Parchment and vellum making

The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Parchment and vellum making

 

The making of a writing material from processed animal skin. Vellum refers specifically to calf skin, and parchment to sheep and goat skin.

This craft uses products derived from animals – please read our ethical sourcing statement.

 

Status Critically endangered
Craft category Leather
Historic area of significance UK
Area currently practised Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire
Origin in the UK Roman
Current no. of professionals (main income) 2
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
0
Current no. of trainees 0
Current total no. serious amateur makers
not known
Current total no. of leisure makers
not known
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

Parchment, which is sheep and goatskin, and vellum, calfskin, have been used for manuscripts for thousands of years. The Codex Sinaiticus is a fourth-century vellum bible now in the British Library, and its pages are flexible and can still be turned easily. As a writing medium, when it is properly prepared, it surpasses any paper, and lasts far longer. Animal skin is also used for drums, book binding and in conservation.

There used to be a parchmenter near most larger towns, using the skins which were a by-product, but now there is only one manufacturer of vellum and parchment, William Cowley or Newport Pagnell. There are two skilled masters and one apprentice.

 

Techniques

The skins are a by-product of the meat and dairy industry and are prepared by first being soaked in vats of lime-water. The hair is then gently eased out of the skin using a two-handled knife called a scudder. The skins are then stretched out and scraped to raise the nap and create as even a surface as possible, although an animal skin is never as evenly thick as a sheet of paper. Once dry, the skins are cut from the framed and rolled ready for use.

 

Local forms

 

Sub-crafts

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Public awareness: So few people even know what vellum is that its significance in documenting mankind’s time on planet Earth has been lost. The recent debate between the House of Commons and The House of Lords is a classic example of ‘short-term thinking’. This attitude is not good for parchment and vellum.
  • Market issues: In late 2015 it was proposed that vellum would no longer be used for printing Acts of Parliament (this was seen as a potential cost-saving measure), which would have meant the end of business for William Cowley Parchment Makers, the only parchment makers in the UK, and the loss of the craft. However, the HCA analysed the figures and realised the savings would not nearly be as significant as claimed (closer to £37,000 pa than the £80,000 pa proposed) and launched a campaign to overturn this decision and save the craft. The decision was overturned by the House of Lords in February 2016. The advantages of vellum include: long lasting (2,000 years at least, compared with 200 years for paper); green (skins are a by-product of the meat and dairy industry, and forests aren’t cut down to produce it, nor harsh chemicals used); part of the UK’s heritage (with traditions and practices held in high esteem by other countries).
  • Market issues: Vellum scrolls at Buckingham Palace and vellum letters of patent (certificates that grant titles to new lords) have been replaced with cheaper paper versions.

 

Support organisations

  • Association of Gilders

 

Craftspeople currently known

  • William Cowley Parchment Makers, Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire – the only producers of parchment in the UK, William Cowley began in 1850 and was established in 1870, and the firm still uses the same techniques today.

 

Other information

 

References

Whip making

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Whip making

 

Making whips for driving horses.

This craft uses products derived from animals – please read our ethical sourcing statement.

 

Status Endangered
Craft category
Historic area of significance London
Area currently practised London, Wiltshire
Origin in the UK Middle Ages
Current no. of professionals (main income) Three companies (number of skilled makers unknown) and one individual
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees 1
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

Illustrations from the Middle Ages usually show drop thong whips (often with two thongs) being used for carriage driving. In the Luttrell Psalter (c. 1330) there are a couple of illustrations that show bow top whips. The history of whips seems to be similar throughout Europe and ancient Greek vases show several varieties of whip as does Roman sculpture.

The zenith of whip making was the mid nineteenth century. The use of baleen in the thong bow enabled a finer whip to be made that was controllable, the energy being transferred to the lash as the whip became both thinner and more flexible from the handpiece to the tip of the thong. The woods used for the stock largely remained those that had earlier been used for superstitious reasons though the ‘witch wood’, rowan, diminished in popularity as it was less suitable than holly, yew and blackthorn. English bow topped whips were exported throughout the world in the nineteenth century but they have largely been replaced by synthetic whips which are much cheaper but not as good to use. The drop thong whip has continued to be used when driving commercial vehicles. The stock of the best of these is baleen so recently fiberglass has replaced the whalebone. With new baleen being unobtainable many bow topped whips now use fiberglass and nylon in the bows. Postillion whips were traditionally braided in very elaborate patterns as they are almost exclusively used for ceremonial purposes. Modern postillion whips are much simpler in construction but I have made several of the complicated ones for export.

