Monica Cass weaving a ‘tau tray’ using skeined willow in Norfolk. Photo copyright Katherine Mager.
A chair seater, a concertina maker and a brick and tile maker are among the recipients of the latest round of grants awarded to help safeguard some of the UK’s most endangered craft skills.
The Heritage Crafts Association, which is due to publish the third edition of its groundbreaking HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts in May, has awarded a further nine grants from its Endangered Crafts Fund, which was launched in 2019 to increase the likelihood of endangered crafts surviving into the next generation.
This round of the HCA Endangered Crafts Fund has been offered with support from the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Dulverton Trust, the Sussex Heritage Trust, Allchurches Trust, the Radcliffe Trust and the Swire Charitable Trust. The nine successful recipients are:
- Duncan Berry, from West Sussex, to buy tools to enable him to pass on his skills as a flint waller.
- Ben Bosence, from East Sussex, to develop and make bricks and tiles from waste clay that has been excavated locally.
- Monica Cass, from Norwich, to train a chair seat weaver in skeined willow techniques, and document the process.
- Collette Davies, from Monmouth, to help revive the craft of lipwork straw basketry.
- Tom Frith-Powell, from Cumbria, to develop a gelatine sized paper as part of his commercial handmade papermaking charity.
- Bob Green, from Brighton, to buy tools to enable him to develop and pass on his skills as a flint waller.
- Jake Middleton-Metcalf, from Buckinghamshire, to be trained in making the critical working components of the English system concertina.
- Tony Millyard, from Northamptonshire, to pass on flute making skills and to develop a new model of flute.
- Dominic Parrette, from East Sussex, to build shave horses to allow him to teach trainees how to make Sussex trug and Devon stave baskets.
A hand made Anglo-German Concertina by Jake Middleton-Metcalfe. Photo copyright Jake Middleton-Metcalfe.
These nine projects follow 18 awarded in previous rounds, covering endangered crafts such as scissor making, sail making, damask weaving, boot tree making, cockle basket making, folding knife making, neon bending, coracle making, fan making and swill basket making, coppersmithing, withy pot making, disappearing fore-edge painting, plane making and kishie basket making.
As usual the fund was oversubscribed, and the HCA hopes to work with many of the unsuccessful candidates to identify other funding and support opportunities.
HCA Endangered Crafts Officer Mary Lewis said:
“The impact of COVID-19 in the last twelve months has only compounded the pressures on those at-risk craft skills that were already on the verge of being lost, but have so much to offer a post-COVID future, as productive and fulfilling ways to rebuild a sustainable economy. These projects will realise some of that potential.”
The Endangered Crafts Fund has been funded through generous donations from organisations including Garfield Weston Foundation, the Dulverton Trust, the Sussex Heritage Trust, Allchurches Trust, the Radcliffe Trust, as well as individuals who have donated sums from £5 right up to several thousands of pounds. The forthcoming 2021 edition of the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts is funded by the Pilgrim Trust.
The HCA continues to seek further donations to save even more of Britain’s most endangered crafts from oblivion. Donations are welcome at any time.
Throughout the COVID-19 lockdown we have been running a series of free online events on Zoom. Here you can find out what event we have coming up. Click here to re-watch the recordings for some of the previous events.
HCA South West of England members Zoom meeting – 11 May 2021, 7.30pm
Peer support and networking meeting facilitated by Daniel Carpenter exclusively for HCA members. If you’re a current member in the South West of England and wish to attend, email us for the joining instructions. If you’re not yet a member, please consider joining.
HCA Scotland members Zoom meeting – 13 May 2021, 7pm
Peer support and networking meeting facilitated by Daniel Carpenter, Mary Lewis, Louise Butler and Helen Voce exclusively for HCA members. If you’re a current member in Scotland and wish to attend, email us for the joining instructions. If you’re not yet a member, please consider joining.
HCA North of England members Zoom meeting – 25 May 2021, 7pm
Peer support and networking meeting facilitated by Daniel Carpenter and Chrissie Freeth exclusively for HCA members. If you’re a current member in the North of England and wish to attend, email us for the joining instructions. If you’re not yet a member, please consider joining.
