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President’s Award 2023 finalists announced

President's Award 2023 finalistsThe three finalists for the fourth President’s Award for Endangered Crafts, established by Heritage Crafts President The Former Prince of Wales, have been announced. 

Each year the President’s Award presents £3,000 to the winning heritage craftsperson who will use the funding to ensure that craft skills are passed on to the future, with an additional £1,000 for runner-up bursaries provided by Patricia Lovett MBE and Kate Hobhouse.

The three finalists for 2023 are (in alphabetical order):

The winner will be announced at a prestigious Winners’ Reception at the Vicar’s Hall, St George’s House, Windsor Castle on 15 November 2023.

The finalists were selected by a panel of judges made up of renowned advocates of craft skills:

  • Jay Blades MBE, Co-Chair of Heritage Crafts;
  • Kate Hobhouse, Chair of Fortnum and Mason;
  • Patricia Lovett MBE, former Chair of Heritage Crafts;
  • Simon Sadinsky, Executive Director of The Prince’s Foundation; and
  • Johanna Welsh, pargeter and 2022 President’s Award winner.
Jay BladesKate HobhousePatricia Lovett MBESimon SadinskyJohanna Walsh

 

 

 

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

Five new grants awarded to help save endangered crafts from extinction

Gillian Stewart

Gillian Stewart, bookbinder and fore-edge painter

A coppersmith, a withy pot maker and a disappearing fore-edge painter 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 has begun work on the third edition of its groundbreaking HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts, has awarded a further five 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 Allchurches Trust and the Swire Charitable Trust. The five successful recipients are:

  • Lizzy Hughes, from London, to develop her coppersmithing skills to include joinery, so that she’s able to make objects constructed from multiple parts such as buckets, watering cans and funnels, and to teach the craft.
  • Sarah Ready, from Devon, to develop her practice as a withy pot maker, producing pots for her son to fish with off the Devon coast, and to document the craft.
  • Gillian Stewart, from Glasgow, to expand her bookbinding practice by training as a disappearing fore-edge painter, and to teach the craft.
  • Alex Ward, from Shetland, to develop his furniture making business to incorporate the production of moulding planes for fine furniture making, and to teach the craft of plane making.
  • Lois Walpole, from Shetland, to publish a book on the critically endangered craft of kishie basket making.
Alex Ward's moulding plane

Alex Ward’s moulding plane

These five projects follow 13 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.

As usual the fund was oversubscribed, and this was only compounded by the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sole traders and micro-businesses that make up the heritage crafts sector. 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:

“No-one could have anticipated the impact of COVID-19 at the beginning of this year, not only on craft businesses, whose selling, teaching and supply chains have been curtailed, but on the craft skills themselves, many of which were on the brink even before the pandemic hit. We passionately believe that these skills have lots to offer a post-COVID future, as productive and fulfilling tools with which to rebuild a sustainable economy.”

The Endangered Crafts Fund has been funded through generous donations from organisations including Allchurches Trust, The Swire Charitable Trust and The Radcliffe Trust, as well as individuals who have donated sums from £5 right up to several thousands of pounds.

Paul Playford, who heads up the heritage grants programme at Allchurches Trust, said:

“We hope that our funding will help enable these talented craftspeople to further develop their skills, as well as to hand them down to future generations and share their craft with new audiences; potentially opening doors to new funding opportunities in these challenging times. We feel privileged to play our part in telling their story, raising awareness of ancient practices that are so important to preserve for future generations and hopefully inspiring others to follow their lead.”

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.

Read the full press release

Withy pot making

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Withy pot making

 

Making traditional crab/lobster pots from willow, called withy pots.

 

Status Critically endangered
Historic area of significance Along the south coast, especially west from the Isle of Wight, throughout Devon and Cornwall coasts, South West Wales and South West Ireland.
Area currently practised Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, South West Wales, Ireland, Isles of Scilly
Origin in the UK
Current no. of professionals (main income) 1
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
8-9
Current no. of trainees 1
Current total no. serious amateur makers
0
Current total no. of leisure makers
5

 

History

Withy pots have been recorded in old painting dating from 400 years ago, but the craft would go back further as humans have used traps to catch fish and crabs since we first inhabited our shore line. The problem with a definitive date is nothing was written down in the regions or families… it was learnt from father to son, although in some areas the wives also made them. Fish traps have been found in peat bogs.

This craft evolved over centuries from the earliest basket type trap used by wading into low tides and fixing traps to the beach. When boats evolved to go further out into the bays and open waters the ability to trap the catch in deeper water meant the trap also had to change – the ability of the trap to withstand the wear and tear tide and sea bed imparts meant it had to be big enough and strong enough, but not too heavy that you could not carry it and pull it up from the depths.

