Select Page

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.

Winners of the 2020 Heritage Crafts Awards

Sheffield scissor makers Ernest Wright have won the inaugural President’s Award for Endangered Crafts in this year’s Heritage Crafts Awards. The prestigious award, and £3,000 bursary, was initiated by Heritage Crafts Association (HCA) President HRH The Prince of Wales.

The President’s Award was one of five awards presented by Sir John Hayes at the HCA’s Awards Ceremony held on Wednesday 7 October. The event was held online instead of the planned Winners’ Reception due to take place at the Houses of Parliament, which was inevitably curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paul Jacobs with master putter-togetherers Cliff Denton and Eric Stones of Ernest Wright scissor makers. Photo by Carl Whitham.

Paul Jacobs with master putter-togetherers Cliff Denton and Eric Stones of Ernest Wright scissor makers. Photo by Carl Whitham.

Ernest Wright was founded in 1902 and reflects everything Sheffield has become famous for – highly skilled craftspeople making supreme quality products. Following a tragedy in 2018, the company went into receivership and the critically endangered craft of scissor making was on the verge of disappearing from Sheffield. Paul Jacobs and Jan Bart Fanoy took action and bought the company, re-hired the remaining master putter-togetherers, Cliff Denton and Eric Stones, and took on several putters in training. The factory is now back in action with 12 scissor patterns currently in production. They plan to use the prize to repair machinery so that putter-in-training can have more productive time learning the craft from Cliff and Eric.

The four other awards were presented with the generous support of the Marsh Christian Trust, who have supported these awards since 2012.

The HCA/Marsh Trainer of the Year award went to Achilles Khorassandjian, shoe making tutor at Capel Manor College in Enfield, Middlesex. Achilles, known as Ash, has worked in the shoemaking industry for 57 years, and still designs and makes shoes from his home studio as well as supporting the next generation of UK shoemakers with his knowledge and skills.

The inaugural HCA/Marsh Trainee of the Year award went jointly to Richard Platt and Sam Cooper, chairmaking apprentices to Lawrence Neal at Marchmont House in Berwickshire. Richard and Sam are currently in the process of opening a rush seated chair workshop, the first of its kind since 1958. They use skills and techniques passed down from Phillip Clissett, Ernest Gimson, Edward Gardiner and Neville Neal. Without them taking up the craft, with support from Hugo Burge at Marchmont, one of Britain’s proudest craft traditions would have been lost.

The HCA/Marsh Volunteer of the Year award went to John Savings, from Appleton in Oxfordshire, hedgelayer and volunteer at the National Hedgelaying Society. John excels at promoting and encouraging others to take part in the traditional craft of hedgelaying. John lays in the South of England style but can put his hand to any style, showing young and old how to make a perfect hedge.

The HCA/Marsh ‘Made in Britain’ Award went to Two Rivers Paper. Established at Pitt Mill on Exmoor in 1987, Two Rivers is now the only manufacturer of traditional handmade, artists’ quality rag paper in the UK and one of only a handful of similar businesses in Europe. Their watercolour paper has an international reputation for excellence. Owner Jim Patterson has recently trained apprentice Zoe and plans to relocate the company to the historic papermaking town of Watchet.

 

Watch the ceremony

Watch the recording of the Awards ceremony on YouTube

 

Finalists

The finalists were as follows:

President’s Award for Endangered Crafts (£3,000): (more details)

  • Paul Jacobs – Ernest Wright scissor makers, Sheffield
  • Jim Patterson – Two Rivers Paper, Somerset
  • Helen Johannessen – industrial ceramics practitioner, London

HCA Marsh Trainer of the Year (£1,000)

  • Achilles Khorassandjian – shoe maker, Middlesex
  • Jim Patterson – paper maker, Somerset
  • Nigel Turton – thatcher, Dorset

HCA Marsh Trainee of the Year (£1,000)

  • Manuel Aragon Gimeno – guitar maker, Nottinghamshire
  • Richard Platt and Sam Cooper – chair makers, Berwickshire
  • Yasmin St Pierre – lapidarist, London

HCA Marsh Volunteer of the Year (£1,000)

  • Ann Day – The Lace Guild, Surrey
  • John Savings – The National Hedgelaying Society, Oxfordshire
  • Young Quilters Fundraising Team – The Quilters’ Guild of Great Britain

HCA Marsh Made in Britain Award (£1,000)

  • Jacqueline Cullen – Whitby jet worker, London
  • Method Studio – furniture makers, West Lothian
  • Two Rivers Paper – paper makers, Somerset

 

 

President’s Award for Endangered Crafts finalists announced

Paul Jacobs with master putter-togetherers Cliff Denton and Eric Stones of Ernest Wright scissor makers. Photo by Carl Whitham.

