Stephen Wessel – photo by South West News Service
The Heritage Crafts Association (HCA) has set out to save British flutemaking by seeking potential trainees interested in learning this intricate and highly-skilled craft from a retiring master.
Stephen Wessel from Somerset is currently believed to be the last full-time craftsperson in the UK making fully handmade Boehm system flutes.
Stephen’s impending retirement, after 35 years in the business, not only ends a long and illustrious career, but could signal the end of flutemaking in the UK – a proud tradition stretching back to the nineteenth century.
Even before news of Stephen’s retirement, the scarcity of British flute makers had led to the craft being reclassified as critically endangered in this year’s edition of the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts.
As the organisation set up to safeguard traditional craft skills in the UK, the HCA has teamed up with Jonathan Myall (a lifelong flute enthusiast and owner of Just Flutes in South Croydon) who has offered to host and support a trainee while they learn the craft from Stephen.
The successful applicant will be keen to learn, will have a proven ability to solve technical problems, and is likely to have existing engineering skills (such as those gained from precision silversmithing, jewellery or model engineering) which will serve them well when learning to make the key mechanisms that create the beautiful even tone for which these flutes have become famous.
Stephen Wessel said:
“I started my working life as a research engineer. I didn’t care for it and left aged 26 to do my own thing… a good decision which I have never regretted, for I love making things and you can’t do much of that sitting in an office. Ours is still a great manufacturing nation and in my small way I feel proud to be part of it.”
For more details and to express an interest in this potential opportunity, applicants can contact Mary Lewis, HCA Endangered Crafts Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Applicants should note that the traineeship is dependent on the HCA and Jonathan Myall sourcing additional funds once a suitable candidate has been identified.
Endangered craft of last making. Photo by Steven Lowe.
The Heritage Crafts Association is inviting craft practitioners and organisations in the UK to apply for small grants to fund projects that support and promote endangered crafts (the craft must be listed as endangered or critically endangered on the current Red List of Endangered Crafts).
There is a maximum of £2,000 available for each project and we will work with you to develop and support your work.
For example, this may include:
- training for yourself to learn a new craft or technique;
- training for an apprentice so that you can pass on skills and knowledge;
- specialist equipment that will enable you to practice a craft or add a new product to your business;
- materials and equipment to start running workshops; or
- innovative approaches to supporting and promoting endangered crafts.
In addition to the funding you will also receive support from the Endangered Crafts Officer and the Heritage Crafts Association team to ensure that your project is a success. This will be unique to your project but it could include mentor support, business support or signposting to other opportunities.
To apply please fill in an Expression of Interest form and we will call you back to discuss your project. Please note that this is a competitive process and not all projects will receive funding. Successful applicants must join the HCA (£20 a year for individuals) if they are not already members.
Download an Expression of Interest form here
If you would like to talk to us about your project or would like to check your eligibility to apply please email Mary Lewis at email@example.com. Alternatively, if you would like to make a donation to the Endangered Crafts Fund, please click here.
Supported by: The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund, Ernest Cook Trust and the generous support of individual donors and HCA members.
Handmade paper maker James Patterson has been named Maker of the Year in this year’s Heritage Crafts Awards.
Maker of the Year was one of six awards presented at the Heritage Crafts Association’s (HCA) annual conference at Cecil Sharp House, London on 9th March.
James is the owner and operator of Somerset-based Two Rivers Paper, which manufactures handmade paper for artists, printers and designers. Based in a 400 year old water mill, it is the only commercial business of its kind in the UK and one of only a handful in Europe. James won the award in recognition of the quality of his work, for his role in developing the skills of others, both within his own business and beyond, and for the innovations which are enabling him to keep the craft alive.
Simon Brock, winner of the Endangered Craft Award, with Nick Carter, Marsh Christian Trust.
Clog maker Simon Brock from Sheffield won the HCA/Marsh Endangered Craft Award. This award, set up with the support of the Marsh Christian Trust, recognises a practitioner of one of the crafts listed in the ‘critically endangered’ or ‘endangered’ categories of the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts. Simon makes bespoke clogs, primarily for clog step dancers and Morris dancers. He will use his award to study with master clog maker Jeremy Atkinson, learning how to carve clog soles entirely by hand using traditional clog knives. Simon also won the HCA/Arts Society Heritage Crafts bursary which will enable him to extend his studies with Jeremy.
Tony Kindell of Aldershaw Handmade Tiles Ltd, winner of the ‘Made in Britain’ Award, with Nick Carter, Marsh Christian Trust.
