Archive for the ‘Heritage Crafts Association’ Tag

Monty Don’s Mastercrafts on the BBC

For some reason WordPress doesn’t allow me to embed BBC iPlayer content, so I have used a screenshot with a clickthrough to the original on the BBC website.

Back in February the Heritage Crafts Association was contacted about a new series on traditional crafts. Mastercrafts, fronted by Monty Don, is coming soon to BBC2.

Each week three hopefuls get the chance to study under some of the country’s leading master craftsmen and women. They will be trained to a high standard in the craft of their choice, including metal work, wood craft, stone masonry, glass-making, thatching and weaving. The aim is to equip them with the practical knowledge and skills to give them a head start in their chosen craft.

Monty will be charting the students’ progress during their training and exploring the fascinating and often forgotten history of each craft. The aim is to put traditional crafts firmly back on the map in modern Britain.

Flint knapping with John Lord

Last weekend I drove over to Norfolk to spend a day flint knapping with renowned knapper John Lord, along with fellow HCA member Robin Wood. John and his wife Val were very welcoming and soon put us at ease, and before long we were getting down the business of breaking up flint.

Flint knapping is one of those things that are relatively easy to pick up, but need years of practice to master. There are two main techniques to flint knapping: percussion, which involves striking the flint with hammer stones or antler hammers; and pressure flaking, which uses copper or antler points to push flakes off. I found the latter a lot more difficult, as to get a decent sized thinning flake you need to put a large amount of pressure on the piece you are working on, while holding it steady in your other hand.

Me and John Lord

At the end of the day I had produced a small hand axe, two arrowheads and a knife blade. I had trouble getting my pressure flakes to be invasive enough so that is something I need to work on.

Flint items

John was very generous, and as well as buying us lunch and giving us copies of his book, he also gave us huge lumps of flint to take home and practice on. I’ll be trying to get a nice lot of arrowheads and knife blades out of mine, but the best part will be having the opportunity to learn more about the properties of flint.

John’s website can be found at www.flintknapping.co.uk. I would highly recommend his courses.

Launch of the HCA website

The Heritage Crafts Association website, which I have been working on for the past few weeks, has now gone live. You can visit it now at www.heritagecrafts.org.uk.

The Heritage Crafts Association website

For more background to the HCA, see my previous post. It has been formed to support and promote heritage crafts as a fundamental part of our living heritage and is unique as an organisation in believing that craft skills should be protected, promoted and recorded as part of our living heritage in their own right, not merely in terms of the objects they produce or their conservation value to old buildings.

If you would like to show your support for the HCA, register your support and follow our Facebook page. You can also feature a banner or button on your website or blog. I’ll be featuring further developments from the HCA in future posts.

New advocacy organisation for traditional crafts

For a long time I’ve felt strongly that traditional crafts have not been properly supported or championed in the UK. In the political sphere they have fallen into the gap between the arts and heritage, poorly placed to take advantage of either public funding stream.

The same is not true on the continent, where UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) makes Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) one of its major themes. UNESCO’s web pages list many of the Government-initiated projects to preserve and champion traditional crafts and other practices, with representation from most of the EU member states. The UK is a notable absentee, as for one reason or another, there hasn’t been the political will to do anything about it.

It was serendipidous then, that as my feelings that something should be done were reaching a peak, I came into contact with a group of people who were committed to doing just that. After corresponding for some weeks, I was invited onto the committee, and we met in London yesterday to form a new advocacy body for traditional crafts.

I’ll leave the rest of the details under wraps until we are ready to officially launch, but the task appears clear – to use the positive example of other EU countries, the terminology of Intangible Cultural Heritage, and the stories of real-life craftspeople, to make clear to policymakers and funders one stark fact – that unless we do something soon, we will lose many of our traditional crafts for ever.

There are several endangered crafts where few, or even only one, practitioner remains … many of these already in retirement age. It seems a crime to just stand by and let these valuable elements of our culture to die while a disproportionate amount of money is being spent on preserving stately homes and such like. Even a redistribution of funding of two per cent to ICH would make the world of difference.

More to follow…