Plaster worker Geoffrey Preston, basket maker Hilary Burns, and coppice worker Rebecca Oaks have been awarded MBEs in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021, in recognition of their unparalleled craftsmanship and tireless work in ensuring their skills are passed on to current and future generations.
The three were nominated by the Heritage Crafts Association for this year’s Birthday Honours, following 20 previously successful nominations since 2013. Last month, 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.
Geoffrey Preston MBE spearheaded the reintroduction of the endangered craft of stucco to the UK, a style of pargeting whereby designs are moulded directly onto a wall or ceiling, and is categorised as endangered on the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts.
He has been a sculptor and decorative plaster worker for fifty years, after being apprenticed as a stonemason in London, working as a carver on the West Front of Exeter Cathedral in the 1980s, and being trained in modelling under Professor Robert Baker. Francis Terry, one of the UK’s leading classical architects, called him: “England’s best modeller of architectural detail in stucco and moulded plaster”.
HCA Maker of the Year 2018 and Yeoman of the Worshipful Company of Basketmakers, Hilary Burns MBE is a craftswoman, teacher, writer, researcher and advocate with a passion for passing on her skills. Working with humble materials, she produces stunning functional and sculptural pieces inspired by her study of traditional basketry techniques.
An instigator of the largest international basketmaking conference held in the UK in 2013, Hilary has continued to promote the craft globally, with her own work exhibited in New York and Japan, as well as organising skills exchanges to countries such as the Azores and Cyprus.
Rebecca Oaks MBE is the founder and driving force behind the Bill Hogarth Memorial Apprenticeship Trust, set up in 2001 in honour of her mentor, to provide training in sustainable woodland management that benefits biodiversity and wider society. She developed a structured three-year apprenticeship that has awarded diplomas to 18 apprentices, most of whom now run their own coppice craft businesses.
Rebecca went on to develop a partnership with the Small Woods Association to run the National Coppice Apprenticeship Scheme, and was a founder director of the National Coppice Federation, which gives a national, unified voice to regional coppice groups.
HCA Operations Director Daniel Carpenter said:
“We are extremely delighted that Geoffrey, Hilary and Rebecca have been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. Having traditional craftspeople up there with other great luminaries of public life in this way is vitally important, as unlike countries such as Japan and Korea we have no Living National Treasures scheme to celebrate master craftspeople, and the UK is one of only 13 of the 193 UNESCO member states yet to ratify the 2003 Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Heritage.”
The Heritage Crafts Association encourages anyone who supports the continuation of traditional craft skills, whether or not they are makers themselves, to become members. The charity has 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 is currently seeking donations to save more of Britain’s most endangered crafts from oblivion – visit www.heritagecrafts.org.uk/ecf to find out more and to donate.
Barometer making at O Comitti & Son Ltd, a critically endangered craft
New research by the Heritage Crafts Association has unearthed more traditional craft skills on the verge of extinction in the UK, in the latest major update of its pioneering project, the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts.
The research, which has been funded by The Pilgrim Trust, has found that COVID-19 has only exacerbated the issues faced by our most at-risk skills, after a year that has seen many craftspeople pushed to the brink.
20 new crafts have been added to the ‘critically endangered’ category of the HCA Red List, meaning that they are at serious risk of dying out in the next generation, including diamond cutting, mouth-blown sheet glass making, pointe shoe making and glass eye making. They join the list of 130 endangered crafts, including eight that have been reclassified as being at a higher level of risk than when the research was last updated in 2019.
Kiltmaking at The Kiltmakery, an endangered craft
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 no new crafts have become extinct in the past two years, and some, such as gilding and pole-lathe bowl turning, have seen an upturn in their fortunes. In many cases this has been as a result of a new-found appreciation of the handmade and the need to support small businesses during the pandemic. In others it has been due to direct support from the Heritage Crafts Association, which since the publication of the last edition of the HCA Red List has distributed 27 grants of up to £2,000 each as part of its Endangered Crafts Fund.
Mary Lewis, who led the research on behalf of the Heritage Crafts Association, said:
“COVID-19 has been tough on everyone, not least the craftspeople who possess our most fundamental craft skills. Society is rapidly changing around us, and it is more important than ever that we are aware of the cultural assets still available to us, so that we can have an informed debate about what we want to safeguard as a resource for the future. If we allow endangered crafts to disappear then we seriously diminish the opportunities for future generations to create their own sustainable and fulfilling livelihoods, based on these skills.”
