Wednesday, 27 March 2013

opportunity for craft teachers in Scotland?

The way I read this someone living in Scotland and teaching traditional craft could apply for a fully funded trip to Slovakia looking at living heritage and cultural tourism. I would love to go.

There are six places available on the Slovakia  programme, please can you forward this information to those that would be interested in applying.  I have attached the programme and an application form.
A week long exchange hosted by Krajina, a small company specialising in cultural tourism in eastern Slovakia lead by Miro Knezo. An opportunity to discover this amazing country's tangible and intangible cultural heritage and the history, skills and traditions that are still very much a part of this regions daily life. This rich and varied programme incorporates visits to UNESCO world heritage sites and ethnographic museums to see how traditional buildings and war memorials are preserved and interpreted and offers participants the opportunity to take part in a Traditional Folk Festival at Svidnik Ethnographic Open Air Museum celebrating Ruthenian and Slovakian, culture, local crafts, traditions and way of life.  Participants will prepare local food in a traditional Slovakian home and attempt to learn a traditional Slovakian dance with Matej, Miro's son. 
Arch provides fully funded study visits for trainers from Scotland's cultural heritage and tourism industry to visit organisations in other European countries to exchange best practice and establish new contacts and partnerships for future cooperation. Our European Partners work in a variety of contexts including cultural tourism, ‘living heritage’, traditional construction techniques, reconstruction, tourist network development and museums. These study visits are funded by the Leonardo da Vinci programme; the costs of travel, accommodation and subsistence are covered by the grant.
CHIST ( Cultural Heritage Interpretation and Sustainable Tourism) aims to develop the skills of Scottish professionals who train or coach others in the field of heritage interpretation and sustainable tourism. This will be done through a programme of exchanges with partners in 5 European countries: Bulgaria, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia. 6 people will be sent to each country, spending 7 - 8 days participating in workshops, site visits, hands-on activities and seminars. This is intended to be an intellectual exchange – European partners will come to Scotland, but you are not obliged to host them. Although we do hope to initiate new projects from all of our partners.
CHIST offers wonderful opportunities to network with people doing similar work in Scotland. It’s a great way to fulfill you CPD requirements and personal training plans for 2013. All of our partners welcome input from participants, they are very happy to adjust their itinerary to cover topics that are of specific interest to Scottish practitioners
Details of all programmes and application forms are available at Please return completed application forms to

full program copied below

Eastern Slovakia
9th - 16th June 2013
A week long exchange hosted by Krajina, a small company specialising in cultural tourism headed by Miro Knezo in eastern Slovakia. An opportunity to discover this amazing country's tangible and intangible cultural heritage and the history, skills and traditions that are still very much a part of this regions daily life. This rich and varied programme incorporates visits to UNESCO world heritage sites and ethnographic museums to see how traditional buildings and war memorials are preserved and interpreted and offers participants the opportunity to take part in traditional Folk Festivals , local crafts, traditions, and way of life collecting, cooking and preparing food in a traditional Slovakian home.

Sunday 9th June
Flights from Prestwick to Rzeszow
Beautiful drive 150 km drive through Poland Slovakia to Stropkov

