Monday, 31 January 2011

Made in London

This is a project by film maker turned photographer Tim Clements, the photos are copyright but Tim is a fan of HCA and has kindly let us share them with you. 

This is Tim's explanation of the project
"I am making a series of 50 photographs celebrating independent Trades and Crafts People who make a living from their trade in London. As you can see in the Gallery, it is on going. I am photographing both the well known and the unknown. All involved have a passion for what they do and are very proud to make a living from what they do. But the fact they are all independent and often one-man-band businesses makes them vulnerable." Much  more on his website.

The Tailor: Timothy Everest is holding a pair of shears made by Ernest Wright of Sheffield, held in front of a dummy made by Kennett & Lindsell of Essex. He is wearing a suit of Porter & Harding wool, cut by Annika Caswell, who you can see in the portrait below. Apprenticed to the legendary Tommy Nutter (tailor to The Beatles) Timothy prides himself on the quirky but traditional craft of his work that Tommy inspired. While the suit Timothy Everest’s customers leave with can only have come from his shop, the customer also leaves with the memory of a unique customer experience, for Everest is at the forefront of the be-spoke movement. The quality of a transaction is not something we give much thought to now. We seem resigned to elbow our way through crowds at large stores, accept indifferent service with an indifferent shrug, and we expect the sales person to know absolutely nothing about the product they are selling. Sometimes its only when we experience the opposite of this kind of transaction that we realise how negatively bad service actually affects us.

The shoe last maker, recent photo text to follow.

 The Shoe Maker: After seeing the film Hans Christian Andersen as a young boy, Sebastian Tarek fell in love with the idea of shoemaking. Years later after completing his formal training at Cordwainers Technical College, he went home to see his family and celebrate. On hearing Sebastian’s news his Polish grandmother told him: “Your great grandfather would have been so proud”. Why my great grandfather? he thought. To Sebastian’s complete astonishment, she told him that his great grandfather had made shoes for the Czar of Russia and was the last in line of eighteen generations of shoemakers. No one had ever mentioned it. Ten years on as a be-spoke shoemaker, he is seeing a decline in his craft. Be-spoke shoes are beyond most of our pockets now, though they are increasingly popular among the lucky few who can afford them. This demand, in combination with ready to wear handmade shoes in shops, which allows shoemakers to freelance their skills, means there’s just enough work for Sebastian to pursue his dream.

The Violin Maker: John Dilworth has made violins for 34 years and is a Master Luthier, one of a handful in London. John was trained at Newark School of Violin Making and apprenticed at the Beare’s violin makers where he learnt the art of restoration. He considers the vocational education he experienced more useful than anything he could have learnt at University and in return, John is proud to say he has trained with great success a few of apprentices of his own. Restoration is a crucial part of John’s work, even when making a new instrument. “For most violinists, the instrument they would most covet would be an 18th century Italian, and most makers since then have been doing their best to rediscover the methods that made them”. John is a master maker of “new old” violins, and has even made his own unique varnish to emulate the look and the sound, yes the sound, of classic violins. “The important point is that the varnish should not mute the instrument in any way” he says. It really is down to millimeters.
The Saw Doctor: Bill is checking the set of the teeth on a third generation steel logging saw, handed down father to son. To his customer this saw is more than just a saw. It is not just something bought on a frustrating, forgettable day from B&Q. It is a memory of a father and a grandfather. A memory of large, grease etched hands, the sound of a laugh, the tune of a whistle. A direct, tangible link to the past. And taking the saw to Bill and having a chat is another moment added to the provenance of this saw. This saw is also “green”. The teeth on a mass production saw are specially hardened so, ironically, they last longer, but once they are blunt they can not be sharpened and the saw has to be thrown away. So it can not last as long as this old saw, whilst someone is here to sharpen it. Bill was taught by his father Peter in his workshop in Earlsfield and has been a Saw Doctor there for 30 years. Nobody is set to take his place

Tim says

"Independent crafts and trades people are a great barometer for both the cultural and economic health of a place and an excellent measure of its spirit. This project intends to remind us of the importance of independent trades and craft people today and in the future "

Tim is still looking for more London based craft businesses to photograph so if you know any suitable folk that could use a little publicity let Tim know, either via his website or contact HCA and we'll pass details on.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Farnham Pottery under threat

In the UK our heritage of historic buildings is recognised, protected and promoted but the living heritage associated with those buildings is not, only the dead fabric of the buildings as this case will show.

