World-renowned photographer Rankin captures heritage craftspeople

World-renowned photographer Rankin captures heritage craftspeople

As part of our link-up with AirBnB Experiences, world renowned photographer Rankin has captured craftspeople featured on the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts. Best known for his portraits of models such as Kate Moss and personalities such as David Bowie and the Queen, Rankin has this to say about the craftspeople he visited:

There’s so many craft-based skills which take years to properly hone and develop that are in danger of dying out. We must not let this happen. Shooting with Greg, JoJo and Lucy I got a unique insight into their work and why we should fight to keep crafts like these alive.
Rankin

Featured in the photographs are:

Lucy McGrath shot by RankinLucy McGrath in workshop
Greg Rowland in workshopGreg Rowland shot by Rankin JoJo Wood shot by Rankin

Gilding the Gingerbread

Gilding the Gingerbread

Two fortunate trainees, Ellen Wood and Tony Hassett, learned the traditional craft skills of gilding on the Cutty Sark ship in Greenwich on 6th and 7th August.

Master craftswoman Rachael Linton demonstrated the skills and explained the processes and techniques. Tony and Ellen were able to gild individual letters and some of the ‘Gingerbread’ of the Cutty Sark under Rachael’s supervision. The project was very kindly funded by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths.

Rachael was being employed to do the gilding by Campbell Smith & Co., a historic repair and restoration company which is undertaking repairs to the ‘Gingerbread’: repairing and remaking some of the carvings and then finishing them with gold leaf (gilding).

Here Rachael is showing how to gild the letters:

Ellen tries it herself:

And now Tony:

The letters before being cleaned up:

Then on to the ‘Gingerbread’:

Some of the decorative items had been removed for ease of gilding. Here the backing sheet is being removed from the gold leaf:

Ellen applies the adhesive:

Tony helps to finish the gilding:

The completed gilding; note the soft brush to remove the excess gold leaf:

And all this was filmed by Bruno Sorrentino for the Heritage Crafts Association’s DVD on Gilding.

The Heritage Crafts Association is most grateful not only to the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths for their generosity, but also to Rachael Linton for passing on the skills, Campbell Smith & Co, Cutty Sark Museum, Royal Museums Greenwich, Ellie Birkhead the project manager, Bruno Sorrentino the filmer and maker of the DVD and the HCA’s own Laura Southall, Projects Trustee.

Photographs: Ellie Birkhead

A fabulous exhibition of works at Manchester Craft and Design Centre

A fabulous exhibition of works at Manchester Craft and Design Centre

Charcoal burning

Sharon Blakey, Senior Lecturer, BA (Hons) Three Dimensional Design, Manchester School of Art, reports on Endangered Crafts, the collaborative project between the HCA and Manchester School of Art.

Endangered Crafts, which was based on the HCA’s Red List, culminated in a fabulous exhibition of works at Manchester Craft and Design Centre in May. Over 150 students from across the School participated in the project, with selected works exhibited as part of the School of Art’s Unit X Festival.

As expected the range of responses to the theme of ‘endangered crafts’ was wide ranging and design teams responded to the brief in original and unexpected ways. The Tradition Meets Technology team juxtaposed the handcraft skills of knitting, crochet and embroidery with a range of production technologies. Jaimie-Lee Wainman’s ceramic and 3D printed stacking bowls enable the user to hand embroider the outer skin of each vessel, developing knowledge of basic stitch methods whilst facilitating a contemplative act of making. Emma Bradburn wove together delicate strands of glass which were then slumped in the kiln and embellished post firing with hand threaded silk yarn, and the tasselled sculptural wall pieces by Textiles in Practice student Remy Storey were an interpretation of the detail, colour, scale and composition found in traditional passementerie.

