Tuesday the 23rd of March was a great day for traditional crafts. The Heritage Crafts Association finally had it's official launch at the V&A and opened up it's friends membership scheme and Jon Henley published a wonderful article in the Guardian's G2 section. Jon has a deep understanding of the crafts and we were delighted he was able to contribute to the HCA forum on Tuesday.
"All over the country, practitioners of traditional trades risk being the last of their kind . . . a man who makes wooden oars and sculls in Windsor; a woman near Hailsham who fashions the chestnut and willow baskets known as Sussex trugs; a man who crafts astonishing split-cane fishing rods in Newbury; father-and-son wheelwrights in Devon; a master cooper in Devizes (one of four left in the country); a willow basket weaver on the Somerset Levels; a besom broom squire in High Wycombe. Yet, having interviewed many of them over the last year or so, (guardian.co.uk/money/series/disappearing-acts) I am struck by the huge public interest that still exists in these crafts. Witness, too, the unexpected popularity of TV series such as Victorian Farm, and Monty Don's current Mastercrafts. In today's increasingly virtual world, there's something very appealing about people who make things by hand, with tools and techniques often unchanged for centuries.
So why are these skills in danger? Not all are, of course: some rural crafts, such as hedge-laying, have rebounded, helped by environmental legislation and agri-environment grants. Others – gunsmithing, saddlery, boot- and watch-making – fall (providing they pitch themselves cleverly) into the luxury goods category, and find wealthy buyers. Traditional building trades such as stonemasonry, thatching, slating, stained-glass work and brick restoration benefit from built heritage funding. If not exactly flourishing, many now have recognised training schemes and the prospect of jobs with the National Trust or English Heritage.
The ones in trouble are the one-man bands – people making traditional products for which there is, demonstrably, a market (Trevor Ablett's appearance on the Guardian website brought him 350 orders), who can make a fair living for themselves but can't take on anyone else."
Read the full article here
and if you haven't seen them see Jon's other articles on craftspeople here
Also at the forum were many of the Mastercrafts mentors, the book producers and the producer.