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Ben Bosence, brick and tile maker and plasterer

Ben Bosence, brick and tile maker In 2020 Ben Bosence of Local Works Studio was awarded funding through the Endangered Craft Fund for his ‘Winning the Clay’ Project, a historic term for finding clay materials suitable for making bricks and tiles.

The Endangered Craft Fund Grant was used to purchase a Roller Pan Mixer to enable the processing of materials sourced from site. These materials could include waste clay excavated from foundations, utilities and site works, crushed waste brick, concrete and other aggregates, waste glass, local chalk and other materials.

Ben speaks of how he used to work for a Sussex based brick making company, and has witnessed the craft decline in this area and also (very dramatically) in Stoke on Trent in the early 2000’s.

“We are keen to tell the story of the craft – how buildings and landscapes were built using local materials, often very local, as brick making and the firing ‘clamps’ were located at the construction site. Rather than mine for raw materials, there is a huge opportunity to tell the story of collecting local raw clay and sand materials that are being excavated and removed from the area, whilst new bricks and tiles – often transported from other countries – are being used for buildings and landscape projects in Sussex.”

Community Brick Making, The Exchange (photo credit Ben Bosence)The first of many projects to benefit from this was the Exchange Erith. This is a community owned project that seeks to engage the local community in wide range of activities and workshops around making and developing crafts skills. As part of this they are creating a garden space designed by Sarah Price with handmade brick paving by Local Works Studio. These bricks were made using waste materials from site and Crayford Brickearth clay. Erith was once at the centre of the brick making trade that used Crayford Brickearth, a rare, locally occurring sedimentary deposit containing a blend of clay, chalk and sand particles. It was the material used to make the majority of Victorian London’s famous yellow stock bricks. By the 1960s a diminishing supply of clay, led all local brickyards to close.

Community Brick, The Exchange (photo credit Ben Bosence)The bricks themselves were made by local people in a series of community engagement events.

“Many people came to the brick making session because they had relatives who worked in the local brick trade. They were full of stories of their parents or grandparents who had made bricks.”

Local Works Studio is now using the Roller Pan Mixer on a range of other projects including grinding chalk plaster for a listed building in Plumpton and a chalk-clay plaster for a new build in the South Downs.

 

Project outline

  • Project funding: £2,000 from the Heritage Crafts Endangered Craft Fund
  • Project aim: To develop and make bricks and tiles from waste clay and other materials that have been excavated locally.

 

  • Top photo: Ben Bosence, brick and tile maker
  • Middle photo: community brick making, The Exchange (photo by Ben Bosence)
  • Bottom photo: community brick, The Exchange (photo by Ben Bosence)

Eight new grants awarded to help save endangered crafts from extinction

Catherine Ade, lithographer. Photo copyright Jo Hounsome.

Catherine Ade, lithographer. Photo copyright Jo Hounsome.

A lithographer, a wallpaper maker and an oak bark tanner are among the recipients of the latest round of grants awarded to help safeguard some of the UK’s most endangered craft skills.

The Heritage Crafts Association (HCA), which published the third edition of its groundbreaking HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts in May, has awarded a further eight grants from its Endangered Crafts Fund, which was launched in 2019 to increase the likelihood of endangered crafts surviving into the next generation.

This round of the HCA Endangered Crafts Fund has been offered with support from the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Dulverton Trust, the Sussex Heritage Trust, Allchurches Trust and the Swire Charitable Trust. The eight successful recipients are:

  • Catherine Ade, from Bristol, to run a series of workshops on different lithography techniques and continue to supply lithography plate graining services.
  • Peter Ananin, from Fife, to train an apprentice in the skills and knowledge of traditional Scottish bark tanning.
  • Deborah Bowness, from East Sussex, to learn traditional wallpaper making techniques through one-to-one training with a wallpaper conservationist.
  • Rachel Evans, from Stoke-on-Trent, to learn the techniques of hazel basketmaking, specifically the Gower cockle basket and the whisket.
  • Nikki Laird, from Edinburgh, to print a book on how to make a traditional hand sewn kilt.
  • Kate Longley, from Cornwall, to maintain the skills and knowledge of withy crab and lobster pot making in the community of Gorran Haven.
  • Steven Lowe, from East Sussex, to provide shoe last making courses covering heel making.
  • Edie Obilaso, from London, to make hats from straw plait produced on an antique machine, and to document the craft.
Peter Ananin, oak bark tanner. Photo copyright Woodland Tannery.

Peter Ananin, oak bark tanner. Photo copyright Woodland Tannery.

