Friday, 18 June 2010

Crafts Council in London, Heritage Crafts at Glastonbury

I wanted to do a quick blog post to publicise what I expect will be an interesting Crafts Council event in London next Tuesday 22nd June. Some may think that Assemble will just be a talking shop but there are many intellectual craftspeople who enjoy a bit of brain work mixed with their hand work. As John Brown said in his lovely book "Welsh Stick Chairs" whilst he was working with hand tools "I have plenty of time to think about things"

From the Assemble website "The conference will feature a context-setting keynote, a post-election provocation, conversations on the economic, therapeutic and regeneration value of contemporary craft, and a final debate on the role of policy in maximising the potential of the sector. Assemble also explores the overlap between craft and other creative industries." That may not sound desperately exciting but having scanned the list of folk attending there are many interesting thinkers and at only £40 I would certainly have been going if I was not pre-booked elsewhere.

I would particularly have liked to hear Matt Crawford author of the excellent new book "Shop class as soul class" or as it is sold in the UK "The case for working with your hands"  Matt is talking more about fixing things and the value of working in the trades than specifically craft but the message about the value of working with your hands obviously has wider appeal. He is a philosopher who gave up a position leading a New York think tank to run a Motorcycle repair shop, my kind of man and a fine excuse to put up a picture of Matt with a most beautiful old bevel drive Ducati on my blog I used to lust after one of these in my youth.

Whilst the Crafts Council are talking and conferencing in London the Heritage Crafts Association will be talking and making in a field at Glastonbury. I shall be demonstrating wooden bowl turning in the green crafts field. Nic and Marie Piper who run the Green Crafts field have been promoting traditional crafts for many years and are keen supporters of the HCA. Friends who work for the National Trust told me the NT are having a big stand at Glastonbury this year which must be a sign that it has become mainstream middle class event. Whilst Assemble is just £40 and tickets are still available Glastonbury was £185 and sold out months ago but if you have a ticket come along and say hello.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

HCA and Mastercrafts' Sophie Hussain at Museum of English Rural Life

Yesterday Sophie the glass artist from BBC mastercrafts joined HCA to demonstrate her craft at the Museum of English Rural Life at Reading.
The HCA stand was manned by committee members including Daniel Carpenter who runs the HCA website, facebook group and initiated the bring back mastercrafts campaign. Helping get the message out were Brian Crossley chair caner and Chris Rowley our retired TV exec who set up the Hand Engravers Association and seems to know everyone of importance that we need to speak to.
 I was turning bowls on my lathe. For me it was a bit of a homecoming as I was inspired to take up the craft of bowlturning after seeing George Lailey's  bowlturning lathe at the museum 20 years ago.

It was particularly nice to meet George Lailey's grand niece who still lives in the house George built at Bucklebury.
 The main purpose of the day was to show off a range of traditional crafts, talk about the issues facing their survival and encourage people to help us to keep these crafts thriving in the next generation.

We also had a lot of fun. I particularly enjoyed the make your own smoothie machine, at £1 a go it was a bargain. Roy Brigden keeper of the museum and HCA patron looks like a vet about to deliver a calf but in fact is holding the lid on the liquidizer.
Highlight of the day though must have been for the folk that were able to help Sophie with her glass work and cut some pieces for a design she was working on. One lady was clearly very moved when her glass broke exactly where she had scribed it and said how she had always wanted to do that.  As working craftspeople we often forget how lucky we are to make a living by using our hands and what a moving experience it can be for people just to get the chance to make something.
Next week HCA will be at Glastonbury in the greencrafts field so come and say hello if you are there and the week after is The Royal Norfolk show.

Friday, 11 June 2010

mastercrafts bbc second series

The HCA had been helping Ricochet on the second series of mastercrafts and were very disappointed to learn this week that the BBC have decided not to commission the second series after all.

HCA set up a facebook page to ask BBC to change their mind and give people the information they need to give their voice the greatest weight with the BBC. This is the page 

If you are not on facebook you can still access the page, click on the info link and get details of how best to respond to BBC. We are delighted that the whole UK craft community seems to have pulled together into one campaign, one single group with 20,000 members would have much more meaning for the BBC that 5 groups of 4000 each. We have a way to go though. Less than 3 days in the group is over 600 members and growing rapidly. We hope that many folk have also followed the details and mailed the BBC.

If you want to help promote the campaign you could add one of these banners to your blog/website etc.

Join the campaign for a second
 series of Mastercrafts on the BBC

If you want one of those visit here and cut and paste the code into your blog, very easy even for technophobes like me.

