When: Wednesday 18 May, 8pm
Where: Sky Arts, Freeview Channel 11, and streaming service NOW
Heritage Crafts President HRH The Prince of Wales has lent his name to a new seven-part series, The Prince’s Master Crafters: The Next Generation, set to spotlight Britain’s rich heritage of traditional crafts, airing this month on Sky Arts. Backed by Heritage Crafts and The Prince’s Foundation who put forward the featured experts from amongst Heritage Crafts members, the series is produced by Spun Gold TV and hosted by Jim Moir, and will see a selection of top amateur craftspeople take on a variety of crafting challenges to supercharge their skills before each of them creates a final showcase piece to present to His Royal Highness in person.
When it comes to traditional crafts, Britain has a rich heritage – from wood carving to blacksmithing and weaving to stained glass – but we risk losing them forever. Last year alone in the UK, four heritage crafts were declared extinct and a further 56 critically endangered on the Heritage Crafts Red List of Endangered Crafts.
Drawn from across the country, the six amateur craftspeople will explore the history and importance of six key disciplines. They’re joined by some of the country’s leading experts who each week set them a new task within their crafts. The challenges and experts are as follows:
- Wood carving – Sarah Goss asks the craftspeople to create a carving inspired by William Morris and the arts and crafts movement
- Stained glass – Derek Hunt challenges the craftspeople to create a stained-glass panel to include a symbol
- Weaving – Rezia Wahid sets an intricate task asking our craftspeople to use different types of weaving in as they weave material of their choice
- Blacksmithing – Phil Carter challenges our craftspeople to create a fire poker with a leaf detailing
- Stone carving – Zoe Wilson sets a task to create a stone carved leaf
- Pargeting – Johanna Welsh’s task for the crafters is to create a pargeted panel of leaves and acorns
- Grand final
The final episode will see the crafters visit Dumfries House, home to The Prince’s Foundation, to seek inspiration for their showcase pieces. They’ll then take part in a graduation like no other as they present their individual pieces to His Royal Highness himself at his private residence, Highgrove House. All the showcase pieces are then displayed at The Prince’s Foundation’s new training base at Highgrove.
Phil Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts, commented:
“Over the last two years many of us have taken up artistic pursuits and more people are getting into crafts – from stained glass to woodcarving and everything in between. The Prince of Wales has championed those traditional crafts for many years, so it feels like there’s no better time to showcase the brilliant skills of this cohort of crafters. And with Jim Moir at the helm guiding us through the show it promises to be an entertaining and enlightening delight.”
21 to 26 March 2022 marked the inaugural #EndangeredCraftWeek, an effort by Heritage Crafts and partner The Prince’s Foundation to shine a light on the urgent need to preserve traditional craft skills.
Over the course of the week we profiled five craft businesses that involve skills featured in the Heritage Crafts Red List of Endangered Crafts.
HRH The Prince of Wales is President of Heritage Crafts and of The Prince’s Foundation. Heritage Crafts was set up in 2009 to support and safeguard traditional craft skills in the UK. Every year we award the President’s Award for Endangered Crafts to one of the nation’s most skilled practitioners, with a £3,000 bursary to invest in ensuring that their craft remains viable.
Applications for the President’s Award for Endangered Crafts are open until 29 April. To find out more visit https://heritagecrafts.org.uk/presidentsaward.
Monday it was the turn of York Handmade, based in Alne just North of York, founded in 1988 and operating on a site where bricks have been made since the 1930s. The company can make bricks of all shapes and sizes in a variety of colours and textures to match existing buildings. They have manufactured bricks for several award-winning heritage projects, conserving the glory of these buildings for generations to come.
The company created 47,000 Dumfries Blend bricks for The Queen Elizabeth II Walled Garden at Dumfries House, headquarters of The Prince’s Foundation. The restoration project won the Best Outdoor Space award in the Brick Awards, the Oscars of the brick industry, for its “magnificent achievement” in restoring the walled garden to its former glory.
It is estimated there are fewer than 20 professional makers of handmade bricks remaining in the UK. Currently there is a healthy demand for the work, but with such a small workforce and fluctuations in supply and demand can have significant effects.
Tuesday’s focus of #EndangeredCraftWeek was Kate Brett of Payhembury Papers, who has made traditional marbled papers by hand since 1982. Kate, based in Perthshire, specialises in reproducing traditional patterns by floating water-based paints on a size made from carragheen moss.
Marbling began to develop slowly in Britain in the second half of the eighteenth century. Though listed as an endangered craft today, interest in marbling is steadily increasing as a result of social media and a growing appreciation of the traditional technique as opposed to cheaper digital reproductions.
Photo by Kristin Perers
AS Handover Ltd
The spotlight on Wednesday fell on AS Handover Ltd, who hand make professional quality brushes at their workshop in Welwyn Garden City.
Established over 60 years ago, their wide range of products are used by the country’s finest artists and craftspeople in museums, film studios, stately homes and the Houses of Parliament. Their customers range from independent artists, signwriters and decorators through to the royal household at Buckingham Palace.
Brushmaking is highly skilled and the training period is long. However, brush manufacturers, particularly those making fine artists’ brushes, are reporting high demand and that their businesses are growing, so there is hope that this craft will be off the Red List before too long.
Photo by Jackson’s Art
Meet Graeme Bone, maker of handsewn kilts from Auchinleck in East Ayrshire and graduate of The Prince’s Foundation’s Future Textiles and Modern Artisan training programmes. Graeme, who featured in our Endangered Craft Week series on Thursday, has become a flagbearer for traditional kilt-making and handcrafted menswear. He previously worked in the steel industry, but left his job to pursue his passion for garment design and manufacture.