Monday 10th June
Andy Warhol Museum in Medzilborce.
A visit to the Andy Warhol Museum. Andy Warhol was born in Pittsburgh in 1928 to Czechoslovakian parents who were from a nearby village Miková a short drive from Stropkov. The museum was launched by Andy's brother John Warhola who visited the area in 1987 shortly after Andy's death and the museum opened in 1991
“Today the museum stands as a shrine to an urbane world light-years removed from Medzilaborce's backward and rustic milieu. Serial portraits of Marilyn Monroe greet the visitor in the museum foyer while aluminium foil awnings deck the ceiling of the museum café, which gives a nod to Andy's Chelsea Factory. In the main hall, Warhol's snakeskin jacket, Brooks Bros. ties, sunglasses, Walkman and ubiquitous camera are enshrined in vitrines, like relics of some saint. Photos of Eddie Sedgewick, Ultra Violet and other Factory personages grace the walls. A lot of this must go over the head of the average visitor. The upstairs mobile consisting of polystyrene dollar bills and the nearby silk-screen icon of four dollar signs strike a chord of empathy.”
Short hiking trip in the local countryside followed by a discussion of Slovak customs
Tuesday 11th June
Visit to Spis Castle and Levoca. These are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  There are a huge range of interpretative techniques employed in these sites from first person interpretation, guided tours, leaflets, self guided walks, multi language listening posts, panels and pamphlets.  We will have a self guided visit to Spis castle and then travel to Levoca where we will meet and have a chance to speak with the curators from the city museum.
Lunch will be in a traditional Slovakian Restaurant.
Wednesday 12th June
Lecture at Presov university A lecture followed by  discussions with a lecturer about tourism in the Prešov University – Tourism Faculty. Participants will have the opportunity to make presentations about their own areas of expertise in Scotland
Watching of sheep hand milking, sheep cheese preparing and sheep cheese tasting.                         Visit to a sheep cheese producer to watch hand milking, the preparation of sheep's cheese and to sample Bryndza a slightly salty spreadable cheese fresh from the ewes.  Traditional local food which demonstrates the solid links between the people and their land throughout the generations
Thursday 13th June
Participants will have the opportunity to practise a Traditional Slovakian Craft, for example making corn dollies
Traditional Cooking Day.  Working with Margita from Brunisca (Brousnyitsa which means Cranberry) in her own kitchen she will teach you to make traditional Slovakian meals using local produce
Friday 14th June
Bardejov Health Spa and visits to Muzeum Ludovej Architektury  an outdoor museum of 24 vernacular buildings dating from the 19th - 20th century including two wooden stave churches. Mikulasova [Mecoulahshovah] church was built in 1730. It was enlarged in 1837, disassembled in 2003 and rebuilt and renovated with help from Archnetwork and Grampus Heritage and re-consecrated in 2005 and is now in regular use.
Visit to Bardejov designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site We will have free time to walk around the town and to visit the museum of Icons, St.Aegidius Church and the Town Hall.                               The main square in Bardejov is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site because it is a ‘small but exceptionally complete and well-preserved example of a fortified medieval town’ Bardejov has retained its medieval character and the cobblestone central square Radnicné námestie is the most significant part of the town. The square is flanked on three sides by narrow burgher houses many of which are fine examples of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. On the fourth side of the square is the Gothic church of St. Egidius, which dates from the 14th Century
The Icon museum is the only specialised exhibition of icons in Slovakia and on display are icons painted on wood and canvas dating from the 16th-19th centuries. Also on display are religious vestments . We will have a guided visit to the Museum of Icons; the curator will explain the development of the symbolism in Icon painting.
Museum of clothes displaying examples of traditional Slovakian costume throughout the centuries.
Saturday 15th June
This is a haunting place, it was the site of one of the largest battles of the 2nd World War between Russian and German troops and some of machinery of war has been left in situ. It is definitely a topic for discussion for interpreters.
Over a period of three days the clash of Soviet T-34 tanks and German Panzer Pz IVs, along with supporting infantry resulted in more than 30,000 deaths between 24th - 26th October 1944 during which time the streams were running red. Altogether 90,000 soldiers and civilians died in the conflict.

Traditional Folk Festival  at The Museum of the Ukrainian and Ruthenian Culture in Svidnik.
An international folk festival organised by  The Ukrainian and Ruthenian Association                          The Ruthenians came to the area in the 15th century from the south and they used mountainous parts because they were shepherds. They are Slavs and use a language, which is something between Slovak and Ukrainian language. The festival will be a celebration of the Ruthenian culture and traditions, songs, dances, crafts and cuisine. Svidnik Open Air Museum is where you can see fabulous examples of reconstructed wooden buildings including a church, school farm houses and saw mill.
Sunday 16th June                                                                                                                                     Departure
Please note this programme may be subject to changes, amendments and additions.

Free QEST marketing seminar on 2 May!

Great news about QEST Marketing Seminar on London on May 2nd - completely free! Many of us in crafts can do with help in marketing so come and hear expert advice.

When: 2 May 2013 from 3pm until 5:40pm
The Worshipful Company of Carpenters, Carpenters’ Hall, 1 Throgmorton Avenue, City of London, EC2N 2JJ

The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust is delighted to host a seminar bringing together some of the most talented global Marketers who will enthral with their theories on developing and marketing products for both home and abroad. The emphasis will be on smaller, luxury craft based brands, but the advice given will be universal.

Due to the kindness of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, who have donated the 200 seat auditorium and the time given by the speakers, QEST is able to offer this seminar free of charge.

Please register your place/s with Valerie at QEST by 13 April 2013 (, stating your name, along with guest names. Allocation will be on a first come first served basis.

