Tuesday, 30 November 2010

end of the line for historic boatbuilding in Faversham?

This is Standard Quay in Faversham
It remains a working quay and home to historic craft particularly Thames sailing barges. The fabric of main wetherboarded building is listed for it's historic value, the grazing marsh around is protected as a RAMSAR site but the crafts and trades which have centuries of unbroken history are not recognised in the same way as being part of the heritage of the area so they have to compete in hard financial terms. The owners of the buildings are likely to make more money if they could evict the craftsmen and convert the buildings to luxury homes. That looks likely to happen in 2011 and the council appear to be supporting development.

So what crafts go on here? Boatbuilding including a scheme with 4 apprentices learning traditional techniques and a working blockmaker (I would be interested to know how many of those are left in the UK) The quay is one of only two yards left specialising in the repair and maintenance of Thames barges and is in continuous demand. Here is blockmaker Colin Frake and a link to his website

This short film is a trailer made on low budget by people who care passionately about the key
The Quay (trailer) from Richard Fleury on Vimeo.

learn more about the film project here. http://www.thequayfilm.net/?page_id=116
Learn more about the quay or get involved in the campaign to save it here. http://standardquay.com/ 

A very similar campaign has been highly successful at  Portland Works in Sheffield, there too the building was protected but not the wide range of craft skills going on inside, the landlord saw it only as a potentially lucrative development.

Around the world other countries are signed up to the UNESCO convention on intangible cultural heritage which recognises that heritage is more than just bricks and mortar, that living history of practices that have gone on in a place for centuries that are equally important parts of our heritage.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Edwardian Farm episode 3

This blog by HCA supporter and guest blogger Nigel Townsend

It was interesting to see on Edwardian farm, episode three, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00w6lm6  how human and horse power was being replaced by the internal combustion engine.  Below are my highlights, but it is definitely worth watching the whole thing. A programme that covers ploughing, steam powered saw mills, forging using water power and includes the sight of a man carrying a bowl of freshly squeezed trout eggs through a wood to his home built hatchery can’t be bad.

By the beginning of the 20th Century, farms increasingly had to become profit making rather than just being self sufficient.  In addition cheaper imports from abroad meant that British farmers and land owners had to get one step ahead of the game to keep up with these new markets. Jobs had to be completed quicker and more efficiently, this meant taking advantage of new technology and mechanisation. A theme that runs through this episode of Edwardian Farm.

For centuries, ploughing  was done by a team of men and shire horses:

As Peter Ginn said, “[ploughing is] an art, a skill, a science, in a word a way of life.”  Ploughing was skilled work and when done properly, every furrow would be cleanly cut and  be like turning a page in a book.  It was a real contrast then to watch the Ivel tractor use brute power to relentlessly push through the soil. Gone was the skilled work of the ploughman, who used his brain and brawn to overcome inconsistencies in the land, instead it had been replaced by the noisy, heavy, internal combustion engine, which meant that twice as much work could be done in half the time.

In Edwardian times there were a million shire horses working in the UK, just fifty years later shire horses were nearly extinct in Britain.

This you tube clip looks a project which celebrates traditional farming methods:

Hedges are an important part of stock management and land enclosure. The use of hedges meant that stock could be confined to one area and rotated onto fresh pasture, enabling a constant source of feed throughout the year. A vital part of ensuring that your hedges remained effective barriers to wandering sheep, was hedge laying the best source of info is the National Hedge Laying Society

In order to do the hedge laying HCA patron Alex Langlands required a bill hook and headed to Finches Forge http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-finchfoundry a national trust property in Devon. Here Alex watched Simon Summers work a tilt hammer to forge a traditional Devon billhook. Billhook patterns were often shaped differently in different parts of the country and there are around eleven main bill hook patterns of which in turn there are many variations . 

Forging using water power was common place in the 18th and 19th century – and was still in use during the first half of the 20th century This film (filmed in colour in 1941), shows Clay Wheel forge in Sheffield :
  you can see just how powerful the large tilt hammer was, and while I didn’t count, it certainly looks like the hammer falls at least at the rate of 240 beats per minute!