Pottery has been made at Farnham from Roman times and the 16th century saw large scale production for the London market. The current pottery was built in 1872 by Absalom Harris and five generations of the Harris family ran the pottery business until production finally ceased in 2000.
The Pottery operated its own clay pits, had four working kilns and employed up to 30 men. The Queen Mother and Gertrude Jekyll were customers.

The pottery was purchased in 1998 by the Farnham Building Preservation Trust, it is grade II listed and considerable sums of public money have been spent on preserving the fabric of the buildings. So what happens next? The buildings preservation trust and English Heritage have fulfilled their remits of protecting the fabric of the building and are now considering selling the buildings on which could mean development as retail premises or whatever the highest bidder chose to do.

There is a second Trust involved with the site, the Farnham Pottery Trust  They would like to see the pottery functioning as a working pottery with an educational function.  Currently part of the pottery site is used for adult education in ceramics (not the traditional products of the site) whilst other parts are used as a retail outlet/farm shop.

There is clearly still demand for the architectural and horticultural work that the pottery used to produce. Mick Pinner worked at the pottery untill it closed in 2000 and now makes similar work at the nearby West Meon Pottery. specialising in restorative architectural ceramics using traditional methods.  One of his main issues is lack of available skilled workers to assist him.  He is also passionate about the history of Farnham Pottery and ensuring it's sustainable future in the local economy.

If the Farnham Pottery Trust are successful in keeping a lease on the site their plans for the future include;
  • Mick developing a short course which focuses on ceramics produced by Farnham Pottery which are unique to production there to include finials, decorative pieces, chimney pots etc. 
  •  Original press mouldings are retained at the pottery. These can be reproduced and a course designed around using the moulds.  A skill which in the next few decades will surely disappear from our heritage for good.
  •  Retail outlet - Promotion of work at West Meon Pottery, reproduction pieces from Farnham Pottery, souvenir pieces relating to pottery (using original sprig moulds?)
  •  Skills based training.  Trying to establish skills based training which has been slowly removed from current curriculum.  Provide a specialist centre for skills based ceramic learning to preserve the art of making. 
  • Exhibition/Display/Demo space - An exhibition, tour of locality and demonstrations of heritage production techniques."

It seems a shame that the living cultural heritage of the pottery was not recognised in 2000, only the value of the buildings fabric. We see this again and again see Portland Works, Standard Quay, JW Evans and to see the benefit of valuing cultural heritage see Honister slate mine.

It seems ironic that Farnham Pottery is in in the consituency of Jermy Hunt the culture secretary.

Lets finish with some lovely old pics of the pottery from the 1960s.

I really like this method of using a stick poked into a pile of clay to show where the rim of the pot will come to, a very simple but fast way of achieving consistency. I used to watch Roly Curtis at the very similar Littlethorp Potteries near Ripon doing just the same.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Balvenie Masters of Craft awards

The Balvenie has launched The Balvenie Masters of Craft awards, celebrating handcrafted goods from across the country.

The awards scheme aims to shine a light on the talent in the field of handcrafts - working with metal, leather, wood, stone, food and drink, glass and ceramics and textiles. It is not a history project - youthful exuberance is helping to drive these skills on and making them relevant in the 21st century and commercially viable.

Joining HCA Chair Robin Wood on the judging panel is Kevin McCloud, the presenter of Channel 4’s Grand Designs. Kevin has employed craftsmen in his design business, and witnessed their skill on the set of Grand Designs. It is, he says, “an enormous privilege” to watch a craftsman at work. But he is concerned for the future. “We have lost touch with the value of things,” he says. “We don’t understand the skills required to make things anymore.”

Kevin feels it is time to honour our craftsmen. “When we talk about value these days we talk about money don’t we? Rather than time and gifts, love and commitment. So I think the idea of being able to champion craftsmanship, to thank craftsmen, promote them, to show off whatever disciplines there are – leather, metal, wood – is hugely important.”

