New research by the Heritage Crafts Association and supported by The Radcliffe Trust has found many traditional craft skills in the UK to be hanging on by a thread.
Seventeen crafts have been identified as being critically endangered, including coach and wagon making, saw making, metal thread making, and swill basket making. These crafts have very few practitioners, usually spread across just one or two businesses, and few have any trainees. The reasons crafts become critically endangered are varied, but may include limited opportunities for training, low financial viability, or no way for the skills and knowledge to be passed on.
Greta Bertram, who led the research on behalf of the Heritage Crafts Association, said:
“The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts is the first research of its kind in the UK. We’re all familiar with the idea of a red list of endangered species, but this is the first time the methodology has been applied to our intangible craft heritage. While some crafts are indeed thriving, the research has shown that all crafts, and not just those identified as critically endangered, face a wide range of challenges to their long-term survival. When any craft is down to the last few makers it has to be considered at risk as an unpredicted twist of fate can come at any time.”
The UK has amazing heritage buildings which are supported by different agencies and which also can also provide a source of income.
We also have a great heritage of traditional craft skills and world-renowned makers, yet these skills and knowledge receive little recognition or support, largely because they fall between those bodies which advocate for heritage and focus on buildings, monuments and artefacts, and the arts which emphasise the new and innovative. Thus, heritage craft skills have declined rather than thrived in the way that they could have; by replenishing and enhancing the stock of treasures which populate our heritage buildings and people’s homes.
Ian Keys, Chair of the Heritage Crafts Association, said:
“We would like to see the Government recognise the importance of traditional craft skills as part of our cultural heritage, and take action to ensure they are passed on to the next generation. Craft skills today are in the same position that historic buildings were a hundred years ago – but we now recognise the importance of old buildings as part of our heritage, and it’s time for us to join the rest of the world and recognise that these living cultural traditions are just as important and need safeguarding too.”
The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust has just awarded eight Travelling Fellowships to people dedicated to working in the traditional crafts, including the woodworking crafts such as joinery, cabinet and furniture making.
The Churchill Fellows will investigate new ideas and techniques in various heritage crafts specialisms, helping to ensure a healthy and sustainable framework for the future of the industry.
This is the third year of a partnership between the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and the Heritage Crafts Association. During this time 27 Fellowships have been awarded, an investment of over £170,000 in the UK craft sector. Past projects include research into sustainable furniture design, bronze casting and stonework techniques.
This year’s Fellows include:
- Alana Madden, a Cabinet Maker from Dulwich, who will be travelling to Japan and the USA to study approaches to increasing the representation of women in the construction industry.
- Romily Alice, an artist and neon bender from Leeds, who will be travelling to Germany and the USA to study neon making with master craftsmen.
- William Grant, a sheet metal worker from Spilsby, Lincolnshire, who will be travelling to Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and the USA to investigate prototyping techniques for creative sheet metal work.
- David Tucker, a designer and master blacksmith from Derby, who will be travelling to Norway and Sweden to explore the influence of Scandinavian craftsmanship on contemporary British blacksmithing.
- Rajni Patel, from Ashburton, Devon, and Relationship Manager at Arts Council England, who will be travelling to India and Japan to research traditional and contemporary craft practice.
- Faye McNulty, a textile designer from Hackney, who will be travelling to Australia and Japan to study traditional and sustainable textile print processes.
- Jack Darach, a recorder maker from Brighton, who will be travelling to Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Switzerland to discover strategies for rejuvenating the craft of recorder making.
Julia Weston, Chief Executive of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust said:
“Churchill Fellows in our Crafts and Makers category have used the experience of travelling overseas and meeting with others who share their specialism as inspiration to deepen their contribution to their field. Our hope is that our 2017 Fellows will also enjoy the experience of a Fellowship, and return to the UK equipped to strengthen the crafts industry so that sole practitioners and the traditional crafts can continue to thrive”.
Saturday 6 May 2017, 10.00am to 4.30pm
Royal Society of Medicine, 1 Wimpole Street, London W1G 0AE
Kaffe Fassett, worldwide authority on textiles and colour spoke at the Heritage Crafts Association’s conference on Saturday 6 May 2017, 10.45–4.30pm at the Royal Society of Medicine, 1 Wimpole Street, London W1G 0AE.
Kaffe kicked off a spectacular day when craftspeople and those interested in our rich heritage of traditional skills could hear from makers, celebrate the best in the country, and find out more about our research on endangered crafts – The Radcliffe Red List.
- 10am – 10.45am – Registration and tea/coffee
- 10.45am – 10.55am – Welcome – Patricia Lovett MBE (Vice-Chair of the HCA)
- 10.55am – 11.55am – ‘The Texture of Craft’ – Kaffe Fassett (Patron of the HCA)
- 11.55am – 12.40pm – ‘Cræft: On how traditional crafts are about more than just making’ – Dr Alex Langlands (Patron of the HCA)
- 12.40pm – 12.55pm – The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts – Greta Bertram (Secretary of the HCA)
- 12.55pm – 1.05pm – The National Trust, local ranges in shops – Genevieve Sioka (Buyer, Artisan and Craft)
- Lunch and viewing Instant Gallery
- 1.15pm – 2.30pm – HCA AGM – all welcome (approximately 20 minutes)
- 2.30pm – 3pm – Celebrating Excellence – The Heritage Crafts Awards and National Honours
- 3pm – 3.25pm – Lisa Hammond MBE (Potter) – The ‘Adopt a Potter’ scheme at Middleport
- 3.25pm – 3.50pm – Florian Gadsby (Potter) – Craft apprenticeships and beyond
- 3.50pm – 4.15pm – Greg Rowland (Master Wheelwright) – Training in traditional crafts
- 4.15pm – 4.30pm – Heritage Crafts Updates
Photo by Simon Trueman -‘Tyring a wheel at Acton Scott Historic Working Farm, Shropshire’
Wednesday 3 May 2017, 3.30pm to 5pm
Houses of Parliament, Parliament Square, Westminster, London SW1A 0PW
The Heritage Crafts Association and the Radcliffe Trust shone a spotlight on the UK’s most endangered crafts at the prestigious launch of their Red List project at the House of Lords. Hosted by HCA Patron Lord Cormack, attendees met and chatted with craftspeople and cultural sector leaders at the celebration of this groundbreaking project, which we hoped would trigger a significant turning point in the country’s support for heritage craft skills
We are delighted to announce that Ian Keys has agreed to take up the role of HCA Chair.
Passionate about our heritage, Ian is also Honorary Secretary of the Historic Houses Association (Wessex) and actively involved in local campaigns around his Somerset home.
Until recently he was a director of a contemporary arts and crafts gallery, chaired a number of boards in the charitable, public and commercial sectors, was a company director, and, prior to that, was a senior local government officer.
“Heritage crafts and our cultural heritage are a vital part of our being – the very oxygen that surrounds us – and we need to ensure they continue to enrich and inform both our lives and the lives of future generations.”
Last month, HCA trustees met with Solveig Torgersen Grinder (Norwegian Folk Art and Craft Association) and Liina Veskimägi (Estonian Folk Art and Craft Union) from the European Folk Art and Craft Federation, a European network of non-profit associations with the aim of protecting and supporting traditional and contemporary crafts. The HCA will join the EFACF has an observer member next year.