If you are in Northern Ireland you can visit Paterson’s Spade Mill, now a national trust property http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-pattersonsspademill  and watch red hoot steel be turned into spades by the power of water, in fact Robin visited Patterson’s last year:  http://greenwood-carving.blogspot.com/2009/08/pattersons-spade-mill.html

So what were your favourite bits? I'm always keen to see  films of traditional crafts being done well, so if you know of any post here or add a link to our facebook page

Thursday, 25 November 2010

HCA has a new administrator

The Heritage Crafts Association has a new administrator. We were overwhelmed with the number (241) and quality of applicants. We interviewed five excellent candidates and appointed Sally Dodson to start in mid January. Originally trained as a silversmith Sally worked at the Crafts Council running and improving their database of makers and has since been involved in promotion and events management at the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. We are thrilled to have such a talented and committed new member joining the HCA team and very much appreciate the grant from the Headley Trust that made it possible.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Crafts are valuable parts of our our Heritage

Meet John Penrose MP for Weston-super-Mare and minister for Heritage and Tourism.

Following our meeting last week John Penrose has sent us the following message of support.

“ The Heritage Crafts Association has brought together a fine range of different living crafts which are valuable parts of our heritage. The Association’s commitment to supporting small businesses all over the country producing useful, functional and decorative objects in traditional ways is truly impressive. I hope the increased public interest in these hands-on crafts will lead to many more people exploring and deploying these skills so that they are not lost to future generations. The fact that the BBC has given 12 hours of prime time tv to “The Edwardian Farm” is a measure of the public’s enthusiasm. “ 

This may seem like a simple little statement but it means so much to those of us who work in the traditional crafts to finally gain some degree of recognition. My first blog of 2010 was titled "2010 year for traditional crafts to be recognised as part of our heritage"  Once we are recognised as being important we can begin to work on addressing some of the issues the sector faces but for many simply having recognition for the years of hard work mastering difficult skills is enough.

Just to compare how big a step this is have a look back at a few blog posts showing attitudes to traditional crafts from just last year.

This was the adjournment debate we initiated last year. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2009-06-25c.1036.0

and a blog post from Jan 2009, it seems incredible that we have come so far so quickly. http://greenwood-carving.blogspot.com/2009/01/campaign-for-traditional-crafts.html

special Christmas present?

Do you know anyone that sews or does embroidery and apreciates lovely handmade things?
Then how about these for a gorgeous Christmas present.

Hand made in Sheffield gold plated and they work perfectly. They come in a leather sheath and presentation box delivered to your door for just £20 which I think is a bit of a bargain but then you are buying them direct from the makers. Ernest Wright of Sheffield.
Here is Cliff setting a pair of  tailors shears.

 And demonstrating setting the embroidery scissors at the V&A at the HCA launch event last year.

The gold plated ones suit small hands for larger hands like mine the slightly bigger "antique" finish polished steel ones work best.

Here are their contact details, they are nice folk and it's easy to order by phoning and posting a check or you can use the website. I suspect if you want to order multiple pairs for more gifts there would be saved post costs. They do great tailors shears and kitchen scissors too.

Tel :  0114 273 9977 (with answering facility, should we ever not be in the office. Please remember we are a small company.)

Email: enquiries@ernestwright.co.uk
Website: www.ernestwright.co.uk

Monday, 22 November 2010

more craft videos

This time signwriting canal boat style

and on a nice old Morris van

And Saville row tailors trying to protect their name.


and last one spinning and dyeing in Peru

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Ai Weiwei sunflower seeds and amazing pottery skills

Some videos today, first potters in Pakistan. The skill, dexterity and effortless speed of production is impressive. At 7.40 he throws a pot in 5 seconds, that is mind boggling.

and another from India, I don't know that much about throwing pots but I imagine throwing very tall thin forms like this is not so easy and they are incredibly consistent.

Now Ai Weiwei and his sunflower seeds. I watched this film last week and then went to see the seeds on display at Tate modern. It's a real shame you can't walk on them as the artist intended but I was most impressed by the film and the meaning behind the making. Having done a bit of web searching about his other work and political meaning I think Ai Weiwei is rapidly becoming one of my favourite artists. The film starts slow and is 15 minutes long but it really is worth it and for folk who are more into craft than art, don't worry there is plenty of craft.