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.

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
Helen Johannessen

Helen Johannessen

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!”

 

Lucy McGrath and Eloise Dethier-Eaton

Lucy McGrath and Eloise Dethier-Eaton

Heritage Craft Training Case Studies – Lucy McGrath and Eloise Dethier-Eaton

 

How does it feel to let a new person in to your thriving craft business?

Cockpit Arts

Lucy McGrath runs Marmor Paperie, a successful paper marbling business with a studio at Cockpit Arts. Despite being a relatively young business, it has grown rapidly and Lucy has become a well-respected marbler who is not afraid to push the creative boundaries of the craft. Marbling is time consuming and Lucy was finding it challenging to both build the business and continue to develop the technical expertise in being a traditional marbler. She was keen to spend more time on publicity, developing new ideas and products, and her mission to preserve marbling skills for the future.

It was time for someone new to join the business. Lucy comments that this did raise some important issues for her and it was important that this happened when she was ready. On a practical level she ensured that she could financially support a member of staff and that the available studio space would allow it but, on a personal level, she also acknowledges that this is not always an easy transition to make:

“It is hard to relinquish control and bring someone in. I would recommend it.”

In 2019 Eloise joined Lucy’s business through the Cockpit Arts’ Creative Employment Programme. This pioneering programme was set up to respond to the needs of the craft sector and provides support to craft employers at the stage when they are ready to grow their business. It is aimed at young people aged 16-24 from the local area with an aim to reduce the barriers to employment and create more opportunities in the craft sector over the long term.

Both Lucy and Eloise’s experience of the programme has been very positive. Eloise has completed the apprenticeship and will continue to be employed in the business alongside developing her own creative practice as a print maker. It has been successful in that is has enabled the business to grow and new products have been developed. Lucy describes the viability of a craft business as “the point at which it gets repetitive, when it becomes about refining the process, consistency and control of materials” and it is this that marks the transition from skilled amateur to professional maker. Eloise can now contribute to the business as a skilled professional maker and also in helping to run day to day operations. Lucy has found that it has freed her up to finesse her own high-level marbling skills and to try new approaches.

There have been some frustrations along the way. There were elements of the Business Administration apprenticeship, particularly the ‘off the job’ training, that were challenging to manage in a small business. In short, the end result was very positive and the support received from Cockpit Arts was invaluable, but the formal process of completing the apprenticeship sometimes felt like “a means to an end”.

When asked what she has learned from the process, Lucy says that “communication is the key to success!” She is also keen to point out that it is this passing on of skills that will ultimately ensure a future for her craft in a contemporary context.

“Heritage crafts need to be kept fresh and interesting. Look for someone who is different to you, with different skills, and who will challenge you in a good way.”

 

Apprenticeship Structure

  • Length – 1 year
  • Qualifications gained – Level 2 Business Administration
  • Financial Support – Supported by the Cockpit Arts Creative Employment Programme and funded by the William Boreman’s Foundation. A wage grant of £3,800 was received that covered a third of the total wage bill.
  • Payments to apprentice – Paid at above the apprenticeship minimum wage
  • Recruitment process – Advertised and recruited through the Cockpit Arts’ Creative Employment Programme.

Paper making (commercial handmade)

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Paper making (commercial handmade)

 

The hand-forming of paper, often using a mould and deckle to gather and form the sheet (see also studio papermaking).

 

Status Critically endangered
Historic area of significance Japan, India, Vietnam, Thailand, Italy, France, Germany, China
Area currently practised Scotland, England
Origin in the UK 15th Century
Current no. of professionals (main income) 6-10
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
4
Current no. of trainees 2 (see ‘Other information’ for further details)
Current total no. serious amateur makers
n/a
Current total no. of leisure makers
n/a

 

History

The first paper was made around 150 AD in China from plant fibres which were beaten in a pestle and mortar. Papermaking spread to the Islamic world in the eighth century AD, and the earliest use of water-powered pulp mills date from this time. The technique gradually travelled towards Europe providing a substitute to animal skins for writing. Literacy was poor and mainly restricted to religious organisations and the legal profession. Imported paper from Europe, and later the early production of paper in England coincided with Gutenberg’s invention of moveable printing type.

