Zoe Collis, new apprentice at Two Rivers Paper Mill
When we set out on our Ernest Cook Trust funded Countryside Crafts Pre-apprenticeship project last year our main aim was to trial low-risk opportunities for heritage crafts businesses and young people to come together to explore the possibility of apprenticeship-style training. It was founded on the premise that while many heritage crafts businesses know that their long-term sustainability depends on taking on young people, when they are working hard to make ends meet then investing the time in a young person they don’t know can be a risk if there’s a chance it might not go anywhere.
We are delighted therefore that not only have we had the chance to trial these kind of encounters and have written a guidance document for other organisations who wish to do similar (available here), but amazingly one of our placements has resulted in a full-time apprenticeship for Zoe Collis at Two Rivers Paper Mill on Exmoor in Somerset.
Zoe will be one of a select few nationally to be taking part in the Crafts Trailblazer scheme for paper making, a three-year programme incorporating on-the-job training, day release at a local college to achieve Performing Engineering Operations accreditation and a bespoke model of Business Improvement Techniques. There will be six visits over two years to other mills around the country to receive the final Level 3 qualification. Two Rivers Paper owner Jim Patterson said:
We have seen the future… and it ‘s called Zoe… I’m really pleased with the way [she] is settling in. Gaining in confidence, starting to work independently and beginning to make a real contribution.
We are so grateful to the Ernest Cook Trust for funding this project, without which this opportunity would never have come about, and Project Manager Tracy Hill for delivering such a good outcome. We look forward to following Zoe through her new career as a paper maker!
Heritage crafts have received royal recognition and high honour with three craftspeople included in The Queen’s Birthday Honours Lists this year.
Vellum maker Wim Visscher has been awarded an MBE. Wim is owner of William Cowley, producers of hand-crafted parchment and vellum since 1870, and the last parchment and vellum makers left in the UK. Wim said:
It is a great honour and privilege to be recognised in this way. My father, grandfather and great grandfather, all parchment makers before me, would be amazed if they were here. I am particularly grateful to the Heritage Crafts Association for putting my name forward as a potential recipient for an honour of which I was entirely ignorant until now!
The Association do great work in supporting skilled craftsmen and women. They recognise the long-term environmental and economic benefits of historic crafts which make things that last and look good for life; inspiringly different to the products of our “throw away” society.
Rush worker Felicity Irons has been awarded a BEM. Owner of Rush Matters and supplier of traditional rush flooring to the National Trust as well as creator of a wide range of contemporary work, Felicity has given new life to the ancient craft of rushweaving. Felicity said:
When I first read the letter from the Cabinet Office I thought it must be a hoax. I had to ask my Mum to read it several times for me. She had known about it for ages as she had been working with the Heritage Crafts Association on the nomination! I am just so stunned and still really trying to take it all in. I keep thinking why me; I just go to work every day. It is pretty emotional but wow, it’s amazing.
Photo by Matthew Usher
A BEM has also been awarded to John Lord, master of the ancient craft of flint knapping. He said:
I would like to thank the Heritage Crafts Association for putting my name forward for this National Honour. I accept this award only on behalf of all skilled flint knappers both past and present, and in particular on behalf of our ancient ancestors whose skills will never be equalled.
All three were nominated for their awards by the Heritage Crafts Association. Vice Chair Patricia Lovett MBE, said:
This is tremendous recognition for the skills and expertise of traditional craftspeople. These honours show the very real value of heritage crafts to people’s lives today.
The last remaining professional fore-edge painter Martin Frost has been awarded Maker of the Year by the Heritage Crafts Association at its Textures of Craft conference on 6 May 2017. Fore-edge painting is one of the seventeen critically endangered crafts identified by the HCA.
Martin took up the craft of vanishing fore-edge painting in 1970, continuing an English tradition that dates back to the 17th Century. Since then he has produced over 3,300 edge-paintings, many on carefully restored antique books. His commitment to the craft as an artist and untiring efforts to raise its profile have won him respect from fellow craftspeople and collectors alike.
Maker of the Year is one of six awards with a total value of up to £27,000 presented this year by the HCA. The other awards were made in partnership with Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST), Marsh Christian Trust and the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS).
- Leather worker Candice Lau was awarded the HCA/QEST training scholarship. Largely self-taught, Candice designs bespoke leatherwork from her design workshop/studio. The award will enable Candice to attend an intensive 3-month course at the renowned Italian school of leatherwork in Florence, the Scuola di Cuoio, to enhance her technical skills.
- Shoemaker Frances Pinnock was awarded the HCA/NADFAS training bursary to study with cordwainers Carréducker and pattern cutter Fiona Campbell, and to buy the tools and equipment needed to further her career.
- Pamela Emerson was awarded HCA/Marsh Volunteer of the Year for her work with NI Big Sock, a community project involving the creation of a world record breaking patchwork Christmas stocking. Pamela devised the project as a way of highlighting sewing as a valuable skill, celebrating Northern Irish traditions of linen production and shirt making, and bringing communities together in the process.
- Alistair McCallum was awarded the HCA/Marsh Trainer of the Year award. A silversmith who exhibits nationally and internationally and one of the leading practitioners of the Japanese metalworking technique of Mokume Gane, he has been tireless in his efforts to pass on his skills to the next generation of makers.
- Deborah Carré and James Ducker won the HCA/Marsh Made in Britain award. Their company, Carréducker makes bespoke shoes using the best materials sourced from British suppliers: lasts from Northampton, oak bark soling leather from Devon, exotics from Walsall, and patterns made and shoes stitched by specialists in Wales, Bristol and London. Their vision is to reignite the British shoe industry.
During the conference, studio potter Lisa Hammond MBE was presented with a certificate to mark her inclusion in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Lisa was also one of the speakers at the conference, as was Kaffe Fassett, worldwide authority on textiles and colour and Dr Alex Langlands BBC TV presenter of historical programmes.
The event, held at The Royal Society of Medicine, brought together craftspeople and enthusiasts from all over the UK to hear from makers, celebrate the best in the country and hear about the HCA’s research into endangered crafts, the Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts.
The Heritage Crafts Awards celebrate and highlight the traditional living crafts made in the UK that contribute to our national heritage. Applications for an HCA/QEST apprenticeship open on 6 June 2017. Applications for the other awards open on 1 September 2017. For more details about this year’s awards, visit awards.heritagecrafts.org.uk.
In May 2017 the HCA published The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts, the first research of its kind in the UK. This research has enabled the HCA to shine a light on this important aspect of the UK’s collective intangible heritage that has, until now, been languishing in the dark.
Continue to the Red List website
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”.