This is what it should have been like, and was on opening day/

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

UNESCO world heritage list recognises Peruvian scissor dancers but not Sheffield scissor makers

This week UK news is reporting the UNESCO world heritage list. Radio 4 Today program this morning and
Telegraph 1
Telegraph 2
Surprisingly non of these pointed out that there are no UK examples of living heritage on the list. This one is better.
One humorous one from Scotland
The world heritage list recognises important parts of our cultural heritage that are at risk. The world heritage sites such as Stonehenge are well known, but there is increasing recognition around the world for living heritage. So we have the Peruvian scissor dance and Chinese wooden junk (boat) building, but we don't have examples of UK living heritage such as bonfire night or the Sheffield cutlery crafts. So whilst the scissor dancers achieve world heritage status
 the scissor makers are completely off the radar.

John Penrose Heritage Minister

Yesterday it was off to Westminster to meet John Penrose the minister for Heritage.

Ministerial diaries are busy and it is not easy to get a meeting at this level and when you do you rarely know how long you will get beforehand, it can be anything from 20 minutes to rarely as much as an hour. When we arrived the minister was deeply engrossed in telephone conversation with Simon Thurley of English Heritage and we could feel the clock ticking, thinking if this was eating into our 20 minutes it could end up being a long journey for a few minutes meeting.

It turned out to be a very positive meeting however. John Penrose was sharp, attentive and interested in what we had to say. We also had Annabel Houghton, DCMS heritage adviser and Jon Hoare deputy director DCMS and everyone was constructive and looking for ways to improve the situation for the crafts. One meeting will not solve any issues but the more people that become aware of the issues facing working crafts people the more likely we are to see positive. The heritage team are going to look at the issues we raised and suggest potential partner organisations we should talk to. We also hope for a statement from John Penrose saying that he recognises crafts skills as part of our heritage.

Yesterday Westminster, today back to the workshop.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

traditional crafts on BBC Edwardian Farm

The BBCs Victorian Farm program was described as a "surprise hit" and the team are back now for Edwardian farm. We will be updating information about the crafts and craftspeople shown in the program and of course we are delighted that Alex Langlands one of the shows presenters is a patron of the Heritage Crafts Association. Alex will be speaking about Edwardian Farm at the HCA spring conference at the V&A in March.

So in the first installment we visited stonemason Ian Piper on the edge of Dartmoor where he works the local granite.

Ian showed Peter Ginn how to split the granite using plugs and feathers.
It was a joy to see such simple technology work so well. in the hands of skilled craftsmen.

We also met the only operational Tamar barge the Shamrock. 
and met her skipper and restorer Peter Allington who says of sailing her "I hate to shatter people's illusions, but to be honest she's actually abysmal to sail. I can only describe it as being like trying to push a large and loaded shopping trolley across a slope"

Built in 1899 by Frederick Hawke of Plymouth for Tom Williams, SHAMROCK is a sailing ketch built for cargo work on the River Tamar and estuary in South West England. Her construction was of pitch pine and oak.

From 1899 to 1962 she worked as a barge plying her trade though with several changes of ownership. In the late 1930s she moved from Plymouth to the Truro River where she operated in several Cornish ports. In 1962 she was sold as a diving support vessel and later became a salvage vessel between 1966 and 1970 when she fell into disrepair.

The National Trust acquired her in 1974 and she was towed up the River Tamar to Cotehele Quay for restoration. This was a major joint project between the National Trust and the National Maritime Museum. SHAMROCK is the centrepiece of a display at Cotehele from where she makes occasional voyages on the River Tamar.

I am always interested in old wooden boats and how each region had their own design to suit the local conditions and uses. Boats like this are recognised as part of our national heritage but the skills to build them are not. I suspect it is many years since the last Tamar barge was built and probably no one remembers the subtleties of how it was done. In Japan and France there are schemes to make sure the skills to build new boats as well as repair old ones are passed on so every 20 years or so a new boat will be commissioned built from scratch allowing the older generation to pass the skills on.

On the domestic side of things Ruth made a rag rug and as a more industrial craft we had a really good demonstration of lime burning. This was a real eye opener for me as I know many derelict lime kilns locally and my workshop along with most of the old stone buildings around here is built using lime mortar made in exactly this way.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

split wood basketry

I was first introduced to split wood basketry by my friend Owen Jones who makes oak swills.