So that finishes a busy week, in which HCA also responded to the HLF press release earlier in the week announcing £17m for heritage skills training, you would think we would be delighted and we are very happy for the building, conservation and museum skills covered but there is little in it for the smaller traditional crafts see HCA news release for more detail here. Tonight I drive to Reading ready for a demonstration of bowlturning at the Museum of English Rural Life where George Lailey's lathe is kept. I was chatting earlier with Sophie the glass mentor from the Mastercrafts program about how unglamorous the craftspersons lifestyle is. She is coming to demonstrate with HCA at MERL too. Sophie recently had her old ford escort stolen so is trying to find a cheap hire car to fetch her gear from London to Reading and I am driving down after work, arriving late, sleeping in my van ready for an 8.30 start at the museum. Neither of us would swap for a desk job though.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Traditional crafts mapping project, are you on the map?

The Heritage Crafts Association have launched a map of traditional craftspeople in the UK. This great map allows you to zoom in to your county or area and follow links to websites or get contact details of interesting traditional craftspeople to visit or commission. If you are a traditional craftsperson and not on the map yet you can input your details for free here it is incredibly easy and takes just a few seconds. This is what the map looks like today, we are short on pins in Scotland, Wales and NI so please encourage folk from there to sign in.

If anyone has blogs or forums where they could publicise this map that would be helpful, the more people that are on there the more useful it will be to folk using it. Back in 1993 Henrietta Green published her "food lovers guide" locally produced artisan food was still a bit alternative back then though undergoing a resurgence. I used to use the guide (and still do actually) when on holiday to locate interesting food producers taking the extra effort to make good regional produce. Traditional craftspeople have been hard to locate but I believe we are on the tip of that major resurgence just as food was in the early 90's. Now is the time to get the map fully populated with all the interesting craftspeople out there. If you know someone who you think should be on the map but isn't send HCA their email and we will invite them or maybe you could send them a link to the map sign up page.

When I visit Sweden it is easy to locate traditional craftspeople because each county has a craft consultant who is responsible for promoting crafts, they know everybody and can suggest folk that a visitor would be interested to see. Our map we hope will be equally useful to tourists looking for something unusual to take home or to craft lovers wishing to source good locally produced work.

The map is the brainchild and hard voluntary work of Daniel Carpenter who runs the HCA website, as with everything HCA do it is done by craftspeople for craftspeople and it costs you nothing so please help support. Oh and if you want a special red pin rather than a blue one to show that you are a friend of HCA then you can sign up here, that costs just £12 per year, you get your name on the website alongside such eminent craftspeople as Owen Jones, Guy Mallinson and Tom Perkins and the good feeling that you are helping make a difference.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Brian Crossley chair caner

Brian is secretary of the Heritage Crafts Association and a second generation chair caner with over 40 years personal experience

Today Brian shared a picture of his work with the committee and I thought HCA supporters may be interested too.

"Currently commissions are just rolling in without any effort on my part, many of which are ordinary but some are mouth watering in their quality.  Today I am expecting a Gordon Russell Chair with a caned seat requiring re caning, which so far I am aware is unique for normally they were seated in other materials like rush.  Just for a change from our normal e mails, I attach a picture of 'before' and 'after' of two delightful Regency Chairs, now re caned for an Antique Dealer in Shrewsbury.  Note the 'rope' detail on the top rail which indicates a celebration of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and so approximately dating the chairs to around 1810.  What you cannot see is that they are made of beech but decorated to look like Rosewood.  Nobody in my Chair Caning Class yesterday realised this when I used the chair as an object for training and discussion."

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Why are traditional crafts not supported in the UK?

In the UK traditional crafts fall outside the remit of all government support agencies. We do not fit in the innovative artistic remit of the Crafts Council and English Heritage's remit is buildings and monuments. This leaves traditional basketmakers, sievemakers, Sheffield folding knife makers, country potters, weavers and anyone else making traditional functional craftwork without an agency to promote and support them. We tend to be proud and self sufficient so maybe have not made a fuss about why artists, theatre, opera, historic buildings and museum collections should get support and promotion but traditional craftspeople don't.

This is a very unusual situation, in most other countries traditional crafts are recognised as being an important part of peoples identity and promoted and supported through the cultural ministry. Here are a few examples of how other countries do things.

These are all members of the European Folk Art and Craft Federation.

