Siân represents the UK in Uzbekistan

Sian Evan in UzbekistanCoppersmith and HCA member Siân Evans represented the UK heritage crafts sector at the first International Handicrafters Festival in Uzbekistan in September. Siân was invited by The Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan in London represent the country and to demonstrate coppersmithing and talk about her work. According to the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts she is one of five known ornamental coppersmiths working in Britain today and the idea of cultural preservation through the language of crafts skills was a core theme at the Festival.

After the flight into Uzbekistan, delegates from seventy-nine countries were taken by train, over the mountains and into the city of Kokand, which had recently been granted the status of Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art by the World Crafts Council. The reception was extraordinary – crowds cheering, bands playing, children dancing – marking the start of a very special event.

Sian Evan in UzbekistanThe festival itself was held in the grounds of the Palace of Khudoyar-Khan, where a village of yurts, tents, marquees and huts had sprung up, each housing a working craftsperson. All fifteen regions of Uzbekistan were represented and international flags showed where the overseas visitors were based. On the first day there was considerable press interest and as a result, crowds grew each subsequent day.

On Saturday 14th a huge opening ceremony took place, in the presence of the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev. In his welcoming speech, he spoke of the value of craftsmanship in universal culture and how it “occupies a special place in the life of each nation, shaping its mentality and values”.

He added: “the craftsmanship derives inspiration in harmony with nature” and that in order to “breathe life into an ordinary clay, piece of metal or wood… there will be needed not only scrupulous work, but also the warmth of human soul”.

1st International Handicrafters FestivalThe final two days of the festival were spent meeting new people, discovering the beautiful work, sharing skills, laughing and dancing! Many craftspeople (especially those in obscure or dying crafts) spend a lot of time working in isolation and so this new sense of a global community was not only profound, it was a revelation.

The generosity of the hosts was overwhelming at times, but the most moving gift was given just as it was time to leave. As the delegates boarded the train to return to Tashkent and fly back to their homes and workshops, they were each given a simple work apron, with the emblem of the festival on it.

The Prince’s Foundation and QEST launch building arts programme

HammeringQEST and The Prince’s Foundation have launched the Building Arts Programme, focused on the core belief that our built environmental is a collaboration between a vast array of different disciplines which are all fundamentally linked.

Intended for students of architecture, building crafts and decorative and applied arts, this interdisciplinary programme will provide a space for rediscovering shared learning and practice, enabling students to explore the multifaceted nature of the built environment. Graduates will be well positioned to approach their practice in a manner which is both better informed and multidisciplinary, working with others to create a built environment which is more than just the sum of its parts.

Teaching will take place at Dumfries House, Ayrshire, but the course will also include a 12-week individual industry placement, giving students the opportunity to hone their skills within their own trade.

For more details visit the QEST website to download the course overview and application form.

Photo credit: Thom Atkinson

Flutemaking trainee sought to avert craft extinction

Stephen Wessel

Stephen Wessel – photo by South West News Service

Deadline: 31 October 2019

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 application form, email Mary Lewis, HCA Endangered Crafts Officer, at mary@heritagecrafts.org.uk. Applicants should note that the traineeship is dependent on the HCA and Jonathan Myall sourcing additional funds once a suitable candidate has been identified.

New fund inundated with proposals to save endangered crafts

Zoe Collis, apprentice papermaker at Two Rivers Paper (photo by Alison Jane Hoare)

Zoe Collis, apprentice in the critically endangered craft of commercial handmade paper making. Photo by Alison Jane Hoare.

The Heritage Crafts Association (HCA), which earlier this year published the latest edition of its groundbreaking Red List of Endangered Crafts, has been overwhelmed with high-quality applications to its new Endangered Crafts Fund, launched on 1 July 2019.

So positive has been the response that the charity is now looking for additional donations to save even more of Britain’s most endangered crafts from oblivion.

Applications to the Endangered Crafts Fund include proposals for mentoring in marketing or business development, the provision of tools for trainees, and the creation of online educational resources to pass endangered skills on… all interventions that will help ensure that endangered crafts continue into the future.

The publication of the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts in May 2017 showed that the heritage crafts knowledge, skills and practices that form an important part of our shared cultural heritage, are – for a number of reasons – at risk of being lost. The HCA believes that these cultural assets are as important as unique heritage buildings and ancient beautiful landscapes and could provide future generations with fantastic opportunities to enrich their lives and the lives of others.

HCA Endangered Crafts Officer Mary Lewis said:

“We are so grateful for the donations we have received up to this point, which will provide critical support for some of the interventions needed… but it isn’t enough. We need more funds to prevent as many endangered crafts as possible from becoming extinct in this generation”

Donations make a real difference, with both smaller and larger amounts ensuring that craft skills are supported for the future. The Heritage Crafts Association will publicise instances of where donations are spent and the difference it has made to the survival of endangered craft skills.

Click here to donate to the Endangered Crafts Fund. For more information about the fund, email HCA Endangered Crafts Officer Mary Lewis at mary@heritagecrafts.org.uk.

Tinsmithing, currach making and letterpress on first register of Irish intangible heritage

Tinsmithing, currach making and letterpress on first register of Irish intangible heritage

The Irish Government have registered their first list of 30 cultural practices as part of their commitment to the 2003 UNESCO Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, including traditional crafts such as tinsmithing, currach making, lacemaking, embroidery and basketmaking. Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan called these practices: “threads in the cultural tapestry of our lives that make us richer as individuals and as a country”.

Irish crafts registered include:

  • Limerick lace
  • Irish crochet lace
  • Mountmellick embroidery
  • Traveller tinsmithing
  • Sea currach making
  • Basketmaking
  • Letterpress printing
  • Carrickmacross lace
  • Dry stone construction
  • Boyne currach making
  • Loy digging

In December 2017, Ireland ratified the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. In stark contrast, the UK is one of only 17 of the 193 UNESCO member states not to have ratified the Convention, and is thus unable to register its traditional practices alongside those being celebrated and safeguarded across the world.

Tinsmithing is on the UK Red List of Endangered Crafts as critically endangered, meaning that it is at serious risk of no longer being practiced in the UK, with the current expectation that it will enter the next edition of the list as extinct in the UK. Coracle making and letterpress are currently also on the UK endangered list, with certain forms of lacemaking, basketry and dry stone walling also facing uncertain futures.

The Heritage Crafts Association helped set up an All-Party Parliamentary Group for Craft last year and will be continuing to advocate for better recognition for intangible cultural heritage to UK Ministers and Government officials.

Image: Tinsmith James Collins photographed by Alan Betson

Apply to the Endangered Crafts Fund

Last making

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 mary@heritagecrafts.org.uk. 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.