Speaker line up:
  • David Gates, Diageo - David heads up Diageo's whisky business, leading Diageo's portfolio of Scotch, Irish and American whiskies, big global powerhouse brands such as Johnnie Walker, small crafted brands such as Bushmills, Talisker, and Lagavulin, and a bristling and exciting innovation agenda. His role includes a combination of strategic and portfolio planning with creation of big campaigns and growth drivers for their priority brands.
  • Jill Webb, Conran - Jill is Brand Development Director at Conran. Jill and her team work with many partners designing and developing products which carry the Conran name outside of the core business of The Conran Shops. Jill has been working on a new range of homewares for American retailer JCPenney launching in 300 stores at the end of May. 'Design by Conran’ for JCPenney represents a major new contribution for the UK creative industries to the American market. In autumn 2011 she also launched a new home collection for British high-street favourite Marks & Spencer, which includes furniture, textiles lighting and accessories.
  • Mark Henderson, Gieves & Hawkes / The New Craftsmen - Mark is Chairman and co-founder of The New Craftsmen, which promotes and sells bespoke commissions and limited editions for a group of Britain's finest craft-makers. He is also Chairman of Gieves & Hawkes, the iconic British tailoring company, director of Walpole, a group of over 180 British brands and institutions formed to further the interests of the British luxury industry, Chairman of the London Luxury Quarter which promotes London's West End as one of the world’s leading luxury marketplaces, and a member of the Council of the Royal Warrant Holders Association. Mark is a strong supporter of British craft – leading the establishment of Savile Row Bespoke which was formed to protect and promote the art of hand-craft tailoring. Mark is also a trustee of QEST, has acted as a mentor on Walpole’s Crafted programme, and is a Patron of The Heritage Crafts Association. He is a regular speaker at conferences and in the media on topics such as craft and luxury brands.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Manifesto for making first pics

William Morris is often sited as an inspiration for the first Labour Party Manifesto. Today many of us working in the  traditional crafts feel as if we have been overlooked yet there are potentially great times ahead, hence the need for a Manifesto for Making. Not a manifesto for designing or innovating or being an artist simply for making. Yesterday at the V&A the spring conference of the Heritage Crafts Association centred on the theme manifesto for making. We had great speakers and also participation from the delegates to help create our Manifesto.

Our first speaker was David Hieatt, someone I have long admired but never met. He is making jeans in Wales, his dream is to get 400 people their jobs back and put soul back into a town.

I scribbled notes furiously as he shared gem after gem of wisdom about making and marketing. Here are just a few

"People don't dream about quality, as craftspeople quality should be a given. People dream about changing the world. Sell the dream, your customer wants to be part of the change you want to be in the world."

" get 86,400 seconds a day from the time bank, they are non returnable, use them wisely. Do the thing that matters to you most."

"The best way for your customers to love your work is for you to love it first"

"Embrace Selling, there is no point making gold and selling it as silver"

We followed with a great talk from TV presenter and HCA patron Paul Martin who is passionate about crafts and really wants to get more craft on tv, he encouraged the audience to engage with him through HCA to help pitch ideas to the BBC for better craft shows than have been done in the past.

We had 4th generation wheelwright Phil Gregson  running us through his family's history with the trade and the processes of making a wheel.

Deborah Carre gave a great talk explaining the various aspects of her business making the very best bespoke shoes and we were told that if we only remembered one thing it should be that she was a cordwainer not a cobbler, the difference being that she makes best quality shoes from new leather where a cobbler cobbles together and repairs shoes from second hand parts.

The day finshed with Mila Burcikova a dressmaker and expert on William Morris, we could not have a manifesto for making without mentioning Morris. 

Mila brough great insights into Morris from different perspectives to those we normally read. One quote from Morris and Co seemed to be rather a theme running through the day, 

"It is believed that good decoration, involving rather the luxury of taste than the luxury of costliness, will be found to be much less expensive than is generally supposed” 

Good work may apear expensive but if it lasts and does not end in landfill in a coupe of years then it turns out to be good value.

Have a look at the good work by our speakers here 
Jeans by Hiut denim
bespoke dressmaking by Mila at Misense
Shoes by Deborah Carre 

All in all an inspiring day you can see what other folk thought on the twitter feed here 

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Middleport Pottery visit

Middleport Pottery is one of the best craft experiences I have had and a fascinating insight into a craft evolving into industrial manufacture. The pottery has a long history which is well documented, it was faced with closure and in 2011 was saved by the Prince's Trust for Regeneration. The idea was not to keep it as a museum but to regenerate the business and keep alive valuable work in an area that badly needs it. There is much info online about the buildings I am going to show you the craftspeople and the pottery processes.

I visited with the management team from Portland works a cutlery works in Sheffield facing very similar issues. This is the main yard with the surviving bottle kiln, these were last fired in the 1950's I remember seeing many of them as a child driving through Stoke but there are not many left now.

