Tinsmithing skills passed on to a new generation of makers in unique masterclasses, organised with the generous support of The Worshipful Company of Tinplate Workers Alias Wireworkers and Heritage Crafts’ Endangered Crafts Fund.
The future of tinsmithing, a critically endangered craft on Heritage Crafts’ groundbreaking Red List of Endangered Crafts, has been given a boost following two successful masterclasses facilitated by Heritage Crafts and the Museum of Making, Derby. With generous support from The Worshipful Company of Tinplate Workers Alias Wireworkers and Heritage Crafts’ Endangered Crafts Fund, Heritage Crafts brought historical tinsmith Karl Schmidt of Dakota Tinworks, USA, to the UK to lead the five-day masterclasses.
Using tools and techniques of nineteenth century tinsmiths, fourteen participants learned how to develop patterns, successfully use tinsmiths’ tools and operate hand-crank machines, as well as traditional construction techniques and other aspects of tinsmithing, applied to a range of creative tasks. The masterclasses gave participants a first-hand understanding of tinsmithing as a recognised heritage craft. The course participants are now part of a supportive online network where they can share their ongoing progress.
In addition to developing the skills of the participants, the tinsmithing masterclasses equipped the Museum of Making with the knowledge and materials to continue safeguarding and supporting tinsmithing. Three of the Museum’s technicians are now trained in tinsmithing and its workshop is stocked with tools needed to continue the craft. The museum has already scheduled its first public tinsmithing workshop, ‘Cookie Cutters: An Intro to Tinsmithing’, taking place this December.
Heritage Crafts Endangered Crafts Manager Mary Lewis said:
“Without this course it was very likely that the skills of tinsmithing would be lost in the next few years. With these wonderful learners and some fantastic partnership working between Heritage Crafts, The Museum of Making and master tinsmith Karl Schmidt, we now have a chance of preserving these skills for the next generation.”
Museum of Making Workshop & Studios Manager Steve Smith said:
“Post Karl Schmidt’s tinsmith masterclass, the Museum of Making workshop is now equipped with the tools and skills to evolve and develop as a UK centre committed to tinsmith work, preserving this red-listed endangered craft. Tinsmithing as a heritage making discipline, and its technical skills, are still relevant to contemporary making culture; the aesthetic and utilitarian tin products it creates are complimentary to everyday life. The workshop is already programming tinsmithing courses, and, in continued collaboration with Mary Lewis and Heritage Crafts, plan to bring back the new-collective of masterclass tinsmiths to the Museum of Making workshop in 2023.”
Tinsmithing masterclass participant John Wills said:
‘I enrolled on the masterclass because tinsmithing is complementary to my work as a brazier/coppersmith. I would never have picked up the specific tinplate techniques watching online tutorials. Karl’s passion for the material is infectious and the time he gave to get my technique right has been invaluable both to my copper work and future tin work. Tinplate is certainly being added to my product range’.
Fellow masterclass participant Marion Godwin said:
‘During the course of the week, I learnt skills that will be invaluable in helping my museum bring back our historic tinsmithing exhibit after many years out of action. I look forward to sharing my newfound skills with other staff, hopefully helping to provide a small home for this valuable endangered craft to propagate. A huge thanks to Heritage Crafts, the Museum of Making, and to Karl for being so willing to share his skills’.