Saturday, 22 January 2011

definitions of traditional crafts

HCA committee today amongst other things were discussing whether it is good to try to pin down precise definitions of what traditional crafts are. It is an ongoing and interesting discussion and Tanya Harrod just contributed this gem from 1946

'Popular and traditional art, in the sense here intended, is hard to define
though easy enough to recognise when seen. It is the art which ordinary
people have, from time immemorial, introduced into their everyday lives,
sometimes making it themselves, at others imposing their own tastes on the
products of the craftsman or the machine, in contrast to the more
sophisticated art made by specialists for wealthy patrons'.

From the introduction to their book English Popular and Traditional
Art(Collins, 1946 Britain in Pictures series) Enid Marx and Margaret Lambert

It is a lovely book that takes in tinsel theatre sheets, harvest jugs,
ships' figure heads, fairground horses, inn signs, barge decorations,
pearlie kings and queens, quilts, weather vanes, toys, butter pats etc etc.
The popular art craze of the 1930s had a slightly socialist tinge - art for
the people and by the people.


I just ordered a copy from AbeBooks.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

meet Sally Dodson HCA administrator

We are very pleased to introduce Sally Dodson our new Heritage Crafts Association administrator.

The post is funded for 2 years by a generous grant from the Headley Trust and we had 254 applicants for the position.

Sally did a foundation year at Central St Martins followed by a BA in Silversmithing and Jewellery at London Guildhall. 7 years working at the Crafts Council included managing the National Register of Makers database and for the last 3 years she has worked for the Goldsmiths Company as Promotion Administrator including coordination of their annual Goldsmiths fair.

In Sally's application she said "I am looking for a new challenge within the craft sector. I am very excited by the possibility of working for such a new, fledgling organisation where I hope I could really put my skills, experience and energy to use to make a difference."

When not working Sally is an active member of the Southside Fencing club and recently raised £5,000 for MacMillan Cancer Support by completing the Kilimanjaro Hiking Challenge.

We are thrilled to have Sally joining our team of voluntary trustees, it is indeed a very exciting time and we feel together we really are going to make a very big difference in the years to come.

Monday, 17 January 2011

letterpress film

A short film about a craft process filmed in the style of a pop video with nice lenses, blurred fades and rock and roll. Yeh baby!

Let's Press from Strawberry Militia on Vimeo.

Savile Row tailoring, a great speaker for the V&A crafts conference

We have now booked our final speaker for the Heritage Crafts Association spring conference and I am delighted to have Mark Henderson chair of the Savile Row Bespoke association giving the opening speech.

Savile Row tailoring is renowned the world over as something of quality and heritage along with a certain restrained and timeless style, way out of the budget of most but never seen as ostentatious consumerism just good taste. Mark was for twelve years, until March 2009, Chief Executive and is currently deputy chairman of Gieves & Hawkes, based at No 1 Savile Row

Mark has a long experience of marketing luxury products but also cares passionately about craftsmanship and is currently a mentor for the crafted scheme. As chair of the Savile Row Bespoke association he has campaigned tirelessly to preserve the quality end of the business particularly bringing new apprentices in to the row to learn the traditional skills.

I have not heard Mark speak so am particularly looking forward to hearing what he has to say on the day. To hear Mark along with Alex Langlands from Victorian Farm, Sophie Hussain from Mastercrafts, Stewart Linford furniture maker, Gail McGarva boatbuilder, Tanya Harrod the leading crafts historian and commentator and meet many of the movers and shakers of the world of craftsmanship book your place at the V&A craft conference here.

Mark does a short piece in this entertaining Australian News item about the Prince of Wales wool campaign where they turfed over Savile Row and brought sheep to town.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Standard Quay Faversham

