Friday, 23 November 2012

HRH The Prince of Wales supports new craft award

I am delighted to be part of the judging panel for a new national craft skills award which is being supported by HRH The Prince of Wales. The awards were launched on Thursday and these are the Prince's words of support.

"I have always had a huge admiration for those who have the talent to use their hands, mind and eye in a way that can produce objects and buildings of great beauty.

I believe most strongly that it is vital to support and encourage these remarkable craftsmen and women to ensure the survival of such unique and special skills. That is why I am so pleased that a Craft Skills Awards scheme has been established, to identify and celebrate all the wonderful work that is being done across the country. I am only sorry that I cannot be with you today to attend the launch in person and do hope that you will forgive my absence.

The future of craft skills is at great risk, like so much else that is of timeless value in this world. There has been a gradual and widespread loss of the family firm and master craftsmen, through whom traditional skills were passed down from generation to generation and from master to apprentice. Seventy-seven percent of those practising heritage crafts do not currently undertake activities to pass their skills and knowledge onto others, while higher education specialist craft courses are closing due to lack of funding, capacity and reasons of practicality.

In addition to preserving these special craft skills, it is also vital to show that maintaining these traditions is not simply hanging on to the past, but vital for bringing genuine economic, cultural and environmentally sustainable benefits to our communities today and for generations to come. For example, there is considerable and growing demand abroad, particularly in the Far East, for so many of this country's wonderful crafts – both heritage and those more contemporary – and we must do all we can to capitalise on this appeal.

I am delighted to support these Awards, which I hope will encourage the next generation of craft-makers and demonstrate that the skills and expertise of craftsmen and women continue to make an invaluable contribution to this country’s culture, economy and heritage. I am sure that today’s launch will prove a successful and thought-provoking event and I would like to offer my warmest best wishes to the organisers. I very much look forward to hearing more about the Awards and, of course the winners, next year."

This has got to be great news for raising the status of craft skills.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Gormley and Frayling on designing and making stuff

This morning there was a great piece on Radio 4 "Start the Week" which had interesting conversations by important thinkers. I want to transcribe a few sections here before it gets lost but for those in the UK you can listen again for a few days here

Sir Anthony Gormley "This is a real subject of passion for me, I think it's absolutely essential that there is a continuity between design and making and I try and make the majority of my work here. But I work for example with a foundry in Halifax in Yorkshire, Halifax in the sixties had fifty two foundries, there are now three, and actually if we don't keep them going we are really going to be screwed, and the fact is I was very sad when Dyson decided that all of his production was going to go to Singapore because it is the link up between doing the drawing and then having the things made that needs a continuity and that's the very thing that could reinforce our manufacturing."
"In building the Angel of the North this was a totally linked up project...we got back the shipbuilders that could make the bough bulges to make it's bum and make it's head. You know how do you turn 6.5cm ship plate into a compound curve? Well you do it by spraying it with ice cold water and at the same time heating it with an oxy acetylene flame, it's like playing a violin, it's a skill, but we found those skills back and what did we do? we ended up making this thing that was in some ways an extreme act of confidence in this community's future....I think that what's happened with the Swan Hunters is that those skills have had to find new outlets but they are still there and with a new idea of what to do with them they can flourish, and that's my point that we don't have to say we can export all that industry elsewhere."

Sir Christopher Frayling "Ruskin gave a wonderful lecture called the two paths in I think the 1870s where he talked about the roots of art education being the head, the heart and the hand. The head work is all the think work that the Victorians did, and they certainly did a lot of thinking about design, the hand thing is about craft and the heart is about having your finger on the pulse of contemporary culture but also personal expression and Ruskin argued the best kind of art education brings those three things together, the head, the heart and the hand, thus we bring out the whole person. I think there have been moments in the history of art education where one or other of those things have been overbalanced, too much headwork in Victorian times, too much handwork in the arts and crafts period, and the heart really letting rip in all sorts of ways since the 1950s. A balance between those three concepts is I think the future of art education."