Winner of the HCA/Marsh ‘Made in Britain’ Award is Aldershaw Handmade Tiles Ltd. The Sussex-based company employs traditional hand making methods using wooden moulds and 150-million-year-old local Wadhurst clay. The company is one of only a few still making sanded, rubbed or glazed mathematical tiles, used since the 1700s as a method of weatherproofing timber buildings in Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Northamptonshire. Aldershaw’s terracotta tiles can be found in floors and roofs all over the country: on The Queen’s House at The Tower of London, Harmondsworth Medieval Barn, St James Church Piccadilly, the Real Tennis Court at Hampton Court together with the National Trust Village West Wycombe, English Heritage properties and many private estates.
Trainer of the Year Neill Mapes with Nick Carter, Marsh Christian Trust.
HCA/Marsh Trainer of the Year is Neill Mapes of the Small Woods Association (SWA). In his role first as a volunteer and then as SWA’s Heritage Crafts Officer, Neill has trained and mentored many thousands of enthusiasts, volunteers, SWA members and the general public in a wide range of crafts, including rake making, bowl turning, broom making, pole lathe turning, currach and coracle making. He leads the teaching of crafts skills at the Greenwood Centre in Coalbrookdale, Shropshire, and has an enthusiastic following on social media, which he uses to share his skills.
Volunteer of the Year Toni Brannon with Nick Carter, Marsh Christian Trust.
The HCA/Marsh Volunteer of the Year Award went to Toni Brannon for years of dedication to coppicing and woodland crafts, both as membership secretary of the Hampshire Coppice Group and as committee member of the National Coppice Federation since its inception in 2013. Toni won the award for her role in raising awareness of coppicing and for the contribution she has made to improving training opportunities for coppice workers and woodland craft practitioners across the UK.
During the conference, fore-edge painter Martin Frost MBE, and textile designer Kaffe Fassett MBE were awarded with certificates to mark their inclusion in The Queen’s Birthday and New Year’s Honours Lists. Both were nominated for their awards by the Heritage Crafts Association.
Speakers at the sell-out conference included Jay Blades from BBC2’s The Repair Shop, Woman’s Hour Craft Prize finalist Celia Pym, and Mike Jenn, founder of Men’s Sheds.
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, visit http://awards.heritagecrafts.org.uk/
2019 Heritage Crafts Awards finalists
Maker of the Year: Louise Anderson; James Patterson; Charlie Trevor
Endangered Craft Award: Teresa Bailey; Simon Brock; Tuesday Riddell
Made in Britain: Aldershaw Handmade Tiles Ltd; Peter Faulkner Coracles; Laura’s Loom; Two Rivers Paper
Trainer of the Year: Sue Macniven; Neill Mapes; Denise Stirrup
Volunteer of the Year: Toni Brannon
HCA/Arts Society Bursary: Heather Berry; Simon Brock; Dave Evers
New research by the Heritage Crafts Association has unearthed dozens more traditional craft skills on the verge of extinction in the UK, in the first major update of its pioneering project, the Red List of Endangered Crafts.
Zoe Collis, apprentice paper maker at Two Rivers Paper (photo by Alison Jane Hoare)
Sixteen new crafts have been added to the ‘critically endangered’ category of the Red List, meaning that they are at serious risk of dying out in the next generation, including withy crab pot making, millwrighting and commercial handmade paper making. They join 20 other critically endangered crafts, including five (bell founding, flute making, scissor making, tinsmithing and watch making) that have been reclassified as being at a higher level of risk than when the research was first published in 2017.
Critically endangered crafts include those with very few practitioners, few (if any) trainees and a lack of viable training routes by which the skills can be passed on. Often they serve very niche markets, and craftspeople cannot afford to step away from production to train their successors for fear those markets will disappear.
It’s not all bad news, however, as the craft of sieve and riddle making, which was listed as extinct in 2017, has now been revived by two new makers devoted to bringing it back, both of whom are now beginning commercial production. In addition, the organisation behind the research, the Heritage Crafts Association, has, with funding from The Dulverton Trust, employed an Endangered Crafts Officer to look for practical ways to safeguard these crafts skills, and has set up an Endangered Crafts Fund to provide the means to do so.
Daniel Carpenter, who led the research on behalf of the Heritage Crafts Association, said:
“The Red List of Endangered Crafts is vital in drawing our attention to parts of our shared cultural heritage we are at greatest risk of losing. What we as a society decide to do with that knowledge is up to us, but at the Heritage Crafts Association we believe that the country’s skills and practices can be just as valuable as its historic artefacts and monuments… perhaps even more so as they may offer opportunities for future generations to create their own sustainable and fulfilling livelihoods in ways we cannot yet imagine. If we allow these crafts to disappear then we seriously diminish these opportunities.”
Whilst the UK has been a world-leader in the preservation of tangible heritage (museum collections, buildings and monuments), it has fallen behind the rest of the world when it comes to the safeguarding of intangible heritage (knowledge, skills and practices). It is among only 15 of 193 UNESCO members that has not yet ratified the 2003 Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Heritage, and government responsibility for heritage crafts falls in the gap between agencies set up to support arts and heritage.