 

Techniques

The classic driving whip is the English bow-topped. Form follows function in the design and it takes years to master all the skills involved.

When there were several manufacturers of whips it was common for each part to have its own craftsmen. An English bow-topped whip has a stock made of a suitable wood which has been cut in winter and seasoned for at least three years (unless it is bamboo).

The stock is usually carved with knobs down to the handpiece. The knobs imitate the natural growth knobs of the wood and the number of knobs usually indicates the quality of the whip the cheaper ones just using the natural knobs. The knobs might be branded with a keyhole shaped iron to imitate the natural pattern. The wood is steamed straight before sanding and varnishing. The handpiece is usually made over a metal sleeve and any suitable leather is used to cover it. Antique whips may be sewn up to 16 stitches to the inch but as low as five to the inch can be found in some modern whips. The butt and ferrule (collar) are made to fit from brass or silver (sometimes gold or nickel). These can be cast, turned or made from sheet metal. The thong needs to be braided from a dense resilient hide such as horse or kangaroo and the tapered profile is achieved by braiding over a leather, gut or vellum core and varying the number of laces used from four to ten (postillion whips can be braided with up to forty-eight laces). The laces for the thong are hand cut and beveled and ideally taper. Inside the bow part of the thong the leather is braided over a core of baleen and vellum. The thong is joined to the stock with four prepared goose or swan quills which are bound to the thong and stock with linen thread. The place where the thong and the stock come together is indicated by a ‘knot’ where the thongs and linen are finished off.

 

Local forms

Ceremonial whips might use coloured linen for binding. Trade turnouts have their traditional whips such as brass bound. Coaching whips may have a thong of around fifteen feet in length as the lead horses need to be touched by the collar. There are numerous other variations such as four in hand whips combining a coach horn to entertain the passengers. The little lash on the end of the thong might be in coloured silk or linen to match the vehicle. In show classes conservative traditional whips are favoured. Split bamboo whips like old fishing rods are sometimes made for hackney drivers.

 

Sub-crafts

 

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • The viability of the craft is severely compromised by the difficulty in obtaining the correct materials and the fact that good whips will last for well over a century and fill the need to supply a diminishing market for less than a whip can be economically made for.
  • Those with the knowledge of what makes a good whip are getting older.
  • Poor quality whips are being passed off as English bow topped whips and standards have fallen considerably in recent years.
  • It is difficult and time consuming and impossible to make anything close to the minimum wage.

 

Support organisations

 

 

Craftspeople currently known

Individual maker:

  • Celia Blay – retired
  • Anna Botterell – currently training with Celia Blay

 

Other information

A good whip is well balanced with the point of balance coming a little above the handpiece. A well balanced whip will sit lightly in the hand and naturally assume the correct position.

Most whips made from natural materials are now imported from Germany.

 

References

David Morgan has written a book on leather braiding but there is no book on driving whip making. Usual leather working skills apply to the making of the handpiece. Books on stick making such as Walking and Working Sticks by Theo Fossel are useful for the handling of the wood.

Quilling

Currently viable crafts

 

Quilling

 

The rolling, curling, looping and otherwise manipulation narrow strips of paper to make designs, also known as paper filigree.

 

Status Currently viable
Historic area of significance UK; England mainly
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK 17th century
Current no. of professionals (main income) 0
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
11-20 known (101-200 estimated)
Current no. of trainees 0
Current total no. serious amateur makers
10-20 known (20-40 estimated)
Current total no. of leisure makers
450 known (1000 estimated)
Minimum no. of craftspeople required 10 highly skilled quillers who are willing to teach to ensure that technical skills are passed on

 

History

Paper rolling, paper scrolling, filigree, mosaic and quilling are all names which have been given to this art during its long history. Some sources suggest that many of the techniques used today were originally practised in Ancient Egypt.

The popularity of quilling has fluctuated. Work of high quality was achieved by French and Italian nuns in the 16th and 17th centuries, genteel ladies in the Stuart period, ladies of leisure in the Georgian and Regency periods – and it is currently enjoying a modern revival.

Nuns on the continent decorated reliquaries and holy pictures, adding gilding and much ornamentation. The ecclesiastical connection was maintained when the art spread to England with the development of paper, though vellum and parchment were also used. Poorer churches produced religious pictures with rolled decoration. When gilded or silvered, it was difficult to distinguish it from real gold or silver filigree work.

