Saturday, 28 November 2009

last sievemaker in the Guardian

Jon Henley's article on Mike Turnock the last sievemaker is in the guardian today and online here.

As always it is a really nicely written article and there will be a slide show showing all the processes of making a sieve on Tuesday next week, I'll add a link when it is up. The photo of Mike is not very flattering though.

Jon and I visited Mike just short of a year after my first visit, see this blog post for lots of pictures of Mike's workshop.

That visit was the very first step towards creating the Heritage Crafts Association and it is difficult to believe how far we have come in a year. When we visited last year it looked certain that Mike would be the last sievemaker, through the HCAs work his business has had a lot of publicity both locally and nationally including being discussed in the House of Commons. The good news is that he now has a few folk interested in taking the business on when he retires and has even had a potential trainee up to make a sieve. Perhaps this could be the first craft that HCA has helped save from the brink of extinction.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

traditional crafts in the Guardian

Guardian readers might have been enjoying Jon Henley's series of articles on traditional craftsmen in the Saturday edition. I spent yesterday with Jon first at the workshop of Mike Turnock the last sievemaker and then in the afternoon at my own workshop. The feature on Mike will be in this Saturday's edition and the one on me in 2 weeks time. Here is Mike posing for the photographer with a stack of sieves. I was suffering serious camera envy as Chris the photographer had not one but 2 canon 5ds with some beautiful lenses, I suspect the photos will be great.

As for me I have just decided to upgrade my 6 year old 300d camera to a second hand 40d. Camera equipment does not make good photos though, and to be fair I don't aspire to do anything other than snap and show craftspeoples work in the best light I can. This morning just before eating my breakfast I noticed how beautiful the morning sunlight was and took a quick snap of my breakfast. Bowl by me with home made paint and natural pigment, spoon by Wille Sundqvist, kuksa by me and Nicola. Home made meusli.

On Monday I spent the morning in the workshop and the afternoon in Sheffield contributing to a working group looking at Sheffield's new culture strategy. The current strategy barely mentions either steelmaking or cutlery yet these are the reasons Sheffield is where it is, the things that make it a name known around the world and both are deeply ingrained in the history of mast Sheffield families. There is a strong feeling that the future lies in new technology and moving away from these old industries almost as if folk are embarrassed about the associations, it feels similar to the way in the 60's ideas about redevelopment meant buldozing the past and rebuilding new forward looking concrete buildings. Now we try to redevelop more sympathetically taking the best of the past and building on it for the future.

I was talking with Jon Henley about the future of traditional crafts and the danger of them being seen and presented as some rustic hangover from a mythical bygone age with no relevance to today or the future. We decided the best model was the way traditional food production has been transformed over the last 15 years. No one today views a small scale smoke house or specialist butcher or farmhouse cheesemaker as being something that has no relevance today when we have mass production of cheap food and supermarkets. I believe that traditional crafts can have a similar future as viable businesses and that publicity for those that are succeeding is a good way to promote it.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

traditional crafts at the V&A

I am sure folk who have been following the progress of the Heritage Crafts Association will be delighted to know we have been offered use of the V&A for our press launch and forum in March. Mark Jones director of the V&A is as concerned about the loss of hand skills as we are. On a personal level his daughter wishes to train as a blacksmith. We hope to take a range of crafts and working craftspeople to show off to journalists and politicians to highlight the wonderful skills we have in the UK and the fact that many of them may not be passed on to the next generation.

There really could be no better venue in the UK to put traditional crafts in the limelight.

More details to follow, just excited and wanted to share.

Now back to work planning carving course dates for next year which are overdue, we should be sorted tonight though and on the website early next week.

Monday, 16 November 2009

traditional crafts on Radio 4 Farming Today

Rural crafts are being featured this week on Radio Four's Farming Today Program and for those who are not up at 6am to listen you can listen online using BBC iplayer
Just click the link then drag the slider to 9.25 when the feature starts.