These eight projects follow 27 awarded in previous rounds, covering endangered crafts such as scissor making, sail making, damask weaving, boot tree making, cockle basket making, folding knife making, neon bending, coracle making, fan making and swill basket making, coppersmithing, withy pot making, disappearing fore-edge painting, plane making, kishie basket making, flint walling, brick making, chair seating, lipwork basketry, paper making, concertina making and flute making.

As usual the fund was oversubscribed, and the HCA hopes to work with many of the unsuccessful candidates to identify other funding and support opportunities.

HCA Endangered Crafts Manager Mary Lewis said:

“For all the progress we’ve made, it will take more than just the Heritage Crafts Association to save craft skills; it will be the people who make a positive choice to learn, make and teach an endangered craft who will do that. These projects will provide future generations with opportunities that they might not otherwise have, to become productive and healthy members of our shared craft community.”

The Endangered Crafts Fund has been funded through generous donations from organisations including Garfield Weston Foundation, the Dulverton Trust, the Sussex Heritage Trust, as well as individuals who have donated sums from £5 right up to several thousands of pounds.

The HCA continues to seek further donations to save even more of Britain’s most endangered crafts from oblivion. Donations are welcome at any time – for more information visit www.heritagecrafts.org.uk/ecf.

See the projects that were successfully funded in the previous application rounds

Craft skills under threat with 27 additions to the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

Craft skills under threat with 27 additions to the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

Barometer making at O Comitti & Son Ltd

Barometer making at O Comitti & Son Ltd, a critically endangered craft

New research by the Heritage Crafts Association has unearthed more traditional craft skills on the verge of extinction in the UK, in the latest major update of its pioneering project, the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts.

The research, which has been funded by The Pilgrim Trust, has found that COVID-19 has only exacerbated the issues faced by our most at-risk skills, after a year that has seen many craftspeople pushed to the brink.

20 new crafts have been added to the ‘critically endangered’ category of the HCA Red List, meaning that they are at serious risk of dying out in the next generation, including diamond cutting, mouth-blown sheet glass making, pointe shoe making and glass eye making. They join the list of 130 endangered crafts, including eight that have been reclassified as being at a higher level of risk than when the research was last updated in 2019.

Kiltmaking at The Kiltmakery

Kiltmaking at The Kiltmakery, an endangered craft

Critically endangered crafts include those with very few practitioners, few (if any) trainees and a lack of viable training routes by which the skills can be passed on. Often they serve very niche markets, and craftspeople cannot afford to step away from production to train their successors for fear those markets will disappear.

It’s not all bad news, however, as no new crafts have become extinct in the past two years, and some, such as gilding and pole-lathe bowl turning, have seen an upturn in their fortunes. In many cases this has been as a result of a new-found appreciation of the handmade and the need to support small businesses during the pandemic. In others it has been due to direct support from the Heritage Crafts Association, which since the publication of the last edition of the HCA Red List has distributed 27 grants of up to £2,000 each as part of its Endangered Crafts Fund.

Mary Lewis, who led the research on behalf of the Heritage Crafts Association, said:

“COVID-19 has been tough on everyone, not least the craftspeople who possess our most fundamental craft skills. Society is rapidly changing around us, and it is more important than ever that we are aware of the cultural assets still available to us, so that we can have an informed debate about what we want to safeguard as a resource for the future. If we allow endangered crafts to disappear then we seriously diminish the opportunities for future generations to create their own sustainable and fulfilling livelihoods, based on these skills.”

Whilst the UK has been a world-leader in the preservation of tangible heritage (museum collections, buildings and monuments), it has fallen behind the rest of the world when it comes to the safeguarding of intangible heritage (knowledge, skills and practices). Of 193 UNESCO members, the UK is one of just 13 that have not yet ratified the 2003 Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Heritage, and government responsibility for heritage crafts falls in the gap between agencies set up to support arts and heritage.

Sue Bowers, Director of The Pilgrim Trust, said:

“We are delighted to support the continuing development of the Red List which is so important in tracking the state of heritage crafts in the UK and creating the platform for discussions about how we can bring about positive change in the future.”

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts 2021 edition is available to view online at http://redlist.heritagecrafts.org.uk.

 

About the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

HCA Red List 2021The 2021 edition of the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts was led by Mary Lewis, HCA Endangered Crafts Manager, supported by The Pilgrim Trust. The project runs alongside Mary’s work in identifying and developing interventions to improve the prospects of such crafts, funded by The Swire Charitable Trust, The Garfield Weston Foundation and The Dulverton Trust.

For the 2021 edition, 244 crafts have been assessed to identify those which are at greatest risk of disappearing. Of the 134 crafts featured on the Red List, four have been classified as extinct, 56 as critically endangered and 74 as endangered. The remaining 110 are classed as currently viable.