Quilling was never practised by ‘working-class’ women in the past. Indeed, it was a decorative art which ladies of leisure would use to work panels and coats-of-arms. Later it was extended to include covering tea-caddies, workboxes, screens, cabinets, frames etc. Backgrounds for these often included foil, mica or flaked shells. Beautiful boxes were made by cabinet makers, with recessed sides. These were advertised and sold, often to boarding schools for young ladies. ‘……it affords an amusement to the female mind capable of the most pleasing and extensive variety; and at the same time, it conduces to fill up a leisure hour with an innocent recreation…’ (The New Lady’s Magazine, 1786)

In 1875 an attempt was made to reintroduce the art of quilling by William Bemrose, who produced a kit called ‘Mosaicon’, together with a handbook. Another reference has been discovered in an Edwardian book of household management entitled ‘Floral Mosaicon’. In the article mention is made of pieces being purchased by Queen Mary and Queen Alexandra.

Enthusiasts include Elizabeth, daughter of George III, Joseph Bramah (the famous locksmith), Mrs Delany (pioneer of other paperwork and friend of Jonathan Swift), Jane Austen (who mentions it in her novel Sense and Sensibility) and the Bronte sisters.

Two major exhibitions of quilling have been held. One was in 1927 in London, when mention is made of two Charles I pictures. Another was in New York in 1988, at the Florian-Papp Gallery, when some superb examples were on exhibition and sale. Most of these were of European origin. In 1992 and 1997 the Quilling Guild staged International Festivals of Quilling, the first at Ragley Hall and the second at Chesford Grange in Warwickshire, when antique pieces and a great many items of modern quilling were on show. The third International Festival of Quilling was held in York, North Yorkshire, in 2002, the fourth in Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset, in 2007, and the ’30th Anniversary Celebration of Quilling’ was staged in Liverpool in 2013.

 

Techniques

The Quilling Guild has a list of techniques that it has verified as seen in historical quilling (there are many variations of these techniques.):

  • Closed loose coil
  • Open coil
  • Tight coil
  • Ring coil
  • Fringed flower
  • Pom pom
  • Wheatear
  • Alternate side looping or husking
  • Tendril
  • Crimping
  • Bandaging
  • Zig-zagging
  • Pixie hood looping

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

Many contemporary artists use quilling techniques to produce paper sculptures and graphic art. There is often debate about what should and should not be classed as ‘quilling’.

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • There is a lack of demand for products, or rather, most people would not pay enough to buy a piece of quilling work to sustain a business selling it. Most who are earning a significant income from quilling are doing so by selling design and instruction books and teaching. In those cases it will not be the person’s main income source. The demand for quilling teachers is sometimes not high enough because quilling is not a widely known craft and so people are less likely to be looking for a quilling teacher.
  • It takes a lot of technical and design skills to make high quality, quilled pieces work and it is not always possible for the general public to recognise quality quilling work and therefore it affects the amount that a professional maker can charge for their skills. Because the general public don’t usually know much about quilling, it is hard for them to understand the amount of time and the skills needed to produce high quality quilling work. It is relatively easy to find leisure makers selling quilled work at low prices, maybe because they are pleased to have an outlet for their work rather than wish to make a real income and so this can make it difficult for makers who wish to sell their work at a price that reflects their skills, experience and time taken.
  • In many areas of the UK there are no professional quilling tutors. This also means that if someone was keen to become a professional quiller themselves, they may not be able to access face to face teaching.
  • Another problem is that quilling, as with other heritage crafts that have historically been prasticed by women, can be perceived of less importance and value than other artforms to the wider art world. This effects the demand and appreciation of high quality quilling work. Quilling is marketed widely as a leisure craft, which is good for attracting more people to try it, but can limit the general public’s understanding of how far the craft can be taken to make innovative and important artworks.
  • There is a lack of information available about the importance of quality materials. Many people who quill would not know how good quality materials could improve their quilling and are also limited by their knowledge of where to buy quilling materials. Often the easiest way to access information is via the internet, as craft shops will have limited supplies to choose from and mail order businesses will advertise mainly via the internet.
  • The problem with there being a lack of teachers and quilling groups across the country means that people are less likely to try quilling.  The Quilling Guild often receives requests asking for information about local tutors and are unable to advise of any.
  • The majority of quilled pieces being made are non-functional. Quilling work is often made as a card, which for some is seen as disposable or made into a picture. This can affect people’s interest in the craft, because of the current trend to make and buy functional craft items, as opposed to purely decorative items.
  • More substantial quillings were often made on wooden items, such as boxes, frames, tea caddies, plaques, etc., which were relatively inexpensive and easily available. This is no longer the case, discouraging the making of major pieces.