All of our coastline had these pots up until the late 1960s. The demand for saving time in their making and needing stronger pots which could withstand attaching multiple pots together in a line (string of pots). Withy pots would not be able to withstand the added strain of being hauled with a winch pulled a string of multiples. This meant quite a rapid change to wire and net pots then the plastic ones you see today.

The withy pot had a life span of just over one season with ongoing repairs meaning every winter you started all over again. Unless you had a withy bed to cut your withies from you had to purchase them, normally from Somerset at great expense.

 

Techniques

The bending and twisting of willow to form the shape of an inkwell by hand. In South Devon the funnel is a paired weave that continues into bands of ringing (fitching) that hold the uprights or standards in an evenly spaced conical shape. The base varies regionally but is a continuation of the paired weave, sometimes finished with woven plaiting. The bait was attached with elm skewers or ‘skivers’ piercing the funnel and adding to the trap effect.

Willow was grown locally, mostly hybrids of Salix Vinimalis and Alba, more latterly, Salix Triandra or the Black Maul willow grown commercially in Somerset.

 

Local forms

Various forms of withy inkwell were made from the Isle of Wight westward, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, South Wales and South and West Ireland, although there are some extreme variations there. There is also a connection to the Breton tradition in France as there was a strong connection between the Bretons and the South West fishermen.

All pots are made using fresh willow for the main frame although hazel was often used in the base. Individual makers also often used tamarisk to strengthen the base as it resisted abrasion. While the shape between regions may look the same the Cornish pot is very different in that it has a deeper curve at the top and the spiral binding goes anti-clockwise to the base, with three-and-a-half to four turns from top to bottom. The Devon/Dorset pot as well as all other areas that once practised this craft have a flatter top and more of a curve in the shape down to the base, and the spiral binding goes clockwise from the top to the base and is four turns in total from top to bottom.

In East Devon the base was put in by folding the willow from the centre to the outer rim but all other areas by folding from the outside to the centre.

Although the pots took on a common shape in the same region, each person’s pot would be unique. This is because makers all differ in strength of hand style details and the way they fish on their particular coast. Storepots were much bigger at 36-40 inches across the base and five to six rings high. They had woven or wooden lids to keep crab in, for up to a week while waiting for them to be sold or transported

Guernsey Crab Pots

The Guernsey pot is woven as it is turned on the knee, not on a stand. A disc and a peg with ropes are used to draw the ribs in as the willow is twisted to create the body of the pot. To finish the pot, four main heavier ribs are laid and tied-in across the base, then the ribs from the body of the pot are woven across these. Additional heavy rods are added to fill the base and complete the pot. All the ends are trimmed leaving 4-6”, to allow for wear through the season.

Sub-crafts

The weave and use of a wooden mule is similar to some fish traps, and forms that are now used as plant supports.

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Few people are taking this craft up because it is not financially viable to rely totally on fishing for a living using willow pots. A revival in the use of withy pots is most likely in situations where businesses combine fishing, food selling without the middle man and tourist related sidelines.
  • Those left still making these pots fall into age brackets 60-70, 70-80 and Alan Lander in his early 80s. The big problem is time and the ability to carry on. If makers’ hands weaken through arthritis etc or the public no longer support them the craft will become extinct within a very short time.
  • These pots were used up till the mid 1960s as the only way of catching crab etc. As modern pots made from synthetic materials came along the need for willow pots died out. These days members of the fishing families that keep the craft alive do so because of public interest and also the need for them in TV dramas such as Poldark where they are critical to that period in time.
  • A limited demand and the cost in man hours of hand made pots means that you cannot earn a sole living from making them.
  • Within the families few people are learning or passing on the skills. Those who come to make a pot often say how hard it is on the hands and although they enjoyed the experience they had no intention in carrying it forward.
  • The profit margin is small as pots use a lot of willow, which is expensive unless homegrown, and people are not willing to pay enough to cover the work of a heavy duty pot.

 

Support organisations

Support mainly comes from local events close to the coast where makers are invited to show off their craft, e.g. Salcombe Crabfest, Clovelly Lobster Days, Hope Cove Weekend, Brixham Crabfest, Plymouth and Sidmouth Sea Festival etc.

Craftspeople currently known

  • Dave French
  • Nigel Legge
  • David Harrison
  • Richard Ede
  • Sue Morgan
  • Alan Lander
  • Sarah Ready
  • Rob Edlin
  • Tom Chambers, Porthleven
  • Steve Perham, Clovelly
  • Roy Gollop
  • Sarah Ready – Fishing with withy pots in Brixham, Devon
  • Malcolm Baker, Cornwall
  • John Vercoe, Gorran Haven
  • Joff Hicks – Scilly Isles
  • Max Gaudion – Guernsey

Joe Hogan is a basketmaker who has knowledge of a range of Irish pots.

 

Other information

The pots vary regionally, and only those with direct knowledge from fishers know the dialect words and the reasons for particular variations in shapes and ways the pots are made. Those left need to have their own forms recorded.

 

References