Also Lluis Grau in Spain.
I have some lovely split wood baskets made in Eastern Europe too but I think some of my favourite split wood baskets come from the various North American traditions. I want to share some films of three split wood basket makers. First Terry Gibson 4th generation split oak basketmaker, I like the way he makes the splints with a big spokeshave like tool and he is clearly very fast.

another slightly more basic split oak basket.

And this is the gem, thanks to Sean for this. A 1985 film showing ash splint basketry. I have really loved split ash baskets since first seeing Martha Weatherbee's work in Drew Langsner's books. The descriptions I have heard of pounding have sounded really long winded though and the clip in this film at 28 minutes is incredible. The trick is clearly not continuing pounding at 90 degrees as I had always read but afterwards pounding at an angle. I also loved the discussion at 19 mins about what is a fair price, not "how much will the customer pay?" but "what is a fair price?" The riving at 20.30 is impressive too. The first 10 minutes is background to the lifestyle so if you just want baskets skip to 10 and then 20 mins.


And finally links to two US sites, a nice blog by basketmaker and teacher of split wood baskets.

and a while ago I posted a gorgeous birch bark canoe made by Jarrod Stonedahl, his partner April makes gorgeous ash baskets and teaches others too here

Chairs reports

HCA committee are incredibly hard working and achieving a lot but much of what we do isn't stuff that is easy to put out in the public domain. I do a chairs report before each committee meeting and thought it might be interesting for our supporters to see these too. I'll copy the last two here in the hope that it is of wider interest to our supporters and to let you know what we are up to. I have had to remove just a couple points from of the more sensitive advocacy work but otherwise this is what we have been up to in brief note form. Just so it isn't all dull text here i'll pop in a few pics taken recently at the last scissor factory in Sheffield EH Wright & sons.


Progress since meeting 18th September 2010

HCA admin

Recruiting administrator  Recruiting subcommittee have advertised the post and a good number of applications received. Closing date 10th Nov shortlist 12th interviews 19th Nov.

Strategic Plan  Completed by Patricia after much consultation, to be updated periodically and have financial forecasts developed in the future to turn it into a business plan.


Sir Patrick Cormack  meeting of significant people from the heritage world 1st Feb Athenaeum progressing. Invite list agreed invitations sent.

HLF  After much speculation HLF and EH not to be amalgamated so HLF remain with enlarged budget. Congratulatory message to Jo Reilly and received v friendly response.

English Heritage Agreement to meet with John Edwards who leads on Craft Skills 18th Nov

DCMS John Penrose  Heritage and Tourism Minister. Patricia and Robin to meet Nov 16th

BIS  Skills Consultation document drafted, discussed and submitted.

John Hayes speech at RSA could have been reading from HCA manifesto. Clear evidence that our advocacy is working. Letter written to request meeting.

CCSkills  Chris and Robin to meet Caroline Felton new CEO Nov 18th.

Harry Reeves UNESCO UK Continued efforts to book meeting without success.

Christopher Frayling  Invited as speaker at spring conference had previous engagement but sent very nice reply.


Sheffield   City Council recruited staff and initiated audit of metal trade skills.

Councils Survey  Greta has started as an intern working on a survey of councils  to find out what if anything they do for traditional crafts in their area.

Other news and events


V&A spring event Date set for spring event at V&A Sat 19th March 2011 and a great program of speakers booked. Tanya Harrod, Alex Langlands, Stewart Linford, Sopie Hussain, Gail McGarva. After some discussion decided to opt not for break out sessions but long breaks for informal chats. Also “instant gallery”.

NETS Confirmation from Hereford that funding has been secured for this years courses but at a reduced level and with employers/learners needing to make a contribution. Still a success for HCA advocacy.

Training for the traditional trades Robin attended a meeting called at short notice 22nd Oct in York to discuss this subject. Good presentation on French apprentice/journeyman system and good networking opportunity but not an initiative that looks like progressing.



 And this was the previous meeting

HCA CHAIRS REPORT  18th September 2010

Progress since meeting 12th June 2010

HCA admin

New Committee member
Following his attendance at last meeting and group discussion it was decided to invite Steve Byrne to join the committee

Funding for administrator

Headley Trust  agreed grant of £30,000 over 2 years to fund part time administrator. Recruiting subcommittee formed and most of relevant paperwork and policies produced.


