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Heritage Crafts and The Royal Mint award five craft bursaries

The Royal MintEarlier this year The Royal Mint and Heritage Crafts announced their partnership to award four bursaries to preserve and champion traditional craft skills related to precious metals.

Heritage Crafts and The Royal Mint received 80 applications from aspiring precious metal crafters, keen to learn from some of the greatest craftspeople across the United Kingdom. Following shortlisting and interviews, five successful recipients were selected, all of whom show huge potential but require additional support in order to progress their careers. The additional bursary was added at the discretion of The Royal Mint, following a very close and competitive application and interview process.

Later this year, The Royal Mint will open an additional bursary scheme for those looking to hone their skills precious metals and learn from some of the best in the industry.

The five successful applicants of the bursary scheme will benefit from up to £4,000 in funding each, as well as having the opportunity to spend time with The Royal Mint’s master craftspeople, including Gordon Summers, Chief Engraver, and Paul Morgan, The King’s Assay Master.

Precious metal bursary recipients 2023 Claire Mooney from Newry, Northern Ireland, and Caius Bearder from Glasgow will train in silver spinning with Sheffield-based Warren Martin. Silver spinning is the process of shaping a flat silver disk into a hollow item on a lathe, shaping it over a former known as a ‘spinning chuck’. It is a critically endangered craft on Heritage Crafts’ Red List of Endangered Crafts with fewer than 15 practitioners in the UK. Claire will use her new skills to offer one-off and production work to silversmiths across the UK and Ireland. Caius will use the skills he learns to help reduce the production costs of his beautiful engraved silver vessels which have until now been laboriously hand raised.

Iona Hall from Bristol and Emma-Jane Rule from Leicester will train with Kent-based silversmith Ray Walton. Both will spend their time with Ray making silver boxes, with Iona focusing on various techniques of hinge construction and Emma-Jane specialising in chasing and repoussé, the process of shaping silver by hammering from the reverse side to create a design in low relief. Iona plans to take her box making to the highest level, creating unusual objects that evoke a strong emotional connection. Emma-Jane is a second-career silversmith who plans to combine commercial practice with teaching the craft to others.

Rosie Elwood from Whitley Bay, Tyneside, is a jewellery maker who will train in the craft of metal thread embroidery with goldwork embroiderer Hanny Newton and through various short courses offered by the Royal School of Needlework. Rosie plans to incorporate goldwork embroidery into her jewellery, as well as seeking employment in the embroidery itself. The manufacture of metal thread is another critically endangered craft in the UK, and Rosie’s work will help raise awareness of this unique material.

The Royal Mint’s expertise in precious metals spans over a thousand years. Known as the home of precious metals in the UK, The Royal Mint offer 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, currently active at lab level. Recovered metal is being used to create beautiful jewellery pieces in their latest business venture, 886 by The Royal Mint.

Paul Morgan, The King’s Assay Master said:

“As an exemplar of British craftsmanship, we believe we have a duty to promote, protect and celebrate British craftsmanship. I am extremely proud to announce the successful recipients of the bursary scheme in partnership with Heritage Crafts. Our long-term mission is to spearhead the resurgence of precious metals craftsmanship in the UK. By doing this we hope to provide more job opportunities for future generations and offer a more sustainable, viable manufacturing alternative to international suppliers – qualities which are increasingly important.”

Daniel Carpenter, Executive Director of Heritage Crafts, said:

“Our partnership with The Royal Mint speaks to the very core of our mission in safeguarding and celebrating traditional craft skills as being of vital importance to the cultural, social and economic life of the UK. We are thrilled to have joined together to enable Claire, Caius, Iona, Emma-Jane and Rosie to overcome the barriers they faced and set them on the path to mastering their chosen crafts.”

Download the press release

Photo credits:

  • Claire Mooney (top) by Ruairí Jordan
  • Emma-Jane Rule (second from bottom) by Yatish Chavda Photography

Embroidery

Currently viable crafts

 

Embroidery

 

The decoration of fabric and other materials with a needle and thread.

 

Status Currently viable
Historic area of significance UK
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK

 

History

Embroidery is an ancient craft with a long and diverse history. Embroidery just like mural painting, illumination or tile work was used as forms of non-verbal communication on a wide range of textiles. It was also used not only as signifiers of rank on clothing but also as reinforcements on clothing especially around cuffs, collars and fasteners. Around the globe, embroidery has a powerful social meaning often used to commemorate important events such as weddings, reiterate wealth and social status as well as being a process in the cultural rite of passages. In some instances, embroidery was used as an autobiographical or biographical ornamentation.

Embroidery was widely used in the home and many women would have been highly skilled in embroidering both functional and decorative objects. Very many girls would have been taught to embroider through making samplers and, as most women did not go on to become professional embroiderers, the samplers were a method of teaching household skills, patience and attention to detail, not to mention letters numbers and bible verses.

In the twenty-first century, embroidery is increasingly admired as an art form. Many textile artists utilise visual research and drawing in a variety of ways to inform and inspire their work, with the  design process firmly underpinning the final outcome.

It is also still vibrant as an amateur craft and continues continues to flourish as a popular leisure pursuit. Great satisfaction and wonderful effects can be achieved using very simple techniques. Embroidery has the advantage of needing little in the way of equipment or facilities to be enjoyed by many diverse practitioners.

As a craft that is predominately practised by women, there will be a wide variety of traditions practised within different communities in the UK.

 

Techniques

Stitches are made by hand, and, increasingly since the nineteenth century, by machine also. Traditionally embroidery stitches were created with threads made from natural fibres: silk, linen, cotton and wool; as well as decorations such as jewels, beads, coins and shells.

In the twentieth century creative embroiderers took an increasingly innovative approach to their medium and introduced a range of unusual materials as both ‘thread’ and ground material. Some creative embroiderers have chosen to include mixed media and processes such as dye, paint and drawing with their embroidery.

There are a wide variety of different techniques including:

  • Darning
  • Smocking
  • Both Sides Alike
  • Opus Anglicanum (English Work)
  • Stumpwork
  • White work
  • Black work
  • Crewel work
  • Gold work
  • Silk shading
  • Machine embroidery
  • Cross stitch
  • Beading
  • Sashiko
  • Kantha
  • Drawn thread work
  • Cutwork

and many more…..

 

Local forms

The cultural objects being embroidered vary depending on the local cultures and traditions – ranging from patterns on clothing, book covers, shoes, uniforms, wallpapers.

 

Sub-crafts

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Labour intensive and so significantly more time consuming and expensive to make comparing to machine patterns
  • Rise of popularity and the competitive low price of fast fashion
  • Decreasing number of skilled craftsmen
  • Small size of designs comparing to the industrial products

 

Support organisations

Craftspeople currently known

 

Other information

 

References