 

Support organisations

The Quilling Guild is a charity that does work to promote quilling via its website and social media. It has members who are ‘Local Contacts’ who take on voluntary work to promote quilling, such as providing demonstrations and basic teaching. It also has a limited amount of funding, available to support work and events that promote quilling. The Guild provides a basic and higher level accreditation scheme to its members. It also provides a ‘Celebration Weekend’ once a year, which is held at different locations in the UK

 

Craftspeople currently known

UK Fellows of the Quilling Guild are:

  • Audrey Matthews
  • Josie Jenkins
  • Diane Boden
  • Jane Jenkins
  • Margaret Haigh
  • Paul Jenkins
  • Philippa Reid
  • Angela Herring

Other makers include:

  • Jill Chapman
  • Anne Straker
  • Jill Lackford
  • Christine Herring
  • Yuko Martin
  • Maria Boulos
  • Derek Thorpe

 

Other information

It could be argued that many people are quilling and it continues to be a popular craft; however, the number of professional quillers who have the skills and knowledge needed to sustain the number of quillers who make work at a professional level is at risk of decreasing and is already at a significantly low level. There are only a certain number of people who have a good knowledge about the history of quilling and historical techniques. There are very few published documents about the history of quilling and especially not those that would go into detail about techniques and materials used.

Quilling isn’t usually something people aspire to do to support themselves financially, as it is difficult to make an income from selling, and there is limited demand for teaching. Many mix it with other crafts they do, but do not see themselves specifically as quillers.

 

References

  • Information about quilling and The Quilling Guild, including a brief description of the history of quilling can be found on The Quilling Guild’s website.
  • There are many quilling instruction and design books available including a selection by Quilling Guild Fellows Jane Jenkins and Diane Boden (previously Crane).
  • Information about and examples of historical quilling is given in a chapter of Riley, Noel, The Accomplished Lady: A History of Genteel Pursuits C. 1660-1860 (ISBN 0957599293)
  • There is a catalogue of the exhibition Turin, Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli from
    05 April – 02 September 2012, featuring a collection of work by cloistered nuns made between the 17th and 19th centuries. It can be purchased here.
  • Quilling Guild fellow Brenda Rhodes has carried out research about the history of quilling which is recorded in an unpublished document. The Quilling Guild is able to provide information from this document upon request.

Are you the HCA’s next Maker of the Year?

Nominations open on 1st September 2018 for Maker of the Year, one of five prestigious awards awarded annually by the Heritage Crafts Association in recognition of people working in traditional skills.

Craftspeople can also apply for, or be nominated for, HCA/Marsh Trainer of the Year, HCA/Marsh Volunteer of the Year, the HCA/Marsh Heritage Crafts ‘Made in Britain’ Award, and the HCA/Marsh Endangered Crafts Award. Each award is worth £1,000.

A training bursary worth up to £2,500 is also on offer and can be used to pay for tools, materials or books as well as contributing to training costs. The bursary is offered with the support of The Arts Society.

Application forms for all awards are available at http://awards.heritagecrafts.org.uk/   The deadline is 30 November 2018.

The awards, which will be presented at the HCA’s Annual Conference in March 2019, recognise the amazing work done by skilled craftspeople and volunteers, and the contribution of heritage crafts to the UK economy.

Basket maker Hilary Burns was awarded Maker of the Year 2018. Hilary, pictured above with HCA Patron Alex Langlands, won the award in recognition of her work on numerous projects that have put British basket making and heritage crafts at the centre of public consciousness. Hilary’s projects include ‘Baskets of the British Isles’, an installation of 52 styles of traditional British baskets hanging over the lobby bar of the Whitby Hotel in Manhattan.

Steve Tomlin, Endangered Crafts Award winner 2018, with Devon maund basket.

Green woodworker Steve Tomlin (right) won the HCA/Marsh Endangered Craft Award. This award recognises a practitioner of one of the 62 crafts currently listed in the ‘critically endangered’ or ‘endangered’ categories of the HCA’s Red List of Endangered Crafts. Steve, a spoon carver, ash basket maker and scything tutor used his award to learn to make Devon stave baskets (maunds), a critically endangered craft with no current practitioners or trainees.

Devon-based Green Shoes was awarded the HCA/Marsh ‘Made in Britain’ Award. Started in 1981 by a group of young women passionate about making strong, beautiful, long-lasting shoes, the business has been listed in the top 15 shoemakers in the world for its ethical standards.