Drawing on information such as the current number of craftspeople and trainees, the average age of practitioners, opportunities to learn, and other issues affecting the future of the crafts, including the impact of COVID-19, the research assesses how likely it is that the craft skills will be passed on to the next generation. From armour making and arrowsmithing to wig making and woodturning, each has been assigned to one of four categories: extinct, critically endangered, endangered or currently viable.

Four crafts are known to have become extinct in the UK in the last fifteen years (cricket ball making, gold beating, lacrosse stick making, and paper mould and deckle making) with one more (sieve and riddle making) brought back from extinction.

 

New crafts for 2021

New critically endangered crafts (crafts classified as ‘critically endangered’ are those at serious risk of no longer being practised in the UK. They may include crafts with a shrinking base of craftspeople, crafts with limited training opportunities, crafts with low financial viability, or crafts where there is no mechanism to pass on the skills and knowledge.)

  • Barometer making
  • Bowed-felt hat making
  • Brilliant cutting
  • Coiled straw basket making
  • Compass making
  • Copper wheel engraving
  • Currach making
  • Diamond cutting
  • Fabric pleating
  • Frame knitting
  • Glass eye making
  • Hazel basket making
  • Highlands and Islands thatching
  • Horsehair weaving
  • Mouth-blown sheet glass making
  • Pointe shoe making
  • Shetland lace knitting
  • Silver spinning
  • Sporran making
  • Wooden fishing net making

New endangered crafts (Crafts classified as ‘endangered’ are those which currently have sufficient craftspeople to transmit the craft skills to the next generation, but for which there are serious concerns about their ongoing viability. This may include crafts with a shrinking market share, an ageing demographic or crafts with a declining number of practitioners.)

  • Hat making
  • Kilt making
  • Lithograpy
  • Skeined willow working
  • Sofrut calligraphy
  • Spectacle making
  • Type founding and manufacture

 

About the Endangered Crafts Fund

The Heritage Crafts Association’s Endangered Crafts Fund was set up in 2019 to ensure that the most at-risk heritage crafts within the UK are given the support they need to thrive. The Fund is used to support makers and trainees who wish to develop or share their skills in the crafts that have been identified as being most at risk.

To date, 27 projects have been funded with support from the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Dulverton Trust, the Sussex Heritage Trust, Allchurches Trust, the Radcliffe Trust and the Swire Charitable Trust.

Anyone wishing to donate to the fund may do so securely online. Alternatively, please send a cheque made payable to ‘Heritage Crafts Association’ with an accompanying note specifying ‘Endangered Crafts Fund’ to: Heritage Crafts Association, 27 South Road, Oundle, Peterborough PE8 4BU.

 

About the Pilgrim Trust

The Pilgrim Trust is an independent grantmaking trust that supports the urgent and future needs of the UK. It gives approximately £3 million in grants per year to charities and other public bodies that either focus on preserving the UK’s heritage or catalysing social change. Its preservation and scholarship fund aims to preserve the fabric of historically important buildings and to conserve significant collections and artefacts. It wants present and future generations to enjoy the rich and diverse heritage found throughout the UK.

Nine new grants awarded to help save endangered crafts from extinction

Monica Cass. Photo copyright Katherine Mager.

Monica Cass weaving a ‘tau tray’ using skeined willow in Norfolk. Photo copyright Katherine Mager.

A chair seater, a concertina maker and a brick and tile maker are among the recipients of the latest round of grants awarded to help safeguard some of the UK’s most endangered craft skills.

The Heritage Crafts Association, which is due to publish the third edition of its groundbreaking HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts in May, has awarded a further nine grants from its Endangered Crafts Fund, which was launched in 2019 to increase the likelihood of endangered crafts surviving into the next generation.

This round of the HCA Endangered Crafts Fund has been offered with support from the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Dulverton Trust, the Sussex Heritage Trust, Allchurches Trust, the Radcliffe Trust and the Swire Charitable Trust. The nine successful recipients are:

  • Duncan Berry, from West Sussex, to buy tools to enable him to pass on his skills as a flint waller.
  • Ben Bosence, from East Sussex, to develop and make bricks and tiles from waste clay that has been excavated locally.
  • Monica Cass, from Norwich, to train a chair seat weaver in skeined willow techniques, and document the process.
  • Collette Davies, from Monmouth, to help revive the craft of lipwork straw basketry.
  • Tom Frith-Powell, from Cumbria, to develop a gelatine sized paper as part of his commercial handmade papermaking charity.
  • Bob Green, from Brighton, to buy tools to enable him to develop and pass on his skills as a flint waller.
  • Jake Middleton-Metcalf, from Buckinghamshire, to be trained in making the critical working components of the English system concertina.
  • Tony Millyard, from Northamptonshire, to pass on flute making skills and to develop a new model of flute.
  • Dominic Parrette, from East Sussex, to build shave horses to allow him to teach trainees how to make Sussex trug and Devon stave baskets.
A hand made Anglo-German Concertina by Jake Middleton-Metcalfe. Photo copyright Jake Middleton-Metcalfe.