AUSTRIAKuratorium Österreichisches Heimatwerk
The Austrian Folk Art works as a general and regional organization that works with many of life's cultural enrichment houses, homes and clothing, work and leisure, as well as celebration of the year and life's small and large events. To our diverse tasks belong to the development, promotion of, guidance, selling and manufacture of products from folk arts and traditions as folk dresses, sculptural craftsmanship and handicrafts. Moreover, we work also with courses, publishing, exhibitions and cultural events. It is at all times desirable to us that the art and craft work will provide much pleasure and an emotional experience.
DENMARKNetop - Association for Adult Learning
(and Danish Craft Association)
NETOP is a merger of 200 local non-formal adult education societies and groups in Denmark. We are engaged in a wide variety of activities in education and crafts courses – weekend, day, and evening courses and classes. We cover a wide range of subjects, but two things are near and dear to us: traditional arts and crafts, and the society we all live in.
NETOP is founded in both training and artisan skills. Our work is carried out with respect for the long tradition of craftsmanship, and with the ambition of extending knowledge to future generations. Our ambition is to maintain the link between traditional artisanship and the relevance of creativity and craftsmanship in our modern society.
ESTONIAEstonian Folk Art and Craft Union
In January 1929, the Estonian Folk Art and Craft Union (EFACU) was founded, the aim of which was "... advancing handicraft at home, improving skills, promoting the idea and explaining its usefulness to a wider population...
After the annexation of Estonia Soviets quickly banned all organisations that formed the backbone of Estonian civic society; the EFACU was disbanded as well.
It was re-established in 1992 in the newly independent state. Since 1992, a head of the Union has been Liivi Soova. The Union has re-established branches all over the country and by now has members in every county of Estonia. The Union cooperates with all main Estonian museums and art and craft schools. The Union has its own Training Center, and the National Costume Advisory Board has also sprung to a new life.
FINLANDThe Finnish Crafts Organization Taito
Together with local crafts and design associations, the Finnish Crafts Organization Taito forms the Taito Group. Taito is a close-to-earth expert organization that has promoted Finnish crafts as a medium of culture, skill and a livelihood for over a hundred years.
Taito Crafts Centres provide the opportunity of making articles oneself and learning through courses and in crafts schools. Taito Group makes Finnish crafts and design visible through the web and varied publications and exhibitions. For professionals in crafts and design, Taito offers expert services for business development.
• more than 140 Crafts Centres all over Finland
• 280 permanent employees
• 8500 members
• over 100 000 customers in workshops every year
• 30 000 customers on courses every year
• nearly 450 craft school groups and over 4000 students
HUNGARYHungarian Heritage House
The Hungarian Heritage House is a national institution founded in 2001 by the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Cultural Heritage with the purpose of preserving and promoting Hungarian folk tradition. The HHH is comprised of three units, each of which contributes to this aim in its own unique way. The HHH welcomes all enquiries, and aims to meet all requests in connection with Hungarian folk tradition.
The "László Lajtha" Folklore Documentation Center aims to make the vast and precious collection Hungarian folk treasury available to all who is interested in it. The Documentation Center is accessible on-line as well as in hard copies at the Corvin tér seat of the HHH.
The Applied Folk Arts Department organizes courses, conferences, dance houses and play-houses, as well as inviting applications, publishing music and dance CDs and DVDs and judging works of contemporary applied folk art. The Department is ready to cooperate with any cultural institutions wishing to get acquainted with Hungarian folk art, and welcomes individual enquiries as well.
  Hungarian Folk Artist Association - NESZ
The Folk Art Associations (HIPC), 25-year history of non-governmental organization since its inception as the main objective of the traditional Hungarian folk values of support for the folk art of people's unity, regional associations, organizations set up. The Association of professional representation,the continuous contact, to coordinate activities and ensure mutual exchange of information. In addition, the beginning of the HIPC activities include events, exhibitions, fairs settlement of the tender dossier professional training, organizing camps.
Alliance with 51 member organizations across the country, nearly 5,000 membership. The HIPC is held every year since 1987 the Hungarian craftsmen largest national event to the Crafts Fair in the Buda Castle. Member organizations of the four days of master craftsmen working through workshops presented in the traditional Hungarian crafts. The event is simultaneously present in the tradition crafts, live folk music and folk dance. This event is a growing professional recognition and success of tourism to us.
NORWAYNorwegian Folk Art and Craft Association
Vision: We create the future!
The Norwegian Folk Art and Craft Association is a non-governmental organization founded in 1910. Our main objective is to maintain, strengthen and continue the development of this very much alive culture in Norway. We sustains these traditions through
· quallity - tradition - heritage - creativity
We achieve our objective through organizing activities and measures that generate the public and professional engagement. It`s needed in order to strengthen the know-how, production and turnover within our field of traditional folk handicrafts.
Our member count is approx. 23 000; distributed throughout local member divisions - our traditional folk handicraft stores - our professional handicraftsmen.
POLANDThe Foundation Cepelia - Polish Art and Handicraft
The main purpose of the Foundation "Cepelia" is to protect, to develop and to promote the folk and artistic handicraft, the artistic industry. The foundation acts independently, and also with commercial partners, the chain of own shops and galleries in Poland.The Foudation acts in order to cultivate and create new values of the Polish art and culture not only in the country but also aboard, and particularly: supports ethnographic research in the art and the handicraft sphere, organizes contests, exhibitions shows, creates and leads art galleries, protect the regional folk groups, organizes the contests, exhibitions, reviews, supports publishing houses, connected with the statutory activity of the Foundation, gives rewards in contests, organized by museums or associations. Over 60 years Cepelia fixed its position in the people's consciousness.The ethical obligation of the Foundtation is to protect "the dying beauty".
SLOVAKIACentre for Folk Art and Craft
The Centre for Folk Art and Craft (ÚĽUV) is a contributory foundation of the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic, and since 1945 fulfils a function of documentary and informatory centre of folk art and craft, which has been in 2009 extended of the aperation of the Museum of folk art and craft and its collecting activities.
In its operations ÚĽUV integrates activities which lead to preservation and development of the traditional folk art and craft as one of the main segment of the Slovak National Cultural Heritage. In this sense it operates with all interested persons, supporters, promoters and manufacturers, who develop contemporary folk production. Currently it cooperates with more than 1 500 craftsmen.
The main activities of ÚĽUV are: documentation of traditional crafts and folk production, care of collections and documentation Funds, issuing professional publications and magazine on crafts, organizing of the exhibitions, festivals and crafts presentations, organizing voluntary courses of craft making, promotion of folk art production and consulting, library and information services, international cooperation with partner institutions.
The main mission of ÚĽUV is to protect, document, promote folk art, and its preservation for the future generations. It uses the knowledge, skills of the craftsmen, and aesthetic richness of the patterns used in the work with natural materials.
SPAINFoundation of innovation of Spanish Craft
The Spanish Foundation for Innovation in Craft (Fundesarte) is a national public foundation, created in 1981. It is a non-profit making organization attached to the Directorate General for SME Policy of the Spanish Ministry for Industry, Tourism and Trade.
The mission of Fundesarte is to work, together with administrations and artisans, for the promotion, professionalization and success of small craft businesses, within the framework of the public policies established at state level for SME. Its programs are orientated towards innovation to cope with the new situations that the market is requiring. The vision is to position Spain as the best place to create, see, buy and collect CRAFT.
SWEDENSwedish Handicraft Society
SHR, the Swedish Handicraft Societies' Association, is a nonprofit organization working to preserve, promote and develop handicrafts, both by culture and business. Our vision is to give every person the opportunity to discover the beauty, usefulness and the joy of handicrafts.
SHR also run a national handcraft school