Katharina Pieper in Conversation – 27 May 2021, 7pm
Katharina Pieper is an inspiring calligrapher who takes texts and runs with them! Based on an intense knowledge and understanding of traditional scripts, her artworks breathe new life into familiar and not so familiar texts with her vivid and colourful interpretations. In 2016 she set up the Foundation for the Culture of Calligraphy (Stiftung Schriftkultur) based at the historic Königsbruch estate near Homburg, Germany, which has a gallery, workshops, a library and museum. Find out more about Katharina and her work, and this new calligraphy venture.
HCA Northern Ireland members Zoom meeting – date to be confirmed
Peer support and networking meeting facilitated by Daniel Carpenter and Emma Whitehead exclusively for HCA members. If you’re a current member in Northern Ireland and wish to attend, email us for the joining instructions. If you’re not yet a member, please consider joining.
HCA Wales members Zoom meeting – date to be confirmed
Peer support and networking meeting facilitated by Daniel Carpenter, Mary Lewis and Clare Revera exclusively for HCA members. If you’re a current member in Wales and wish to attend, email us for the joining instructions. If you’re not yet a member, please consider joining.
Rezia Wahid in Conversation – 17 June 2021, 7pm
Join us in conversation with Rezia Wahid MBE, artist weaver and craft educator. Rezia is a Bangladeshi-born British craftswoman who for over 20 years has been combining hand weaving with delivering workshops in museums, galleries, festivals and schools all over Britain, where participants not only learn the tradition and craft of hand weaving but explore the different cultural contents and materials which are Islamic, Eastern and Western. She was awarded the MBE in the 2005 New Year Honours for her contribution to arts in London.
HCA East Midlands members Zoom meeting – date to be confirmed
Peer support and networking meeting facilitated by Daniel Carpenter and Sally Morgan exclusively for HCA members. If you’re a current member in the East Midlands and wish to attend, email us for the joining instructions. If you’re not yet a member, please consider joining.
HCA West Midlands & Marches members Zoom meeting – date to be confirmed
Peer support and networking meeting facilitated by Mary Lewis and Mike Taylor exclusively for HCA members. If you’re a current member in the West Midlands & Marches and wish to attend, email us for the joining instructions. If you’re not yet a member, please consider joining.
Click here to watch the recordings of previous online events
The second President’s Award for Endangered Crafts, established by Heritage Crafts Association President HRH The Prince of Wales, is now open for nominations. Each year the President’s Award presents £3,000 to a heritage craftsperson who will use the funding to ensure that craft skills are passed on to the future.
The Heritage Crafts Association (HCA) published the latest edition of its groundbreaking HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts in 2019, which revealed that there are 107 endangered crafts in the UK. Crafts deemed critically endangered range from bell founding and damask weaving to orrery making and reverse glass sign painting. Other endangered crafts include a number of musical instrument making crafts, including brass, woodwind and percussion instruments, harps and Northumbrian pipes.
Applicants for the President’s Award are invited to submit proposals to help secure the survival of their craft, which must be listed as ‘endangered’ or ‘critically endangered’ on the 2019 edition of the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts.
The President’s Award will be presented at a special reception at Dumfries House, home of The Prince’s Foundation, as well as at a prestigious winners’ reception at the Houses of Parliament.
The Award judges are renowned advocates of craft skills:
- Jay Blades, BBC The Repair Shop, Jay & Co;
- Kate Hobhouse, Chair of Fortnum and Mason;
- Paul Jacobs, Co-Owner of Ernest Wight scissor makers
- Patricia Lovett MBE, Chair of the Heritage Crafts Association; and
- Simon Sadinsky, Deputy Director of The Prince’s Foundation.