Kiltmaking was added to the Red List in 2021. Most kilts are still bought from kilt retailers, not directly from the skilled craftspeople, who often work behind the scenes on a piece rate, underpaid for the work that they do. The kiltmaker as a craftsperson has been largely invisible, but Graeme and his contemporaries are working hard to remedy that.
Rounding off our inaugural #EndangeredCraftWeek was Rebecca Struthers, a traditional watchmaker based in Birmingham and current holder of the Heritage Crafts President’s Award for Endangered Crafts.
Rebecca uses traditional methods, materials and techniques in the restoration of vintage and antique watches as well as the production of her own. She is the first, and currently only, watchmaker in the UK to earn a PhD in horology.
There are only a small handful of businesses still practising traditional watchmaking in the UK today, with fewer than 20 traditional makers earning a living from making as opposed to repair and restoration. It is now virtually impossible to create every component of a watch in the UK due to a shortage of allied craft businesses, including spring-making and jewel-making.
Photos by Andy Pilsbury
Paul Jacobs with master putter-togetherers Cliff Denton and Eric Stones of Ernest Wright scissor makers. Photo by Carl Whitham.
A scissor maker, a paper maker and an industrial ceramics practitioner have been selected as the three finalists from a shortlist of eight, as part of the inaugural President’s Award for Endangered Crafts, established by HRH The Prince of Wales, President of the Heritage Crafts Association.
A judging panel featuring Patrick Grant (Great British Sewing Bee / Norton & Sons / Community Clothing), Mark Hedges (Country Life), Kate Hobhouse (Fortnum & Mason), Simon Sadinsky (Prince’s Foundation) and Patricia Lovett MBE (Heritage Crafts Association) made the final selection from a strong field of applicants that not only testified to the excellence of British craftsmanship but also provided a snapshot of the precarious state of endangered craft skills in the UK today.
Jim Patterson and apprentice Zoe Collis of Two Rivers Paper. Photo by Sarah Ward.
The Heritage Crafts Association published the latest edition of its groundbreaking HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts last year, which revealed that there are 107 endangered crafts in the UK. Included were the eight crafts featured in the shortlist: scissor making, commercial handmade paper making, industrial pottery skills, oak swill basket making, wheelwrighting, kishie basket making, sail making and neon sign making.
The three finalists are:
- Paul Jacobs – Ernest Wright scissor makers, Sheffield
- Jim Patterson – Two Rivers Paper, Somerset
- Helen Johannessen – industrial ceramics practitioner, London
The other five shortlisted candidates were:
- Phill Gregson – wheelwright, Lancashire
- James Hartley – Ratsey & Lapthorn sail makers, Isle of Wight
- Lorna Singleton – oak swill basket maker, Cumbria
- Lois Walpole – kishie basket maker, Shetland Islands
- Richard Wheater – neon sign maker, West Yorkshire
The three finalists’ applications will now be presented to HRH The Prince of Wales for his selection, with the winner to be honoured at a special reception at Dumfries House, home of The Prince’s Foundation, as well as at a prestigious winners’ reception at the Houses of Parliament. The winner will also receive £3,000 to help ensure that their craft skills are passed on to the next generation.
HCA Chair Patricia Lovett said:
“We received a large number of very high-quality entries for this award, so being shortlisted was a huge achievement. The fact that we are blessed to have such highly skilled craftspeople in the UK should not allow us to forget the fact that, without more people taking up these crafts and the infrastructure and funding to support them, these skills could soon be consigned to history, in what would be a terrible loss to British cultural life.”
Judge Patrick Grant said:
“It was a joy to judge… I find myself wanting to do all of these things!”
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.
Craftspeople delighted by support from HRH the Prince of Wales
The Prince of Wales has always had wonderful respect for craftspeople working with tradition, and now he has taken on the presidency of a new organisation created by craftspeople themselves. The Heritage Crafts Association brings together all the crafts to celebrate and support the knowledge and techniques that have successfully been passed down through the generations and which now form an important part of the country’s cultural heritage.
From saddlers in Walsall and cutlers in Sheffield, to shoemakers in Northampton and basketmakers in Somerset, crafts have been an integral part of our towns and countryside. Our most common surname of Smith, and others like Thatcher, Potter, Turner or Cartwright, show that we are a nation of craftspeople. Some of these crafts are alive and well and others could see a resurgence given a little encouragement. Often a simple story in the press is all that is needed to turn a business round from struggling to thriving.
Traditional crafts have tended to receive little recognition or support, falling between the areas of heritage (buildings) and the arts (where only cutting edge innovative work is supported). Around the world, countries are beginning to recognise traditional craftsmanship as part of their living heritage.
Twenty years ago, locally sourced food, carefully produced by hand, was a quirky and alternative idea, yet it has seen a great resurgence. The Heritage Crafts Association believes that a similar resurgence of interest is underway in traditional crafts. People are looking for quality British-made products that last. Trevor Ablett, one of the last Sheffield pocket knife makers, has an order book full until Christmas. There are also people who would like to work in the crafts. After some press coverage last year, Alistair Simms, the country’s last master cooper, received 1,000 letters asking to be his apprentice. With a little support, the traditional crafts could see tremendous growth.
Robin Wood, Chair of the Heritage Crafts Association and a craftsman himself, said:
“We are absolutely delighted that His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales has become our President. There is strong interest in the crafts at the moment and tremendous scope for a resurgence. The traditional crafts have been rather overlooked, falling between arts and heritage organisations, and not within the remit of either. Particularly, the industrial crafts of our towns have been sadly neglected. We hope the presidency of His Royal Highness will bring more attention to this overlooked part of our national heritage.”
Whilst it may seem incongruous for a traditional craft organisation, the Heritage Crafts Association has grown rapidly through the use of social networking and the internet, proof perhaps that traditional crafts are not backward-looking but a part of a vibrant future.