The beating process could be mechanised using redundant water-powered corn mills which were converted wherever the mills were near to towns for easy transportation. Clear spring water was a necessity for making white paper. By this time cotton, linen rags, old rope and canvas were being used as raw material (re-cycling). In the mid-1700s a new improved method of beating the rags into pulp was introduced from Holland improving the beating process, from days, to hours whilst also improving the pulp quality.

The size of the hand mould limited the size of sheet produced unless sheets were glued together. Many people tried to improve the quality and quantity of paper produced but it was not until 1803 that this was successfully achieved at Frogmore Mill. That first machine was rapidly improved and enlarged so that within a few years machines were being sold so that hand papermaking had almost ceased by 1900.

Machine made paper was more consistent and much cheaper. Being made on a roll it could also be used in the new printing presses so that newspapers and books became readily available leading to improved education and literacy. The world of postal communication developed too so that the need for hand-made paper became restricted to speciality papers for artists and for special uses like certificates.

Before World War II there were 5-6 small commercial paper mills around the country, making batches of hand-made paper. Their main market was to produce ledgers for double-entry book keeping. These ledgers were unique to each counting house or company, with their own marbling and watermarks for security. Because the runs were in the hundreds of sheets, rather than the tons, it suited small enterprises. However, electronic banking has changed everything and removed this market. Today, the main market for batch-produced hand-made paper is for fine art and conservation applications.

 

Techniques

Making paper by hand is not that different from making paper by machine. In this context, both commercial and studio paper making is done by hand; the processes of commercial and studio making are largely the same, but the scale of making is different.

Paper is primarily made from cotton and linen flax, but other materials such as hemp, seeds, petals and recycled rag are used to add texture and character. The fibres are first beaten in water and internally sized (to reduce the paper’s tendency when dry to absorb liquid, providing a more consistent, economical, and precise printing, painting, and writing surface.). For coloured paper, lightfast and permanent pigments are added at this stage. The sheets are formed individually using hand moulds and deckles, and then each sheet is laid onto cloth felts and pressed. The paper is then surface sized and left to air dry.

Cellulose fibres are softened and refined to make a paper stock (or stuff) which is added to a vat in a consistency of 1 per cent (- 5 per cent) fibre to 99% water. The vat is stirred and using a wire mesh covered mould, with deckle on top, fibres are scooped from the vat, levelled and gently shaken to form a sheet. This sheet is then couched (a rolling action) onto a felt. The sheets are then placed in a press and once a full post has been transferred, the post is wound down and the sheets pressed to extract water. The sheets can then be handled and are air dried. Sheets may be hand dipped into a further bath of gelatine size if a surface sizing is required. The sheets are the dried again.

 

Local forms

n/a

 

Sub-crafts

Allied crafts:

  • Paper mould and deckle making – now extinct in the UK.
  • Studio paper making

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Loss of skills: Hand made papermaking is an inherently variable process, but the measure of craftsmanship is how little variation there is between each making. In a commercial setting/batch-production setting there is very little variation, which takes an enormous level of skill that comes from practice and repeat-making on a larger scale. Furthermore, the treatment of the fibres is all-important in papermaking, but this is a skill that a lot of studio makers do not have because they haven’t been trained in it.
  • Contraction of the mainstream industry: Smaller enterprises rely on the mainstream industry for raw materials such as acid free sizes and cotton linter for pulp – the manufacturers only sell in extreme bulk so smaller enterprises cannot buy materials directly from the manufacturers and instead buy from the mainstream industry (smaller enterprises may then sell materials to studio paper makers who require even smaller quantities). The contraction of the domestic mainstream industry therefore has a knock-on effect on the smaller enterprises.
  • Contraction of the mainstream industry: In the mainstream papermaking industry, people were promoted through the mill and learned from the poeple they were working under and progressed. They were also offered training, e.g. City and Guilds, HNC, HND, and a degree in paper science. However, that infrastructure was dismantled about 25 years ago because the industry couldn’t support/afford it. As the mainstream industry has matured, fewer people are employed, so the pool of talent in the industry is much smaller and many technicians increasingly come from abroad. This also means there are fewer people with the skills who may wish to set up in a more handmade setting.
  • Market issues: Paper is proverbially cheap (‘not worth the paper it’s printed on’) and you are therefore producing something for a market in which people are used to paying very low prices. Most people are not prepared to pay £4 or £5 for a sheet of handmade paper.
  • Market issues: While in some cases you might be making a product that is not available by mass manufacture (such as specialist grades for paper conservation), in many cases you are not creating a new product or a new market and instead have to convince a client that handmade paper is preferable to mass manufactured paper. The market is there, but the challenge lies in reaching it.
  • Market issues: Marketing is a big issue. The market could probably support another 2-3 businesses of 2-3 people around the country, if you were able to market well enough to reach both the domestic and export markets. However, marketing is expensive – but social media is making a noticeable difference.
  • Market issues: demand (painters, textile artists and conservators), willingness to pay the price of a handmade sheet, as opposed to machine made product (requires appreciation of the skilled handmade paper process and the impact of quality on users work)
  • Loss of associated crafts: paper mould making is now extinct in the UK, so it is difficult to acquire moulds if you are setting up a new. Lower quality moulds are available, but they don’t compare with the real thing. There are makers in France and Belgium but no one appears to have taken up the craft in the UK yet. Similarly, wool blankets are the best for transferring marks but it is getting harder to find the right type of blanket.
  • Cost of equipment: To make paper on a commercial basis, you need a beater – these are very rare second hand, and very expensive to buy new – which poses a challenge for anyone setting up in the craft.
  • Supply of raw materials: The price of fibre and chemicals have increased.
  • Cost of premises: Anyone wishing to set up as a commercial paper maker will require suitable premises, which would be prohibitively expensive for anyone learning the craft.
  • Lifestyle: Paper making on a commercial scale is hard physical work, which many people aren’t prepared for nowadays, and often involves subsistence living.

 

Support organisations

  • Paper Industry Technical Association

 

Craftspeople currently known

Business employing two or more makers:

  • Two Rivers Paper Company, Somerset. The largest full-time commercial handmade paper makers, with three craftspeople, Jim Pattison, Neil Hopkins, Zoe Collis and Keiren Berry
  • Frogmore Paper Mill, Hemel Hempstead. Working museum, education and heritage centre, with an archive, makes hand and machine made paper on a 1902 Fourdrinier Machine, with two craftspeople, Gary Fuller and Luke.
  • The Paper Foundation , Cumbria. Took over the business of Griffin Mill in Ireland, and tends to specialist (currently) in papers for conservation work. However, they are talking about branching out to other areas, such as artists’ papers.

 

Other information

An accredited UK paper industry papermaking apprenticeship has been introduced under the Government’s ‘Trailblazers’ initiative. While aimed at the mainstream industry, rather than at hand-making, many of the skills are transferable, and Two Rivers’ Zoe Collis completed the scheme. Zoe was recruited through the Heritage Crafts Association’s 2017 pre-apprenticeship pilot programme funded by the Ernest Cook Trust.

In 2018 industry took advantage of the Trailblazer programme, to set up the paper maker apprenticeship. However,  in 2020 the training providers GEN 2 stopped offering this training because of lack of take up.

References

  • https://www.instagram.com/paper.foundation/
  • www.Tworiverspaper.com
  • Mr.Ed Wallace, Pulp and Paper Information Centre “Papermaking in Britain” 1488 – 1988
  • Sophie Dawson and Silvie Turner Estamp , A Hand Papermaker’s Sourcebook (1995)
  • Ian Sansom, PAPER an elegy  (2012)
  • John Purcell Papers
  • British Association of Paper Historians – Academic Association publishing a journal and numerous books.
  • Hand Papermaking – American organisation publishing a journal of the same name, aimed mainly at hobby and studio market
  • Simon Barcham Green, Simon Barcham Greens Papermaking Moulds
  • Richard L. Hills, Papermaking in Britain 1488 – 1988 (1988)
  • Alfred H. Shorter, Paper Making in the British Isles: an historical and geographical study, (1971)