Greta Bertram has agreed to undertake some intern work for us following her MA at UCL. starting Oct-Jan

Ltd Co Status

Discussion via google group concluded Ltd Company status a good idea particularly once we are an employer though not essential in short term. Concluded it could be something for new treasurer to help with when recruited.


Generous donation of £1000 agreed by vote at APTGW AGM. Also from the Fletchers Trust £250 Sussex and Surrey Coppice group £100


Sir Patrick Cormack

Patricia and Chris met Patrick Cormack (ex chair arts and heritage committee) he has booked Atheneum club for Feb 1st 10.30am to host meeting with about 12 influential  invitees to discuss Heritage Crafts issues.

Radcliffe round table

Robin represented HCA at this meeting of various agencies involved in heritage and crafts notes circulated.
Also meeting with Jo Reilly HLF who is still keen to help us with a your heritage bid.

Craft Central

Potential link organisation. Offered exhibition space at Clerkenwell.


Robin keyynote speaker at t National Heritage Training Group AGM 14th July.


Chris attended launch of bursaries scheme at Hampton Court


Patricia represented HCA at the blueprint 1 year on meeting June 26th
Chris met with Caroline Felton new CEO


We continue in our efforts to encourage HRH POW to be our president. Good communication and we are hopeful.

English Heritage

Letter from Simon Thurley chief exec making clear their current remit.

Chester Council

Brian met and established they do not keep any record or register of traditional craftspeople

Sheffield Council

After establishing that there is no one within council responsible for traditional crafts and continuing negotiation council have set aside money and staff time to audit skills of metal trades.

Press and Publicity at Shows
Article in National Trust magazine on traditional crafts, apprenticeships etc brief mention HCA.
RW attended Glastonbury and Norfolk Shows and had volunteers helpers with HCA stand alongside. Generated some interest though no noticeable jump in sign ups. Probably not worth pursuing show presence in the short term.
Living Woods magazine and Craft and Design magazine continue to feature us in most issues.


City Council allocated funding and staff time to audit metal trade skills.


James  presented us with a draft research brief based on our initial proposal. We have some misgivings and need to work on resolving and rewording before going back to James.

Construction Skills

Lee Bryer and Seamus Hanna of Construction Skills happy to offer advice, also passed on brief that resulted in their successful 2008 building skills research.

Other news and events

HCA coordinated campaign to save NETS appears to have been successful. Ian Peak principal at Hereford tells us that funding has been agreed in principle for the courses to continue though some more detail needs to be worked out before there is an official announcement.

V&A spring event

Date set for spring event at V&A Sat 19th March 2011. Tanya Harrod and Alex Langlands booked to speak. Final arrangements on program still to be made.


New apprentices now working at both sievemakers and scissor factory.


Monday, 1 November 2010

made by hand

There seems to be a real movement gathering momentum asking questions about how we live our lives, particularly looking at the benefits of working with our hands and making things whether as a profession or as a hobby.

Tomorrow a new book is released in the UK written by Mark Frauenfelder the founder of the most popular blog in the world, Boing Boing with more than 5 million unique visitors a month.

It's called "Made by Hand" and is a celebration of reconnecting with the simple stuff. Here is a video where he discusses lots of folk who are simplifying their lives with a degree of self sufficiency and also his own experiments. I was delighted to see at 15.20 that he is into carving spoons.

The made by hand website

Not having a TV I missed it but James May started a mans DIY TV show yesterday on BBC2 called Man Lab.

He said "Like many people, I spend most of my working life typing at a computer. During the course of a normal day writing things for the telly, almost everything I do is – well, cerebral is too big a word for Top Gear, but you know what I mean.
After a day like that, an evening spent fixing things – messing around with a bicycle or doing a spot of DIY – is an immense therapy. It is very refreshing to do something with your hands, even if it's only to clean your shoes. Or take a clock to bits and put it back together. Or mend an old motorcycle."

All this follows on recent books the Craftsman by Richard Sennett and Shop Class as Soul Class by Matt Crawford both of which argue for a revaluing of hand skill.

Finally I wanted to share a rather wonderful animation of Ken Robinson's speech on the current state of education and how he believes it kills creativity.