Bookbinder Kathy Abbott was awarded HCA/Marsh Trainer of the Year 2018. Kathy currently teaches advanced level Fine-Binding in Vellum at City Lit in London as well as giving one-to-one fine-binding workshops across the UK.

The Marsh Volunteer of the Year Award went to Suzy Bennett for her work creating the Dartmoor Artisan Trail. Suzy set up the trail to provide rural craft businesses with a new income from tourism, spending 18 months working on the project on a voluntary basis.

Paper maker Zoe Collis won The Arts Society/HCA Heritage Crafts bursary which she is using to continue her paper making apprenticeship at Two Rivers Paper in Somerset.

The awards and bursaries have been made possible through the generous support of the HCA’s funding partners, the Marsh Christian Trust, The Arts Society and an anonymous donor.

Patricia Lovett MBE, Chair of the HCA, said: ‘The heritage crafts sector in England alone contributes £4.4 billion GVA to the UK economy each year, as much as the petrochemical industry. But for many years heritage crafts have been completely ignored and are still not supported by the government. These awards are a real boost for heritage crafts and craftspeople’.

Winners of the 2018 Heritage Crafts Awards

Basket maker Hilary Burns has been named Maker of the Year in the 2018 Heritage Crafts Awards. Hilary won the award in recognition of her work on numerous projects that have put British basket making and heritage crafts at the centre of public consciousness.

Projects include ‘Baskets of the British Isles’, an installation of 52 styles of traditional British baskets hanging over the lobby bar of the Whitby Hotel in Manhattan, the ‘Our House’ project at Selfridges, and a unique class in pigeon basket making for the University of Hertfordshire’s Basketry ‘Then and Now’ project, which looked at the role of basketry in World War One.

Maker of the Year was one of six awards presented at the Heritage Crafts Association’s (HCA) annual conference, Crafts for the Future, at the Royal Society of Medicine on 24 March.

Green woodworker Steve Tomlin won the HCA/Marsh Endangered Craft Award. This new award, set up with the support of the Marsh Christian Trust, recognises a practitioner of one of the 62 crafts currently listed in the ‘critically endangered’ or ‘endangered’ categories of the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts. Steve, a spoon carver, ash basket maker and scything tutor will use his award to learn to make Devon stave baskets (maunds), a critically endangered craft with no current practitioners or trainees.

Devon-based Green Shoes was awarded the HCA/Marsh ‘Made in Britain’ Award. Started in 1981 by a group of young women passionate about making strong, beautiful, long-lasting shoes, the business has been listed in the top 15 shoemakers in the world for its ethical standards.

HCA/Marsh Trainer of the Year is bookbinder Kathy Abbott. Kathy currently teaches advanced level Fine-Binding in Vellum at City Lit in London as well as giving one-to-one fine-binding workshops across the UK.

The Marsh Volunteer of the Year Award went to Suzy Bennett for her work creating the Dartmoor Artisan Trail. Suzy set up the trail to provide rural craft businesses with a new income from tourism, spending 18 months working on the project on a voluntary basis. The trail was named by the Daily Telegraph as one of the UK’s best travel experiences of 2017.

Paper maker Zoe Collis won The Arts Society/HCA Heritage Crafts bursary which she will use to continue her training at Two Rivers Paper in Somerset. Zoe, a former participant in the HCA’s pre-apprenticeship project funded by the Ernest Cook Trust, was one of only a few successful applicants on the national paper making Trailblazer apprenticeship scheme. She will use the bursary to help pay for the costs of her qualification, which is only part-funded by the government.

During the conference, vellum maker Wim Visscher MBE, rush worker Felicity Irons BEM and flint knapper John Lord BEM were awarded with certificates to mark their inclusion in The Queen’s Birthday Honours Lists in 2017. All three were nominated for their awards by the Heritage Crafts Association.

Speakers at the conference included ceramics producer Emma Bridgewater, TV presenter Paul Martin, and Sam Walton, creative director of Hole and Corner magazine. The event, which focused this year on the future of heritage crafts, brought together craftspeople and enthusiasts from all over the UK to hear from makers and celebrate the best in the country.

The Heritage Crafts Awards celebrate and highlight the traditional living crafts made in the UK that contribute to our national heritage. Applications for the next round of awards and bursaries open on 1 September. For more details about this year’s awards, visit awards.heritagecrafts.org.uk.