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). Of 193 UNESCO members, the UK is one of just 13 that have 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.
Sue Bowers, Director of The Pilgrim Trust, said:
“We are delighted to support the continuing development of the Red List which is so important in tracking the state of heritage crafts in the UK and creating the platform for discussions about how we can bring about positive change in the future.”
The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts 2021 edition is available to view online at http://redlist.heritagecrafts.org.uk.
About the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts
The 2021 edition of the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts was led by Mary Lewis, HCA Endangered Crafts Manager, supported by The Pilgrim Trust. The project runs alongside Mary’s work in identifying and developing interventions to improve the prospects of such crafts, funded by The Swire Charitable Trust, The Garfield Weston Foundation and The Dulverton Trust.
For the 2021 edition, 244 crafts have been assessed to identify those which are at greatest risk of disappearing. Of the 134 crafts featured on the Red List, four have been classified as extinct, 56 as critically endangered and 74 as endangered. The remaining 110 are classed 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, including the impact of COVID-19, 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 fifteen 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.
New crafts for 2021
New critically endangered crafts (crafts classified as ‘critically endangered’ are those at serious risk of no longer being practised in the UK. They may include crafts with a shrinking base of craftspeople, crafts with limited training opportunities, crafts with low financial viability, or crafts where there is no mechanism to pass on the skills and knowledge.)
- Barometer making
- Bowed-felt hat making
- Brilliant cutting
- Coiled straw basket making
- Compass making
- Copper wheel engraving
- Currach making
- Diamond cutting
- Fabric pleating
- Frame knitting
- Glass eye making
- Hazel basket making
- Highlands and Islands thatching
- Horsehair weaving
- Mouth-blown sheet glass making
- Pointe shoe making
- Shetland lace knitting
- Silver spinning
- Sporran making
- Wooden fishing net making
New endangered crafts (Crafts classified as ‘endangered’ are those which currently have sufficient craftspeople to transmit the craft skills to the next generation, but for which there are serious concerns about their ongoing viability. This may include crafts with a shrinking market share, an ageing demographic or crafts with a declining number of practitioners.)
- Hat making
- Kilt making
- Skeined willow working
- Sofrut calligraphy
- Spectacle making
- Type founding and manufacture
About the Endangered Crafts Fund
The Heritage Crafts Association’s Endangered Crafts Fund was set up in 2019 to ensure that the most at-risk heritage crafts within the UK are given the support they need to thrive. The Fund is 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.
To date, 27 projects have been funded with support from the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Dulverton Trust, the Sussex Heritage Trust, Allchurches Trust, the Radcliffe Trust and the Swire Charitable Trust.
Anyone wishing to donate to the fund may do so securely online. 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.
About the Pilgrim Trust
The Pilgrim Trust is an independent grantmaking trust that supports the urgent and future needs of the UK. It gives approximately £3 million in grants per year to charities and other public bodies that either focus on preserving the UK’s heritage or catalysing social change. Its preservation and scholarship fund aims to preserve the fabric of historically important buildings and to conserve significant collections and artefacts. It wants present and future generations to enjoy the rich and diverse heritage found throughout the UK.
The three finalists for the second President’s Award for Endangered Crafts, established by Heritage Crafts Association President HRH The Prince of Wales, have been announced.
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 winner will be presented at a special reception at Dumfries House, home of The Prince’s Foundation, in September, as well as at a prestigious winners’ reception at the Houses of Parliament.
The three finalists are (in alphabetical order):
These three have now been put forward to HRH The Prince of Wales to select the eventual winner.
They were selected from a ten-name shortlist by the Awards judges on 17 June 2021. The other seven shortlisted craftspeople were (in alphabetical order):
The Award judges are renowned advocates of craft skills:
- Jay Blades MBE, 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.
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 – 3 August 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 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.
HCA North of England members Zoom meeting – date to be confirmed
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.
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 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.
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 Scotland members Zoom meeting – date to be confirmed
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.
Click here to watch the recordings of previous online events
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’.