 This is the boiler that powered the steam engine that powered the factory into the 1970's

and here's the engine

Now on to pottery, the first stage in production is making an original piece out of clay or plaster. From this master you take a cast to make a mould and use that to cast a long lasting master mould. From this master you cast plaster moulds which have a limited lifespan so this chap is cleaning up a master ready to make plaster moulds, if you see the master to the left foreground it is a design of mug I liked, we will see more of those as we go through the pottery.

This is the master mould maker.

Moulds are stored for future use, there are moulds here of pieces that went out of production over 100 years ago.

 This is where the casting takes place. The moulds are cleaned up each day, assembled and set out on the benches, then maybe 120 of them are filled with slip, that is liquid clay.

After an hour or so the plaster has drawn the liquid out of the slip so that a layer of just the right thickness has solidified, the excess slip is tipped out of the mould. When the mould is opened we have a teapot, mug or whatever. Some pieces are simple one piece castings and just need the mould joint lines cleaning up others are made of several castings which are joined together before they dry.

This is skilled work, there is a nice flow to the whole process and the chaps clearly enjoyed it. They do maybe 120 casts in a day depending how complex then start cleaning up the moulds for the next batch.

 dry pots.

Now we get on to the sort of work that I really am not keen on. It is called semi-mechanised. This machine churns plates out 1200 a day and I would not like to be working it.

It is remarkably efficient and ingenious but I can't help feeling once you get to this stage you may as well go all the way and fully mechanise with a robot to do the job, it can't be fun standing all day putting lumps of clay on the machine taking plates off and sticking them in the drier.

The machine above leaves a burr round the edge of the plate and this lady cleans them off, 1200 plates a day, it's a job but a bit tedious. I don't know if they swap around machines, that is one way to make this sort of factory work more interesting.
 Dry pottery is loaded onto trolleys which wheel straight into the big gas kilns.
 Here is one of the kilns for biscuit firing, thats the first firing before the glaze.
 After biscuit firing each pot is checked and brushed over this lady checked for flaws by tapping each mug and listening to the pitch of the ringing tone.
 Now this is the room I would work in, these girls were having fun. Middleport makes a special type of glazed pottery that no one else makes any more. I can not remember the techincal term but I can explain the process.
 It starts here with this lovely old printing machine. A hand engraved drum with a pattern is spread with glaze and prints onto tissue paper. The paper is also coated with a thin layer of hot glue then fed along a moving washing line down the room.
 Now you tear off a piece of tissue paper and wrap it around your pot. I can imagine making a complete hash of this if it was a smooth cylinder but wrapping a globular mug or teapot I don't understand how it doesn't just all crumple up, suffice to say it is very skilled work and it looked physically quite hard too the tissue has to be rubbed really hard with a brush to get rid of all creases then the excess at top and bottom is trimmed off. They told me it takes about 2 years to learn to do it but they have all been doing it for ever. The room reminded me of a sewing room at a lingerie factory I worked in when I was 19 in Leicester quite an intimidating environment for the men but a great fun atmosphere too. What made this fun? lots of hard skilled work? no noisy machines so there could be banter?
 The next stage is the tissue paper is washed off leaving just the glaze.

 Next door another range are being hand painted. William Morris would perhaps prefer this saying that here the workers are expressing their individuality, there is no question though there was much more fun to be had in the previous workroom and no less pride in the skilled job.

Then on to glazing interesting how gender segregated the trade is.

Now another dull job. I hope this poor chap gets a break from this machine. It is printing a standard glaze pattern on, as they come out he has to take them off and stack them with spaces so they don't stick in the kiln, pretty dull.

Middleport is being redeveloped, half the factory will stay in production and open for tours, the rest will be shops, tea rooms and they are planning an area for training people in ceramic skills too. I can not recommend a visit highly enough. And if you can't visit then buy some Burleigh ware online here  I bought a couple of the seconds which frankly are more perfect than I would like, they are wonderful mugs and by buying them you are helping preserve a party of our heritage and keeping a lot of folk in work.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Chairmaking, Gimson, Philip Clissett, Lawrence Neal, tradition and revival.