A hand made Anglo-German Concertina by Jake Middleton-Metcalfe. Photo copyright Jake Middleton-Metcalfe.

These nine projects follow 18 awarded in previous rounds, covering endangered crafts such as scissor making, sail making, damask weaving, boot tree making, cockle basket making, folding knife making, neon bending, coracle making, fan making and swill basket making, coppersmithing, withy pot making, disappearing fore-edge painting, plane making and kishie basket making.

As usual the fund was oversubscribed, and the HCA hopes to work with many of the unsuccessful candidates to identify other funding and support opportunities.

HCA Endangered Crafts Officer Mary Lewis said:

“The impact of COVID-19 in the last twelve months has only compounded the pressures on those at-risk craft skills that were already on the verge of being lost, but have so much to offer a post-COVID future, as productive and fulfilling ways to rebuild a sustainable economy. These projects will realise some of that potential.”

The Endangered Crafts Fund has been funded through generous donations from organisations including Garfield Weston Foundation, the Dulverton Trust, the Sussex Heritage Trust, Allchurches Trust, the Radcliffe Trust, as well as individuals who have donated sums from £5 right up to several thousands of pounds. The forthcoming 2021 edition of the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts is funded by the Pilgrim Trust.

The HCA continues to seek further donations to save even more of Britain’s most endangered crafts from oblivion. Donations are welcome at any time.

Grace Horne, scissor maker

In 2019 the highly skilled scissor maker Grace Horne received funding from the Endangered Craft Fund to develop an experimental approach to scissor making that combines the modern technology of water jet cutting with the older technology of drop forging. The aim was to create cheaper but high-quality scissor blanks that could be used to teach scissor making to a wider range of people and to make small runs of blanks for manufacture.

Grace HorneThe initial stages of the project went to plan. A die was made by Footprint Tools Ltd and tested by Josh Burrell with his Massey drop hammer. The unusual requirements of a piece of machinery that is no longer industry standard (and hasn’t been for a generation) required a learning process and the first blanks were nearly, but not quite, good enough for production. More tweaks were required… but then Covid 19 hit and work ground to a halt.

The impact on Grace’s business was dramatic. She was forced to put her professional practice on hold for a year and took on unrelated work to pay the bills. She describes the frustration of trying to run a craft business during lockdown:

“I don’t get the feedback, support and the feeling of community that I used to. It is much harder to engage with people, such as engineers, in order to make refinements to the design. This is worse when they are people that you haven’t worked with before. The process of innovation and developing ideas is much slower because it is difficult to maintain a dialogue and to communicate the subtleties. Ultimately, sharing online and through images just doesn’t replace handling the objects and communicating directly.”

Grace's Horne's scissor designDespite attempts to refine the process using images and videos, Josh and Grace found it impossible to deal with the issues without getting together to test it and resolve the problems.

It isn’t all bad news though! Grace is confident that the issues will be easy to overcome when restrictions are lifted and the die will work. She is looking forward to being able to teach regular scissor making courses in partnership with Owen Bush at Bushfire Forge and she has also been approached by Hereford College to run blacksmithing masterclasses in scissor making, which will mean that many more people will have access to the exacting and skilled craft of scissor making.

When asked if the Endangered Craft Fund had helped Grace with her craft business, Grace replied: “the project has happened, and it wouldn’t have happened otherwise”. More people will be able to make scissors and more scissors will be manufactured.

Massey drop hammer with test scissor blank“The fact that I received the money and committed to the project was a stimulus to get it done. But it’s not just the injection of cash that is important, it is the fact that someone else is interested that validates the idea. It has given me the space to do something that could have failed.”

Grace also commented that the support and verbal reporting process of the project gave her an opportunity for reflection and evaluation that wouldn’t have otherwise happened.

“This is something that many craftspeople won’t take the time to do, and would probably resent taking the time to do. It is great that the HCA take the written evaluation part out of the process, whilst still offering an opportunity for reflection. I am not a paper person. The reflective process is so valuable but we (craftspeople) wouldn’t usually do it because we wouldn’t want to write it. This is a barrier to many creative people.”

 

Project outline

  • Project funding: £2,000 from the HCA Endangered Craft Fund
  • Project aim: To develop a process for scissor making that will reduce costs and make it more accessible to trainees.

 

  • Top photo: Grace Horne
  • Middle photo: One of Grace’s scissor designs
  • Bottom photo: Massey drop hammer with test scissor blank