Julie Crawshaw, Director of the Heritage Crafts Association, said:
“In an age of hyper-digitisation these skills can offer a viable alternative workplace and a lifestyle that can bring a sense of accomplishment and increased wellbeing. As examples of tacit knowledge that cannot easily be passed on in written form; they survive only through practice and the transmission of skill from one person to another. The Heritage Crafts Association, which is celebrating its tenth year in 2019, is dedicated to safeguarding heritage crafts skills for the benefit of everyone.”
All 212 entries featured in the Red List of Endangered Crafts 2019 edition are available to view online at http://redlist.heritagecrafts.org.uk.
About the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts
Steve Overthrow, sieve and riddle maker (photo by Daniel Carpenter)
The 2019 edition of the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts was led by Daniel Carpenter, on secondment from his doctoral research on craft heritage at the University of Exeter, and supported by the South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership. The project runs alongside the work of the Heritage Crafts Association’s Endangered Crafts Officer Mary Lewis, whose post, funded by The Dulverton Trust, has been created to identify and develop interventions to improve the prospects of such crafts.
For the 2019 edition, 212 crafts have been assessed to identify those which are at greatest risk of disappearing. Of the 212 crafts featured in the research, four have been classified as extinct, 36 as critically endangered, 70 as endangered and 102 as currently viable.
Drawing on information such as the current number of craftspeople and trainees, the average age of practitioners, opportunities to learn, and other issues affecting the future of the crafts considered, the research assesses how likely it is that the craft skills will be passed on to the next generation. From armour making and arrowsmithing to wig making and woodturning, each has been assigned to one of four categories: extinct, critically endangered, endangered or currently viable.
Four crafts are known to have become extinct in the UK in the last ten years (cricket ball making, gold beating, lacrosse stick making, and paper mould and deckle making) with one more (sieve and riddle making) brought back from extinction. At the other end of the spectrum, viable crafts are defined as those for which there are sufficient craftspeople to pass on the craft skills to the next generation, though crafts in the currently viable category face real challenges and require continued monitoring.
For the purposes of this research, a heritage craft is defined as “a practice which employs manual dexterity and skill and an understanding of traditional materials, design and techniques, and which has been practised for two or more successive generations.” The research focuses on craft practices which are taking place in the UK today, including crafts which have originated elsewhere.
The 2017 Red List of Endangered Crafts, funded by The Radcliffe Trust and led by Greta Bertram, was the first to rank traditional crafts by the likelihood they would survive the next generation. It brought the plight of these skills to national attention, with coverage across national newspapers and broadcast media including Countryfile, The One Show and Radio 4 Woman’s Hour.
About the Endangered Crafts Fund
The Heritage Crafts Association’s Endangered Crafts Fund has been set up to ensure that the most at-risk heritage crafts within the UK are given the support they need to thrive. The Fund will be used to support makers and trainees who wish to develop or share their skills in the crafts that have been identified as being most at risk.
Anyone wishing to donate to the fund may do so securely online via the web link below. Alternatively, please send a cheque made payable to ‘Heritage Crafts Association’ with an accompanying note specifying ‘Endangered Crafts Fund’ to: Heritage Crafts Association, 27 South Road, Oundle, Peterborough PE8 4BU.
Zoe Collis, the papermaking apprentice at Two Rivers Paper who was recruited in through the HCA’s 2017 pre-apprenticeship pilot scheme (and has since gone on to be awarded a Trailblazer apprenticeship, HCA/Arts Society bursary and QEST Scholarship) is now a role model for young heritage crafts recruits after featuring on the BBC Bitesize website.
In the video case study, Zoe’s boss Jim Patterson said: “The largest impact that Zoe’s had on the business is by raising the amount of paper that we make and of course the amount that we sell. We’ve doubled our production in the year since Zoe’s been here.”
It’s wonderful to think about all of the future careers in heritage crafts this might inspire!
The HCA is delighted to have appointed Julie Crawshaw as its new Executive Director to lead the organisation into the future. Julie, who will be working three days a week, is the first person to hold this post as the Association continues to grow from a small volunteer-led advocacy group to a more sustainable and better resourced charitable organisation. As well as managing the three part-time staff members and various ongoing projects, Julie is tasked with implementing a new strategic plan and ensuring the organisation achieves continued financial sustainability despite not currently being in receipt of any public funding.
Julie has an engineering background, and most recently has worked as Major Projects Manager at the Birmingham Museums Trust, managing the refurbishment of the Museum and Art Gallery and creating a new museum store. Julie grows willow for fedging and weaving, and also does textile craft. She will be guided in her work by the HCA’s dedicated Chair and Board of Trustees and supported by the existing part-time staff members Lisa, Sally and Mary. We look forward to the HCA growing even further under her leadership for the benefit of the whole heritage crafts sector.