Great article yesterday by Jon Henley in the Guardian

Of a winter's morning, the attractions of Standard Quay are not immediately apparent. A chill north-easterly wind slices in across the marshes from the Swale and, beyond, the open sea. The tide is out, and Faversham Creek is mostly mud. The tarred and weatherboarded sheds look deserted. The old wooden boats lying alongside are de-rigged, swaddled in tarpaulin, done sailing 'til spring.
Appearances, though, are deceptive. Down at the end of the quay, in a floating dry dock, is the Cambria, a 92ft Thames sailing barge, the last British-registered vessel to carry a commercial cargo solely under sail. Deep in her bowels is Tim Goldsack, a traditional master shipwright. The barge, built in 1906, is being completely restored at a cost of more than £1.4m, partly funded by a big grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project is employing a good half-dozen skilled shipwrights over three years. "At first glance," says Goldsack, "the Quay may not seem an important place. But believe me, it is."
But Standard Quay is threatened: the landlord, a developer, has not renewed the leases of the small company that operates it nor of the individual craftsmen who work there. All expire next summer. Amid mounting uncertainty, many here fear that the quay – one of only two in the country with the facilities, and skills, to look after historic wooden boats – will not now survive as a working yard.
The last Thames sailing barge ever built, the Lady of the Lea, is moored and maintained here, as are the Lady Daphne and the Greta, which first sailed in the 1890s and was one of the Dunkirk Little Ships: three of the 40-odd Thames sailing barges still in regular sea-going use today, themselves all that are left of more than 2,000 that plied their trade at the turn of the last century.
In those days, the long, shallow, flat-bottomed hulls of these classic working boats, topped with their vast expanses of rust-red sail and laden with cargoes ranging from bricks to hay, mud to munitions, grain, garbage and coal, were a common sight from the remotest creek of the Thames estuary right up and round to Britain's north-eastern ports, along the south coast and even across the channel.
These days, the remaining few are mostly owned by syndicates and private individuals with deep pockets (once restored, a small Thames barge costs maybe £20,000 a year to run and maintain; a larger one perhaps twice that), or by charitable and educational trusts – like the Cambria – and small commercial charter companies which offer days and weekends on the water.
"They're extraordinary craft," says Brian Pain, who has owned Lady of the Lea since 1975. "Working boats, perfectly adapted to their environment, a feature of this coastline since the 1800s. Once you've seen them, sailed in them, you can't help but fall in love. And once you've started work on one, of course, that's it."
Twenty-five Thames barges, and a wide array of other traditional craft including oyster smacks and cutters, were built at Standard Quay in its heyday. It is, by its nature, an unadorned, rough-hewn, scruffy sort of place; a working boatyard, not a museum (though it gets plenty of visitors). Boatbuilding, especially this kind, entails creating a fair degree of disorder. It isn't a luxury Thames marina like St Katharine Dock in London.
But it is beautiful, and that beauty derives not just from the wide north Kent skies, the sweep of the marshes, the winding creek and the weathered simplicity of its buildings, but also from the fact that Standard Quay today is still doing pretty much exactly what it was built to do, 150 years ago.
Just up from the Cambria is the Morayshire, a 1952 Scottish purse seine fishing boat, being brought back from the dead by shipwright Simon Grillet and a brace of apprentices from a pioneering not-for-profit scheme that was set up here last year to train young people in the many (and fast-disappearing) skills of traditional boatbuilding: joinery, metal-working, pattern-making, appropriate engineering, fastenings, rigging, sailing. Knowing your wood, from tree to sea.
"There are other places to learn," says Grillet, "but you have to pay – a lot. This is on the job, for local people, in a local trade, one the north Kent coast was famous for. Sites like this are precious. The skills are disappearing, and you simply can't take bigger wooden boats to most boatyards."
The clapboard buildings, grade II-listed, weatherproof but with few creature comforts, are places of hard work too; one houses the workshops of Colin Frake, one of only two craftsmen in the country making blocks and pulleys and deck fittings for traditional boats (he did most of the gear for the Cutty Sark a few years back, and has just quoted to supply HMS Victory).