Despite Smith being our most common surname (think also of Potter, Turner, Cartwight, Miller, Thatcher) and many of our cities having grown from craft industries; Sheffield cutlery, Northampton shoes, Wallsall Sadlery, Luton Hats, High Wycombe chairs, Stoke pottery, traditional crafts are still not recognised as being part of our culture or our heritage. They should be, they should be promoted and supported, Sheffield not recognising cutlery as part of it's heritage is like Stratford not recognising Shakespeare.

The Heritage Crafts Association are campaigning to get this situation changed. We hope to influence the new government and make sure that as funding cuts are underway and NDPB's get amalgamated that a government organisation gets traditional crafts included within it's remit.

There is so much that could be done, like the countries above we could have a national craft school to pass skills on. We could have a high profile traditional craft shop in London. We could recognise our best craftspeople as "National Living Treasures" and promote them as part of our tourism offer. Imagine an equivalent to "Crafts" magazine just dealing with traditional crafts. We could have an annual national show of the best traditional crafts in a prestigous venue, the equivalent of "Collect". We could teach traditional crafts to children as a way of letting them understand who they are and where they are from. Sheffield children making spoons and Stoke children making a bowl and taking it home to eat their breakfast from.These are all ideas which are done and supported with government money in other countries and it is just the sort of support that all the other creative industries in the UK receive.

Instead we are cutting knitting in Shetland blacksmithing, thatching, wheelwrighting at Hereford Weaving in Dundee.

Let us make sure that we pass our skills on to the next generation with pride as they do in Sweden at Saterglantan.