We hear quite a lot of press on good stories in the traditional crafts at the moment though most are in conservation or building crafts. The Heritage Lottery Fund has put nearly £10 million into these crafts over the last 5 years through their bursary scheme.

HLF is a reactive rather than proactive funder and in part it has been the fault of the smaller traditional crafts themselves not having an organised voice to campaign for support that has led to them being left out. We look forward seeing support and promotion for the basketmakers, potters, weavers and urban crafts such as Sheffield cutlery in the future.

Thanks to my blog Reader and HCA supporter Julian for pointing this one out to me.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

crafts in the Telegraph

We get second hand copies of the Saturday Telegraph from my mother in law, the weekend section sometimes has nice craft stories. From yesterdays paper I spotted a separate magazine called "Telegraph Luxury" and on the cover it announced "The exquisite craft of the cobbler, the jeweler and the trunk maker." That sounded like a fine article to me, no less than 8 pages with full colour pictures.

How disappointed I was then to read not about craftspeople but about design and marketing businesses. The first was the best because at least the marketing was based on craftsmanship. Hermes riding boots from £1290 a pair "the jumping boot is made neither in-house nor even in France, but instead by an artisan bootmaker in the North of Italy near Venice." There are some lovely pics of him I would rather have had an article about him, or better still an article about an English shoemaker.

The other articles were even further removed from telling us about exquisite craftspeople. Another attempt to relaunch the Faberge name as a very high class jewelry brand and Luis Vuitton bags. "The principles of the trunk-making craft, of which Luis Vuitton was a pioneer, are the same today as they were 150 years ago." This may be true for the hyper expensive Asnieres workshop that produces just 550 bespoke orders a year though we learn little about the process, the people, or how things are made in the 15 Vuitton factories.

Flicking through the Telegraph magazine I came across a section called the new-to-do list. "you don't have to climb a mountain to realise your potential-just doing something new can make a difference."

Down below I spotted "learn basketry" how wonderful what a good plug for the basketmakers association....but "According to fashionable sources, contemporary basket weaving is the craft du jour. Fans of this ancient eco-art claim it's every bit as therapeutic as knitting. Learn now and by Christmas you could be magicking up bags, or-for the truly adventurous-boats."

I have no idea what that is about.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Monty Don Mastercrafts on the BBC

Back in February the Heritage Crafts Association were contacted about a new BBC TV series on traditional crafts. Mastercrafts fronted by Monty Don is now on its way and details are on the BBC website here

Here is a trailer

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

traditional crafts and government policy

Yesterday I spent in London talking to as many people as possible trying to pass on the message that traditional crafts in Britain need a little help.

At present they fall outside the remit of all government departments and all public agencies. This means no funding and no support.

The Landscape has Natural England as lead body.
The Built Heritage is supported by English Heritage.
Then there is the Museums, Libraries and Archives council.

We need a strategic lead body with equal standing for living heritage.

This was one of the key points I was making in London yesterday.

First stop was the Guardian offices to meet Jon Henley, a lovely chap and great supporter of traditional crafts. He has been doing a great series of articles on traditional craftspeople which you can see online here.

Then it was down to Westminster, this is Chris Rowley one of the Heritage Crafts Association committee, an ex TV executive who set up the Hand Engravers Association

I always take a range of craftwork with me to discuss. Politicians must spend their lives in boring meetings with folk who want them to do something they don't have the money for, handling a bunch of nice craft objects and seeing pictures of the people that made them seems to bring the whole issue to life. Here are some of our objects in the House of Lords.

First meeting was with Baroness Sharp and Baroness Garden for the Lib Dems, both very enthusiastic although realistic about how much they could help. Then it was over the road to Portcullis House (left background) to meet Ed Vaizey shadow arts minister. We hope this will be the start of a dialogue and he was keen for us to offer a written paper on how we think heritage policy could be changed to help support these crafts.

