Slipware potter Hannah McAndrew has won Maker of the Year in the 2022 Heritage Crafts Awards supported by the Marsh Charitable Trust, which was presented at a prestigious Winners’ Reception at the House of Lords on 30 January 2023, sponsored by The Royal Mint.
The result was one of six revealed at the ceremony introduced by Heritage Crafts Co-Chair Jay Blades MBE and hosted by Heritage Crafts Vice Presidents Baroness Garden of Frognal and Lord Cormack. Other recent successes were also celebrated, including the awarding of the third annual President’s Award for Endangered Crafts, set up by Heritage Crafts President the former Prince of Wales and won by pargeter Johanna Welsh, and the inaugural Woodworker of the Year Award sponsored by Axminster Tools and won by luthier Jonathan Hill.
The Heritage Crafts/Marsh Maker of the Year award was won by slipware potter Hannah McAndrew. After serving an apprenticeship with Dumfrieshire slipware potter Jason Shackleton, Hannah has been running her own workshop since 2003. She draws influence from the ancient British folk heritage of country pottery, whose makers demonstrated extraordinary, intuitive skill, a high benchmark to which she aspires. Her ‘This is England’ charger was accepted into the permanent collection of Centre of Ceramic Art, York Art Gallery in 2021. This piece, made as a response to the racist abuse during the Euro2020 football tournament raised £9,000 for FareShare UK and was featured on the national news.
The Heritage Crafts/Marsh Trainer of the Year award went to Line Hansen, a saddler who teaches on the City & Guilds courses on saddle making, harness making and bridle making, and shoemaking at Capel Manor College. Line started as an equestrian, beginning her career as a rider then becoming a riding instructor, which led to her appreciation for saddlery. She has won numerous awards in saddlery and harness making and has educated and trained a large number of students of the craft, who have themselves gone on to become skilled craftspeople and trainers.
The Heritage Crafts/Marsh Trainee of the Year award went to saddler Eden Sorrel Russell. Age 16, Eden began her formal training in traditional English saddlery. Over the last seven years she has completed all of the qualifications available under the training schemes provided by City & Guilds in conjunction with the Worshipful Company of Saddlers, qualifying as a harness maker, bridle maker and saddle maker. Under The Society of Master Saddlers and the tuition of Trainer of the Year finalist Mark Romain, Eden has also taken qualifications and courses in harness fitting, introductory saddle fitting, and bridle fitting.
The Heritage Crafts/Marsh Volunteer of the Year award went to scientific glassblower Ian Pearson, who has served as editor of the British Society of Scientific Glassblowers (BSSG) journal for 38 years, as well as being Chair of the Society from 2002 to 2009. As well as editing the journal, Ian deals with the companies that advertise in it, carries out scientific glassblowing demos on behalf of the BSSG as well as attending BSSG council meetings. All this work carried out voluntarily. Ian was trained as a scientific glassblower in Surrey before he started at Dounreay, taking charge of its scientific glass department in 1981.
The finalists were as follows:
Heritage Crafts/Marsh Maker of the Year
- Rachel Frost – felt hat maker
- Hannah McAndrew – slipware potter
- Fergus Wessel – lettercutter in stone
Heritage Crafts/Marsh Trainer of the Year
- Line Hansen – saddler
- Frances Roche – saddler
- Mark Romain – saddler
Heritage Crafts/Marsh Trainee of the Year
- Megan Rigby – hand engraver
- Sarah Ready – withy pot maker
- Eden Sorrel Russell – saddler
Heritage Crafts/Marsh Volunteer of the Year
- Patricia Basham – Knitting and Crochet Guild
- Kezia Hoffman – Granary Creative Arts Centre
- Ian Pearson – British Society of Scientific Glassblowers
The next round of nominations open on 1 March 2023.
The making of saddles, bridles and other leather accessories for equine use. See also horse collar making and side saddle making.
This craft uses products derived from animals – please read our ethical sourcing statement.
|Historic area of significance
|Walsall, West Midlands
|Area currently practised
|Origin in the UK
The earliest known document referring to the Saddlers of London dates from the second half of the twelfth century, although it possible that a guild of saddlers existed before the Norman conquest. Saddlery as a craft obivously existed long before this.
Today, the craft of saddlery is still producing products that are in widespread use and which have remained essentially unchanged for centuries.
Cutting, marking, edging, creasing, staining, stitch-marking, stitching, punching, blocking, polishing, as well as precise measured techniques using dedicated tools.
- Side saddle making: A side saddle is a type of saddle which allows the rider to sit aside rather than astride a horse. Interest in side saddles is enjoying a revival – more people are riding side saddle and wounded vets with limb loss are discovering the opportunities side saddles offer in their rehabilitation. The craft of side saddle making is healthy, with a good number of saddlers specialising in side saddles. Perhaps 11-20 skilled side saddle makers, and several trainees.
- Collar making: Collar making skills are critically endangered with probably only 4-5 people making collars in the traditional way and in any sort of volume. The Saddlery Training Centre ran courses in collar making for many years but the demand has virtually disappeared, although the last training consultant (John McDonald) will still run a course for anyone seriously interested in learning the skills. However, only a very small proportion of those who attended a course went on to develop the skill and become a good collar maker – the skills can be learned on a week’s training course, but it takes a lot of practise and perseverance to become a proficient collar maker. The main market for collars is for heavy horses – but the use of heavy horses fell dramatically across the twentieth century. Collars are also used for private driving. Whilst the skills are pretty much the same for both heavy and driving collars, makers tend to specialise in one or the other. Because of the size, the heavy collar is harder to make and takes longer. Many collars today are using synthetic materials rather than the traditional rye straw, and it is those traditional skills that are endangered.
- Harness making
- Military harness making: By definition the only ones using military harness are the military (the King’s Troop and, to a lesser degree, the Household Cavalry). The issues for military harness making is where the Ministry of Defence places its contracts.
- Case work: Case work is specialised but not endangered.
Issues affecting the viability of the craft
While saddlery is not endangered, it is a relatively small craft that needs constantly to be vigilant about the threats it faces, especially the tendency of government to tinker with the apprenticeship funding framework and other regulatory interference.
Funding issues/training issues: Factors affecting ability of master saddlers to take on and train apprentices – usually economic or insufficient business to sustain two salaries.
Funding issues/training issues: Side saddle making is an expensive discipline to master and unfortunately out of reach of many craft saddlers.
Training issues: Training in the manufacturing, restoration of side saddle is of the utmost importance. At present there is only one person who has the relevant knowledge and over 60 years experience in this discipline who is passing on his skills – we need saddlers with more experience so they can pass on these skills to future generations.
Shortage of raw materials: Difficulty in sourcing some of the materials needed to carry out the work whether making new or fixing old side saddles.
Craftspeople currently known