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Evolving craft communities – the HCA Conference 2012

The 2012 Heritage Crafts Association conference at the V&A had the theme ‘Evolving Craft Communities’

His Royal Highness wrote:

“As President of the Heritage Crafts Association, I believe most strongly that it is vital to support and encourage such remarkable craftsmen and women to ensure the survival of such unique and special skills. … I am delighted that your conference will celebrate and promote the best of British craftsmanship, while demonstrating that maintaining those skills and traditions is not simply hanging on to the past, but ensuring that they continue to bring genuine economic and cultural benefits to our communities today – and for generations to come.”

We are live in exciting times as we can exchange and source information freely across the web. How does this change our craft practice and how does it compare to past practices of passing skills? Is it possible to feel connected to other folk we have never met who live in other continents and what sort of meaning does that bring to our lives? How do we make the best use of changes that are happening and new opportunities available to us?

Speakers at the conference included Professor Richard Sennett, talking about “Making and thinking”. Richard is author of the well-received book The Craftsman, and professor of sociology at  New York University and LSE. He popularised the idea that it takes 10,000 hours to master a craft skill, he also talks from personal experience of hand skills having put those hours in training as a cellist.

Lida Kindersley runs the highly successful Cardozo Kindersley Workshop in  Cambridge. Lida was trained by David Kindersley who was himself trained by Eric Gill. She wrote a nice book on apprenticeship  Her workshop practices solidly ‘old school’ with apprentices learning letter-cutting alongside the team of experienced craftspeople.

Ele Carpenter is a curator, artist and researcher working within the field of visual arts and new media. She talked about the open source embroidered digital commons 

Stuart Mitchell’s apprenticeship in the Sheffield cutlery industry was very traditional. He started at the bottom and worked all hours until eventually even his father took pride in the knives that he built. His workshop, and indeed work ethic, is still steeped in the traditions of Sheffield of old, but things have changed.

And then HCA Chair Robin Wood talked about how he feels to be part of a global online woodworking community but how he still values physical get-togethers and particularly working on craft projects together alongside other people whether sharing his knowledge through courses or learning from others.

The first Marsh Christian Trust Awards for Heritage Crafts were presented by Alex Langlands (archaeologist and TV presenter on BBC series, Victorian Farm and Edwardian Farm) and representatives from the Trust. Wayne Parrott was the winner in Trainer category, and James Portus, a Volunteer at Fishstock Brixham, and both received their cheques for £500 each and calligraphed certificates.