A dash across town took us to the Art Workers Guild a group with common interests and a wonderful history. Past members of the guild have included CR Ashbee, Edward Johnson and William Morris. They are very supportive of the work the Heritage Crafts Association is doing and we hope to work on colaborative projects in the future. Their hall has a most wonderful collection of rush seated ladderback chairs by various makers dating back to Philip Clissett who taught Gimson.

Last stop of the day was back to the Lords to meet Lord Tony Young a frined of Chris Rowley's and until recently minister for aprentices. He was very entheusiastic about our craft stories and particularly about potantial employment given a little government encouragement. He was taken with a small pen knife made by Trevor Abblett of Sheffield and since it was the last visit of the day and I have more at home we gave him the knife, he was delighted. This photo is in Westminster Hall a most magnificent building with an astonishing 14th century hammer beam roof.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

off to London again

On the train to London again tomorrow for a meeting with Dr Jo Reilly, Head of Participation and Learning at the Heritage Lottery Fund. We are hoping she may be able to help us with some funding for the Heritage Crafts Association. Saturday is HCA committee meeting day so I stay in London, back home for Sunday then down for more meetings on Monday this time amongst others with Ed Vaizey shadow minister for culture. Jeremy Hunt (blog) gave a very encouraging speech last week link outlining the conservatives position on heritage and we are hoping that they will consider including policies for the safeguarding of the craft skills that are our living heritage too.

I shall also be meeting Jon Henley at the Guardian, he has been writing a nice series of articles on traditional craft here.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

traditional crafts on the web and around the world

Since I became aware of the web every few months or so I scan around to see what happens if you look for traditional craft on the web. I have always been hugely impressed and inspired by the things I see going on in other countries and rather saddened by the lack of information on British traditional crafts. The situation is improving slightly though. When I first googled "traditional crafts" most of the sites that came up on the first page were about Japanese crafts, mostly government funded sites written in English, I wonder if one day we will have a traditional craft site funded by our government written in Japanese.

Today we get a number of links to British work on the fist page, four of which are a direct result of the Heritage Craft Association's work.

Taking a look around the world Japan is still the centre for the promotion of traditional craft. Here is a map of some traditional crafts.

And here is a brief section explaining the ethos of government support for traditional crafts in Japan.

"The crafts represented in this site are the 198 craft industries recognized by the The Association for the Promotion of Traditional Craft Industries, an organization affiliated with the government Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

METI's efforts to promote traditional Japanese crafts is done in the hope that the Japanese people as well as the people of the world do not forget the quality of handwork and keep a place in their hearts for the unassuming and innocent products of direct human effort as well as the products of contemporary technology. Handmade objects are not a thing of the past, however economic factors may increase their market price, but are our contact with something basic and profoundly precious. In recognition of this, and to help protect the traditions, the nonprofit Association for the Promotion of Traditional Craft Industries was established in 1974. The Japanese Cultural Agency also has an independent program of promoting crafts that complements the work of the Association."

Sweden puts a huge amount of effort into preserving and promoting traditional crafts. This is their National folkcraft school, a wonderful inspiring place, I have taught courses there a few times and would highly recommend a visit.

Their links page has links to the Swedish Handcrafts Association and the 50 or more "handcraft consultants" these are located in each region and responsible for promoting handcraft by supporting makers, holding exhibitions and events, encouraging teaching in schools and also helping foreign craftspeople who are interested in Swedish craft.

This is the French organisation for recognising exceptional skill in traditional craft.

Living National Treasure scheme in Korea

Lacemaking in Russia

Heritage crafts in Norway


And North House Folk School an inspiring and quite new initiative in the US.

Last 2 links The UNESCO 2003 convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage this page is the section relating to craft.
This ahs been signed up to by 116 countries but not the UK.

And for anyone new to my blog the Heritage Crafts Association, our new organisation promoting traditional crafts in the UK.

I am always interested to know of other initiatives that we can learn from so please if you know of others that are not linked to here post a comment with a link.