The Royal Mint and Heritage Crafts have announced four new bursaries for precious metal workers to preserve and champion traditional British craftsmanship skills, following the success of last year’s bursaries.
The four successful applicants of the 2024 bursary scheme will benefit from up to £4,000 in funding each, as well as one-to-one support from the staff at Heritage Crafts.
The new bursaries follow five previous bursaries awarded in 2023 to early-career practitioners of precious metal crafts. In August the successful recipients visited The Royal Mint’s manufacturing base in South Wales for a special tour and to meet key craftspeople. Last year’s bursary recipients included Iona Hall, who has been training in silver box making with renowned silversmith Ray Walton. The others were silver spinners Claire Mooney and Caius Bearder, silversmith Emma-Jane Rule, and jewellery maker Rosie Elwood.
The UK has an incredible range of heritage craft skills, from basketmaking and boatbuilding to musical instrument making and stained glass, along with some of the finest craftspeople in the world. But many of these skills are in the hands of individuals who have been unable to pass them on, often due to limited training opportunities and the increasing burdens put upon small businesses, leaving a number of traditional British crafts under threat.
The 2023 edition of the Red List of Endangered Crafts produced by Heritage Crafts showed that 62 crafts were classified as critically endangered and a further 84 as endangered. But it’s not all bad news; some crafts, such as gilding, have seen a resurgence thanks to support from Heritage Crafts and a heightened appreciation of the handmade among the general public.
The Royal Mint’s expertise in precious metals spans over a thousand years. Known as the home of precious metals, The Royal Mint offers products including gold, silver and platinum commemorative coins, bars for investment, and a digital gold saving option, backed by metal held in their vault. Last year they announced plans to build a factory to recover precious metals from electronic waste. Recovered precious metal is being used to create beautiful jewellery pieces in their latest business venture, 886 by The Royal Mint.
Anne Jessopp, CEO of The Royal Mint, said:
“The Royal Mint is an exemplar of British craftsmanship, and we believe we have a duty to promote, protect and celebrate British craftsmanship, which is why I am extremely proud to support a second year of precious metal bursaries in partnership with Heritage Crafts. Following the success of the inaugural bursaries, it’s been positive to see the successes of the winners and we’re delighted we could support their careers development both financially but also by learning from our master craftspeople here at The Royal Mint. I look forward to seeing what this year’s applicants plan to do with the new bursaries and what precious metals skills will be utilised.”
Iona Hall, one of the 2023 bursary recipients, said:
“I am so grateful for this bursary, which has helped my practice so much. Having my work seen and appreciated by organisations like Heritage Crafts and the Royal Mint made me feel so much more confident in my work and gave me a new drive. My skills have come leaps and bounds after undertaking my training, and my trainer has said that can see me improving and growing confidence. I have thoroughly enjoyed every part and I am so thankful you believed in my silver boxes!”
Jay Blades, Co-Chair of Heritage Crafts, said:
“We are delighted to launch the second year of bursaries in partnership with The Royal Mint. Their passion for the preservation of British craftsmanship aligns so well with our mission to safeguard these skills for the next generation. Based on the success of last year, we know that these bursaries will provide unique opportunities to precious metals craftspeople that would not previously have been possible.”
This is a part of an ongoing partnership between Heritage Crafts and The Royal Mint that also saw the presentation of the first ever Precious Metalworker of the Year Award in November, to watch dial enameller Sally Morrison from Glasgow, during a special reception at the College of St George, Windsor Castle, and featuring a trophy specially made by The Royal Mint team. In addition, the two organisations hosted a symposium of precious metal practitioners from across the UK at Somerset House in July 2023 to identify the issues facing the sector and what might be done to relieve them.
Click here for more information on how to apply for the bursaries (deadline 23 February 2024)