"This could," says Frake, 65, "be the home of the Thames sailing barge – moorings, preservation, rebuilding, maintenance." Pain, who runs the company that operates the Quay, adds: "It's a vibrant concern as it is; everyone here's busy. The demand is definitely there: the dry docks have been in solid use since they came here, and they're booked up two years ahead. Twenty people work here at the moment, but it could easily be 50 or 60 – one of the town's biggest employers."
Pain's not-for-profit vision, for which he had been promised the chance of funding (and pledges to help secure more) from the EU and British Waterways, as well as a major grant from the Sainsbury Foundation to finance the apprenticeship scheme, was to turn Standard Quay into the south coast's centre for traditional wooden boat maintenance and restoration.
"A not-for-profit company would have brought some quite serious money in, there's no doubt," he says. "It's a great scheme. It provides employment, it's a fantastic educational facility, it would attract tourists and give Faversham something truly unique, rooted in its history."
Pain's plans are modest: three working drydocks for longer-term work; slipways and blocks to allow barges to be floated out of the water at high tide for shorter maintenance and refits; an open Kentish barn to serve as a sawmill; a workshop for dinghies and other small wooden craft; a sail loft; Frake's workshop; a small museum and visitors centre complete with viewing gallery. Almost everything, he notes, "is here already".
It looks unlikely, though, that they will ever be realised. The local council, having spent enough public money on consultants' reports to pretty much secure Standard Quay as a working yard, seems unwilling to contemplate anything as radical as compulsory purchase. And the landlord, Michael White, shows no intention of renewing the lease held by Pain's company, Standard Quay (Faversham) Ltd. Indeed, he successfully brought a court case last year over non-compliance with the existing lease, demanding major improvements to the quayside and buildings and restricting the shipwrights to a six-foot strip of quayside.
White insists he wants to keep barges at Standard Quay, but aims mainly to develop it as a "tourist gem" complete with restaurant, wine bar, tearoom, antiques centre and craft exhibitions. He says the quay has been run "in a very poor manner . . . as a hobby to subsidise the mooring and care of the directors' personal vessels", and that the buildings and wharf have been "allowed to fall into disrepair". Pain argues he has put a lot of his own money into Standard Quay, which is in far better condition now than when the lease was signed.
At the root of the dispute, as so often, lie two radically different conceptions of what this historic site should be: a difference emblematic, perhaps, of our current disregard for the heritage crafts that make up such an important part of this country's cultural heritage. We preserve buildings; we do nothing, in general, for the hard-learned human skills that, down the centuries, helped make us what we are.
Pain, Frake and the barge community say Standard Quay is a proven success as a working shipyard. White's view is that the place is "stagnant", "going nowhere" and "losing money" – as well as being "very messy". A properly run "tourist attraction with barges", he says, will be viable, and he promises he aims to keep a degree of ship repair activity on the site and support the apprenticeship scheme.
Those who use Standard Quay believe that even if he means to keep that promise, White does not really know enough about shipyards to be able to do so: boatbuilding, they point out, is noisy and untidy and, basically, incompatible with antique shops and tearooms.
White wants barges at Standard Quay, they believe, as a picturesque backdrop to his other activities: the tourist draw. But they doubt barges will come to a sanitised yard, and they question who is going to come to a tearoom here on a bleak Monday afternoon in February? They suspect that what White is ultimately interested in is a bunch of luxury waterside apartments, although he strenuously denies this.
The continued uncertainty is slowly killing the yard: the wooden boat community is a small one, owners have to plan repairs and maintenance far in advance, and none of the craftsmen or shipwrights at the quay feel able to take on any new longer-term work. Frake has emptied his workshop and is looking for alternative premises; Grillet says the situation is "a disaster"; for Goldsack it's a "tragedy. I'll have to up sticks and go elsewhere – though I don't know where – if the infrastructure goes."
After 17 years at Standard Quay, Pain is disappointed, but refuses to give up hope. He's lobbying the local council. "The quay is at the heart of Faversham," he says, "and it's perfectly suited for its current use. I can't see how anyone can hope to make a significant commercial gain here other than through housing. And any alternative use will require major refurbishment and alteration; the unique spirit of the place will disappear. I love Standard Quay, I love these boats, and I don't want to see these skills disappear."