HCA Chair Patricia Lovett said:
“The UK has a hugely rich cultural heritage of craft skills which can be regarded as important as our great historical buildings and treasured objects – all the result of great craftsmanship. However we are in danger of losing a number of these crafts where our research has found that in some cases there are only one or two makers left. The Heritage Crafts Association hopes that by focusing on endangered crafts with this wonderful award initiated by our President, The Prince of Wales, the craft skills will be passed on to future generations.”
Applications are invited from those practising a craft listed as ‘endangered’ or ‘critically endangered’ on the 2019 edition of the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts. Applicants must explain how they will use the £3,000 award to help secure the survival of their craft.
The closing date for applications is Friday 30 April 2021 at 5pm. Shortlisted applicants will be expected to attend the Awards Ceremony at the Houses of Parliament in Autumn 2021 (COVID permitting). The winner will also be expected to attend the presentation at Dumfries House (date to be confirmed).
Click here to download the application form including further instructions
The Heritage Crafts Association has been recognised by the Ruskin Society with a special award for its contribution to supporting and safeguarding heritage crafts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ruskin Society exists to bring together people who are interested in the life and work of John Ruskin and to promote understanding of Ruskin and his legacy. John Ruskin was one of the most important art critics and social thinkers of the nineteenth century. His ideas inspired William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement and had profound political implications regarding the effect of industrialisation and free markets on the ability of people to live fulfilling and meaningful lives
At the Ruskin Society Annual General Meeting, held to coincide with the celebration of the 202nd anniversary of Ruskin’s birth, the Society’s Chair, Professor Francis O’Gorman, said:
“What is special for us [about the Heritage Crafts Association], apart from the obvious Ruskinian activity of preserving endangered crafts, is that the HCA set up a COVID-19 fund earlier in the pandemic offering small, but possibly extremely valuable, grants to sole traders and small businesses to help their activities become sustainable during the pandemic, which of course has gone on far, far longer than we anticipated. Thank you from the Ruskin Society, and our thanks and prize under these exceptional circumstances go your Association.”
Heritage Crafts Association Operations Director Daniel Carpenter, who was presented with the award, said:
“We would be honoured and delighted to be receiving this award in any circumstances, but there are two reasons that make this particularly special. Firstly, because it has been given in recognition of the work we have been doing to support heritage craftspeople during this difficult pandemic year. Secondly, because it’s in the name of John Ruskin, whose thinking on the importance of meaningful work and his influence on the Arts and Crafts Movement lives on today, and we ponder how more difficult it might be to resist what often seem like overwhelming forces of consumer capitalism and the erasure of craftsmanship, were it not for his legacy.”
This year many of these skills, and the craftspeople who embody them, have been pushed to the brink, and the future of many of the at-risk crafts featured on our HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts have become even more precarious. In response to this we have been proactive, in increasing our support through hardship grants and our Endangered Crafts Fund, offering the inaugural President’s Award for Endangered Crafts set up by HCA President HRH The Prince of Wales, and reaching out to our members through online events and peer-support networks, accelerating our programme of work thanks to the dedicated efforts of our fantastic staff and Trustee teams, and with the support of the Dulverton Trust, the Swire Trust, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Pilgrim Trust, the Radcliffe Trust, Allchurches Trust and the Marsh Christian Trust.
The presentation was followed by a fantastic talk by Dr Rachel Dickinson entitled ‘Ruskinian Wealth Today: living well in the wake of COVID-19’.
Veronica Main from Hazelmere in Buckinghamshire has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List 2021, in recognition of a lifetime spent researching, practicing and teaching the craft of straw plaiting for the hat industry.
Veronica was nominated by the Heritage Crafts Association in this year’s New Year Honours, following 19 previously successful nominations since 2013. Last year, the charitable organisation – which was set up in 2009 to support and champion traditional craft skills – published the latest edition of its groundbreaking HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts, the first report of its kind to rank craft skills by the likelihood they will survive into the next generation.
Once an important trade in the UK, straw hat plaiting is now critically endangered on the Red List, with only a few remaining craftspeople. Veronica has made it her life’s mission to ensure that these skills are not lost, and only last week was on BBC Radio lamenting the closure of Luton hat firm Olney Headwear.