Today in the New York Times there is a good article on Philip Clissett Herefordshire chairmaker it gives some of the history but there is more to add so here goes....
Philip Clissett was one of very many country chairmakers. The windsor chairmaking tradition around the chilterns is widely known but there were very many more chairmaking centres and small local makers too. These are wonderfully recorded in Bill Cotton's book the English Regional Chair.
Clissett was one of these and his name along with the rest would hardly be known if it was not for a chance meeting with Scottish architect James MacLaren who encouraged the Art Workers Guild to commission Clisset to make chairs for their meeting rooms in London. I took this pic when I visited in 2009

Anyway the NYTomes finishes the story with Ernest Gimson learning the trade and he popularised the design to such an extent that this design is often generically refereed to as a Gimson chair. 
Gimson in turn taught Edward Gardiner who in turn taught Neville Neal who in turn taght his son Lawrence Neal. I visited the workshop when Neville was still alive and weaving seats, maybe around 2000, today Lawrence still turns out great chairs at very reasonable prices. He uses Gimson's original shave horse to shave down the parts with a drawknife. 

This is a lovely video of Lawrence going about his work.

and this is his website

There are many people running chairmaking courses now but Lawrence is the only person I know who makes a full living from just making chairs. Probably the best known of the course providers is Mike Abbott who learnt much of what he knows about ladderback chairmaking by visiting Lawrence's workshop so a long unbroken tradition being revived in the 21st century.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Aryma sponsor HCA Conference Travel Bursary

Heritage Crafts Association friends Aryma have kindly provided a bursary of £200 for ticket and travel, to enable another HCA Friend to attend Manifesto for Making - the 2013 Heritage Crafts Spring Conference - Saturday 23rd March 2013 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

David Hieatt

Paul Martin of BBC's Handmade Revolution. Talking about his passion for the handmade from his childhood experience of building a traditional wooden boat with his father to filming the Handmade Revolution for the BBC.
David Hieatt, founder of Howies clothing, the Do Lectures and most recently Hiut Denim. "My town used to have the biggest jeans factory in Britain. And then one day it closed. I have started a small factory to make my own brand of jeans and to get our town making jeans again". 
Phill Gregson, a traditional time served wheelwright, makes all aspects of wooden wheels, vehicles, metalwork and tools/equipment for re-enactment societies, craftsmen and tradesmen.
Mila Burcikova, creator of 'Misense' fashion label is also a PhD candidate at Charles University, Prague. Her thesis investigates the role of craft as an agent of social change and the relationship between craft, social transformation and utopianism. In particular,  the link between the ideas and work of poet, designer and political activist  William Morris and the currently flourishing 'Craftivism' movement.
Deborah Carre, founded carréducker with James Ducker in 2004. carréducker is known for handmade shoes that combine traditional craft skills perfected over generations, with a distinct, contemporary aesthetic. In addition to their own atelier, carréducker runs the bespoke shoemaking department at the world renowned Savile Row tailor and gentleman’s outfitter, Gieves & Hawkes.

To enter the competition please send an email to with “ARYMA HCA Conference Travel Bursary” in the subject line by 5pm on Monday 11th March.  Please note, this bursary is only available to Friends of the Heritage Crafts Association.

For more details on the confrence, and to book tickets, please visit:  Student tickets are only £10.

Pat Reynolds, Heritage Crafts Association Administrator

Friday, 1 March 2013

Help get your craft taught in schools!

Countryside Crafts - Teachers’ Resource Packs

A Heritage Crafts Association initiative supported by
Farming & Countryside Education

Weaving in Progress by kind permission of

Help get your craft taught in schools

We are looking for six craftspeople to help create a series of resource packs for teachers. Ideally you will have worked with children before teaching very simple craft projects to 7-12 year olds. We want to feature your craftwork, a little about the history of your craft and offer a taster craft experience that is simple enough for a teacher to help the children complete but interesting too. We have some money to cover your time helping with this.

Following the 2004 report “Crafts in the English Countryside, Towards a Future” (part funded by the Ernest Cook Trust and written by HCA Patron Prof. Ted Collins) we know that some traditional rural crafts are at risk of dying out. Other crafts which have been part of our living heritage for generations are less known than they were but there is currently an upsurge in interest. Craft teaching as part of a holistic education has declined in schools as the focus has moved to academic subjects.

The idea of this initiative, funded by the Ernest Cook Trust, is to reintroduce traditional countryside crafts into schools, by providing teachers with free downloadable resources with tested craft projects.  The projects will be easy to deliver, accessible, fun for pupils and tailored to the National Curriculum (Key Stage 2 – i.e. 7 – 12 years old). Each project will include a case study and activity that teachers can easily introduce to their pupils.  We exepect that it will take you two days to write up the case study of your business and activity, and be paid a fee of £300.

The Heritage Crafts Association will be leading the project but utilising the knowledge, experience and contacts of Farming & Countryside Education to ensure that the resources are fit for purpose and that the resources are made directly available to the widest audience of teachers.

If you are interested in , please contact Pat Reynolds, the HCA Administrator (, ideally by 24th March 2013.