Embroidery vessels: Slip cast ceramic, 3D print, embroidery silk

A number of teams relished the opportunity to learn new skills and processes. Neptunian, for example, were motivated by research into ancient coracle making, developing a flat-pack, self-assembly version for use during family holidays and outings. Sasuke embraced the art of blade making, learning how to forge steel to make a Japanese inspired kitchen knife using locally sourced oak and Damascus steel. Charcoal burning was the inspiration for a second year team who designed and built their own charcoal burner and  produced a film to document the process. Influenced by charcoal’s properties of neutralising and purifying the air, Interactive Arts student Jourdana Duoba, combined ground charcoal with recycled paper to produce artefacts intended to reduce domestic odours when placed in interior spaces.

Students commented positively upon the value of the experience, with one student noting, “Unit X has helped personal discovery about my professional practice. Having the chance to hone skills and learn new ones made this project the highlight of my first year”.

Greta Bertram, former trustee of the HCA, who attended the final event was delighted with the outcome “…it was really interesting to see which crafts had inspired the students and the wide array of ways in which they had responded to the HCA/Radcliffe Red list.  Working with the School of Art has been a really great experience.”

Contemporary passementerie, mixed media

Woven bowls: slumped glass, embroidery silk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All photographs copyright Manchester School of Art

Update on Manchester School of Art’s Endangered Crafts project

Tuesday 20th March was the ‘Big Crit’ day for students involved in the Endangered Crafts Unit X project at Manchester School of Art, which has been inspired by the HCA’s Red List. First and second year students on the Textiles in Practice (TIP) and Three Dimensional Design (3DD) programmes, as well as students joining the project from fine art, film making and interactive arts came together to share their findings so far.

Students have had inspiring input from Steve Dixon, professor of Craft, Alice Kettle, professor of Textiles Arts, Martyn Evans, professor of Design, as well as talks and workshops by designers Silo Studio and artists Hwa Young Jung, Brendan Dawes, Zoe Robertson and Ismini Samanidou. It’s been a fruitful three weeks with much discussion and debate around what and why a craft is on the ‘Red’ list and how the students want to develop their ideas using the research they have generated so far to inform the next stage of the project. The Big Crit saw students proposing ideas and presenting prototypes and test pieces to demonstrate their thinking.

A wide variety of work has been produced so far – from marbled paper to samurai sword making at first year level, and from proposing new applications for endangered practices to inventing new ways of thinking about the production of craft products at second year level. A very positive and interesting day for all, and a great start to the project.

Students are looking forward to the start of the summer term where groups will materialise their thinking through making in preparation for the Unit X Festival and opening night at the Manchester Craft and Design Centre on Wednesday 9 May at 5:30pm.

https://www.instagram.com/msoa_3ddesign/?hl=en

https://www.instagram.com/msoa_tip/?hl=en

Introducing the Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts

Delivered by Greta Bertram, HCA Secretary, at the launch of the Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts, 3 May 2017 at the House of Lords:

Greta Bertram

Photo by Lesley Butterworth

In Cambridge, where I’m lucky enough to live, we are surrounded by beautiful and historic buildings, many of which are unique. If just one of them was threatened with demolition or was allowed to fall into disrepair, people would be up in arms. There would be protests, demonstrations and it would no doubt make the national news.

Within the last ten years, we have lost four of our heritage crafts in the UK. These didn’t hit the headlines, yet these crafts are just as much a part of our rich heritage as our historical buildings. These extinct crafts include gold beating and sieve and riddle making. Only last month the Heritage Crafts Association was asked where British hand-made sieves could be bought, and the answer was, sadly, nowhere.

Historic England has a listing system for historic buildings. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has a red list for endangered species. But this is the first time that anyone has looked at traditional crafts in the UK and identified those most at risk. Generously funded by The Radcliffe Trust, the Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts looks at every single heritage craft taking place in the UK today, focusing on those where there is a significant reliance on hand-work and with high levels of hand skill.

We have looked at 169 crafts in total (although we’re bound to have missed some) and, after careful consideration, have assigned each craft to one of four categories: extinct, critically endangered, endangered and currently viable. Where we didn’t have enough information to make a classification, we put them into a data deficient category.

