – an appreciation of one undoubtedly enhances the other, and the challenge for all three mediums is the same, to make their carefully crafted messages relatable and memorable enough to resonate with strangers.

“Emma’s totems certainly do this, they are beautifully crafted, bold and statuesque, and we love how they reflect back the unique geology of the Salisbury Crags, which themselves have been a leitmotif in our designer Martin Baillie’s creative during all stages of The SAY Award campaign.”

The winner of this year’s SAY Award will be announced at a ceremony in Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms on September 6.

On the night, Lylo, Heir of the Cursed, Cucina Povera and Man of Moon will all perform individual sets.

Developed by The Scottish Music Industry Association (SMIA), The SAY Award gives out a prize of £20,000 to the winning album and nine runners-up prizes of £1,000.

The award-winning band or solo artist will be carefully selected on the night by an expert panel of judges made of ten key influential and experienced tastemakers from across the creative industries.

The shortlist

Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert – Here Lies The Body
Andrew Wasylyk – The Paralian
Auntie Flo – Radio Highlife
C Duncan – Health
Cara J. Easton – Impossible Stuff
Fergus McCreadie Trio – Turas
Free Love – Luxury Hits
Karine Polwart with Steven Polwart & Inge Thomson – Laws of Motion
Kathryn Joseph – From When I Wake The Want Is
Mastersystem – Dance Music