See more about Standard Quay with a nice film and more links on our Blog from November 

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Alex Langlands and traditional crafts

Alex Langlands is a patron of the Heritage Crafts Association and presenter of the successful BBC programs Victorian Farm and Edwardian Farm.

He is also one of the main speakers at the V&A crafts conference organised by HCA, see the full line up here.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Heritage is so forward looking.

Last November leaders of the worlds fashion industry met at the Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane. This annual conference looks forward to the next big thing in the industry. So what do you think the likes of Paul Smith, Karl Lagerfeld, Tommy Hilfiger, Patrizio di Marco,  CEO of Gucci, Angela Ahrendts, CEO, Burberry and the rest were there to discuss?

Entitled Heritage Luxury, the conference "explored how luxury brands are created, nurtured and maintained. It addressed the need to sustain founding principals or create a heritage, while adapting to consumers’ changing habits and connecting with them through traditional and digital channels." Does that sound backward looking?

If you wanted to sell this leather belt for £395 how would you brand it?

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Stewart Linford chairmaker

Stewart Linford is a bit of a legend in furniture making circles. He started making Windsor chairs in High Wycombe home of the English furniture trade 35 years ago when there were 40 other businesses employing over a thousand makers. Whilst that trade has declined drastically in the face of cheap imports Stewart has built a world wide reputation and a business employing 40. He does it through an emphasis on quality, craftsmanship and making the buying experience a pleasurable one for the customer. He is a simply a genius at marketing quality craftwork in the 21st century. An early picture.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Gail McGarva a remarkable boatbuilder

Gail McGarva will be speaking at the Heritage Crafts Association spring conference at the V&A in March and the next few blog posts will be profiling some of the excellent speakers you'll get a chance to hear if you are coming and to whet the appetite of those who are yet to book. I blogged about Gail's work with the Lyme Lerret before here
This is the moment her new Lyme Lerret was launched.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Trevor Austen rakemaker

This for me is a very sad video, my friend Trevor Austen rakemaker filmed after the onset of motor nurone disease. Sad too because this viable business died and the workshop was broken up when he could no longer work. Trevor finally passed away on Christmas day.

Here are a few more articles about Trevor's work.

Telegraph 2001

Museum of English Rural Life video

Trevor's work was also recorded using a  Local Heritage Initiative grant. How sad that there was no money available to help pass the skills on to someone as a going concern.

Save our skills NFU support traditional crafts

A nice start to the year, an article from the NFU countryside magazine click on the image for an image that is hopefully big enough to read.

what will 2011 bring for the traditional crafts?

2011 may look like being a year of austerity but for the traditional crafts it may prove to be the most exciting year for a long time. I believe this year will see an explosion of traditional crafts in the media and by the end of 2011 the profile and status of traditional craftspeople will be raised and their skills recognised.

In January 2009 I wrote about the need for a traditional crafts organisation which became the Heritage Crafts Association. Last year I predicted 2010 would be the year traditional crafts became recognised as part of our heritage and we finished with the Heritage minister stating exactly that.

This year I believe we need to redefine what "heritage" is. Heritage in the dictionary is defined as everything that is passed down from one generation to the next which we value including material objects and skills, knowledge and customs. This is not backward looking it is our inheritance and it is our duty to keep it alive and pass it on.

Unfortunately "Heritage" in the UK has had a very narrow meaning, on the DCMS website we find "The historic environment is the physical legacy of thousands of years of human activity in this country, in the form of buildings, monuments, sites and landscapes." but no mention of living heritage or cultural traditions. We need to change that situation so that everyone from government ministers and Whitehall advisers to newspaper editors and ordinary people in the street recognise that heritage means everything that we have inherited, all those things from our regional accent to folk songs, traditional craft skills to favourite recipes passed from one generation to the next. UNESCO recognise this as do 126 countries signed up to the 2003 convention on intangible cultural heritage.

Things are changing. For the first time we have a high profile conference for all the traditional crafts at the V&A, this will be an exciting event with many crafts represented and some fantastic inspirational speakers, tickets are limited so book soon to be sure of a place, be there and be a part of the change that is coming in the traditional crafts.

HCA have some great work in progress that will be in the press in the spring. 2 major surveys, the first surveying crafts of the metal trades of Sheffield, the second a major survey of all the councils of England finding out which are doing things to promote traditional crafts and have a named person responsible in the way they do for the arts or for the built heritage. Early results show this is going to be a very dramatic piece of research when we publish.

HCA continue our high level advocacy work. We have been promised a meeting with John Hayes the skills minister who recently called for a new arts and crafts movement and in February we have a meeting called by Lord Patrick Cormack of influential people from the world of heritage to discuss the position of traditional crafts.

We are involved in several very interesting media projects which will see traditional crafts in the limelight with opportunities starting in just a couple of weeks time though we can not give out details yet.

If you want to be involved and to support us in our work sign up as a friend, join the facebook group and book for the spring conference. Hope to see you there.