Veronica has been involved with Wardown House Museum and the Culture Trust in Luton for over 30 years – first as volunteer, then ‘Hat Plaiter in Residence’, and finally as Curator – becoming the go-to expert for the history of women’s hats and hat making. She has been a consultant on straw work to museums across the world, including the V&A and the Museum of London.
Hat made by Veronica in collaboration with Lucy Barlow for the ‘Royal Ascot at Home’ millinery auction 2020 to raise money for NHS Charities.
Over the years Veronica has taught many hundreds of people the skills of straw plaiting in the UK, US, Europe and Bangladesh, where she taught straw work to the women of Sreepur village, to increase their repertoire of craft skills.
Veronica is a Queen Elizabeth Scholar, Wingate Scholar, City & Guilds Gold Medallist, and member of the Guild of Straw Craftsmen and the National Association of Wheat Weavers (USA). She is a founding member of the British Hat Guild, a group of 33 professional milliners at the top of their game, each selected for their highly individual contribution to millinery. In 2003, she published Swiss Straw Work, a comprehensive guide to straw plaiting and other techniques that were common in Switzerland and across Europe.
Veronica continues to innovate and find new ways to share her knowledge of straw hat plaiting. Concerned that skills and knowledge could be imminently lost, she has created a website to share her knowledge and has embraced social media as a tool to disseminate her skills.
HCA Operations Manager Daniel Carpenter said:
“Often it is only in retrospect that we realise that particular craft skills have survived purely thanks to a few dedicated individuals, working tirelessly to safeguard the future of our intangible heritage so that future generations can use them as a basis for innovation, industry, connection and wellbeing. Veronica is a shining example of this and we are delighted that we have been able to recognise her skill and commitment through this successful MBE nomination, putting her up there among other great luminaries of public life.”
The HCA encourages anyone who supports the continuation of traditional craft skills, whether or not they are makers themselves, to become HCA members. We have set up an Endangered Crafts Fund to provide small grants to projects that increase the likelihood of endangered craft skills surviving into the next generation, and are currently seeking donations to save more of Britain’s most endangered crafts from oblivion.
Traditional British hat making skills have suffered a major hit with the announcement of the closure of historic firm Olney Headwear Ltd, makers of the iconic Peaky Blinders hats.
On Monday the company – which has produced straw boaters, panamas, fabric hats and caps since 1914 – left its factory at 106 Old Bedford Road to make way for housing developers to build 31 apartments.
Despite overseas competition leading it to focus on more artisanal production such as the hats for the Peaky Blinders TV programme, Olney was a viable company until COVID-19 saw the closure of most of its retail network. As recently as September the company announced that it would be relocating to a new site, a prospect that has now evaporated. Its termination means the end of traditional straw boater making in the UK and the end of commercially-made pattern-piece caps and hats in Luton, as well as the loss of 25 jobs and the skills that went with them.
The traditional boater has a double brim and is blocked twice, the second time on a specialist machine. Some of the Olney machines have been passed to other companies and individuals, with Culture Trust Luton Museums acquiring the iconic Brochier boater blocking machine.
As well as making Peaky Blinders caps, the company also made the famous ‘Sherlock Holmes’ deerstalker hat, and supplied hats to private schools including Eton and Harrow. The closure is bound to have knock-on effects on other Luton hat companies and allied trades, who looked to Olney as the strong and stable industry core. The town is home to the last large commercial hat block maker and the last commercial bleacher and dyer.
On hearing of the closure, members of the hat making trade are calling on the local Luton Borough Council to support and assist the remaining companies.
Daniel Carpenter, Heritage Crafts Association Operations Manager said:
“While our first thoughts are with the workers who have lost their livelihoods, as the national charity for the safeguarding of craft skills we are also concerned with the loss of an important part of our shared intangible cultural heritage: their embodied knowledge and skills. Whilst it is good that some of the machines has been saved, unused they become little more than relics of cultural loss. Finally, but not insignificantly, we also think of future generations whose repository of craft skill will be diminished as a result.”
Read the full press release