Seventeen crafts have been identified as critically endangered – this means that they’re at serious risk of becoming extinct. These crafts have very few practitioners, generally spread across just one or two businesses, and usually with no trainees learning the skills. We sincerely hope that none of these seventeen join the four that have already gone.

There is one skilled master vellum and parchment maker in the whole of the UK. There are two skilled clog makers (and there’s currently a revival in clog dancing), and four skilled horse collar makers. There are two businesses making coaches and wagons, one person making fans, and two businesses making hat blocks. There are three people marbling paper (indeed, we heard only heard about the third one last week), and only one piano manufacturer. And there are just a handful of trainees across these seventeen crafts! (All of this information is in your booklets).

So, what are the problems and challenges? Well, they are, typically, many and varied, and often connected. For some crafts it’s an ageing workforce, a shortage of training opportunities or difficulties in recruiting trainees. For others it’s a fluctuating market, competition from overseas or the unwillingness of customers to pay that little bit more for handmade British items. Some crafts have problems with the supply of raw materials and tools (think of all the timber diseases we keep hearing about) and others point out that people just don’t know they still exist. For yet more it’s the myriad obstacles that have to be overcome if you are self-employed (which nearly 80% of craftspeople are) or running a microbusiness.

Sadly there isn’t a magic bullet cure-all solution, but the research has highlighted how precarious the future of all heritage crafts are when they are in the hands of only a few skilled craftspeople.

So, now that we have identified the most critically endangered crafts, and understand more about the challenges they, along with all crafts, are facing, what next?

We feel it’s crucial for the government to clarify the role of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in supporting heritage crafts, as they do for contemporary crafts, and to make the necessary changes. For too long we have been bounced between heritage – which means historic buildings and museums – and arts – things that you can put on a shelf and admire.

In 2003 UNESCO produced a Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. This focuses not on the physical things like buildings, monuments, and artefacts, but on the non-physical aspects of our heritage like traditional performing arts, festivals, and, importantly for us, craft skills. The UK is one of only 22 countries out of 194 that haven’t ratified the convention, the government saying only that ‘it isn’t their priority’.

We would like to be pro-active in ensuring those seventeen critically endangered crafts don’t become extinct, and also in preventing any other crafts from entering that category. For that, the broader issues of the heritage crafts sector need to be addressed, particularly relating to training, recruitment, and market issues. And that requires proper funding and support.

Finally, this is a significant piece of research which should not be shelved and forgotten. Like Historic England’s listed buildings register, or the red list of endangered species, The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts needs to be regularly monitored and a thorough (and funded) review conducted every 3–5 years.

We are incredibly grateful to everyone who has supplied information about the crafts, and cannot thank the Radcliffe Trust enough for funding this research, which has enabled us to shine a light on this important part of our shared cultural fabric. We sincerely hope that the Red List will serve as a starting point to encourage future interest and research into heritage crafts, and to ensure that these rich and diverse craft skills carry on into the future.

University of Lincoln uses virtual reality to provide experience of heritage crafts

The University of Lincoln has developed a new system to use virtual reality technology to train young blacksmiths, saying that it wants to get more people involved in trades that are in danger of disappearing. Using their virtual blacksmith’s forge, users can experience the basic principles behind blacksmithing, and the hope is that young people might go on to take it up for real.

Click on the video below to play (UK only)

iPlayer story on University of Lincoln

 

Eventually the university hopes to develop a virtual village that will allow users to experience a whole range of traditional crafts, and even receive one-to-one training from experts all over the world. The Heritage Crafts Alliance (set up in North Yorkshire in 2011 to focus on building crafts, and not to be confused with us) are quoted in the Look North report as supporting the project.

Heritage crafts need to embrace technology and new sections of society if they are to survive and this development look very interesting, though for me the sensation of actually being present in the environment and the interaction with the materials are vital factors in the lure of heritage crafts, and it will be a long time before technology can replicate this. If this is to become a teaching tool, is it even possible to convey the types of tacit knowledge that make up these craft skills without these sensuous factors present?