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Are some of our most treasured crafts about to become Extinct?!

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In the first major update of the Heritage Crafts Association’s pioneering research project the Red List of Endangered Crafts it has been revealed that even more traditional craft skills are on the verge of extinction in the UK.

 

The insightful project began in 2015 with the aim to identify those crafts most at risk of becoming extinct and disappearing from our shores, for good.

 

‘A practice which employs manual dexterity and skill and an understanding of traditional materials, design and techniques, and which has been practised for two or more successive generations.’

In 2017 when the Red List of Endangered Crafts was first published it included 20 critically endangered crafts, that is those crafts with very few practitioners, few (if any) trainees and a lack of viable routes for skills to be passed on.

And now in 2019 a further 16 crafts have been added to the ‘critically endangered’ category.

Paper marbling at Make it in Wales

 

What does this mean for the British crafts industry?

As it stands, with no intervention, most of these critically endangered traditional skills will die out with the next generation. Craftspeople in these trades are struggling to find apprentices to pass on the skills to. Many are simply unable to dedicate the time to train successors and often the market for these skills is disappearing and being replaced with contemporary production methods.

It feels like a sad state of affairs, especially for an organisation like ourselves, which firmly believes in the passing on of skills. Craftsmanship is not only about creating useful, beautiful things but the very practice of it helps to soothe the noise from modern day living. We produce something meaningful.

Mouldmaking & Slipcasting at Potclays, Stoke-on-Trent

 

Daniel Carpenter, who led the research on behalf of the Heritage Crafts Association, said:

“The Red List of Endangered Crafts is vital in drawing our attention to parts of our shared cultural heritage we are at greatest risk of losing. What we as a society decide to do with that knowledge is up to us, but at the Heritage Crafts Association we believe that the country’s skills and practices can be just as valuable as its historic artefacts and monuments… perhaps even more so as they may offer opportunities for future generations to create their own sustainable and fulfilling livelihoods in ways we cannot yet imagine. If we allow these crafts to disappear then we seriously diminish these opportunities.”

However, it is not all doom and gloom. Sieve and riddle making, which was one of the critically endangered crafts from the 2017 report has now been removed from the list as it has been revived by new makers, meaning that it is now considered viable. Plus, the HCA has received funding from the Dulverton Trust to employ someone to find ways to safeguard these skills and set up an Endangered Crafts Fund.

 

Julie Crawshaw, Director of the Heritage Crafts Association, said:

“In an age of hyper-digitisation these skills can offer a viable alternative workplace and a lifestyle that can bring a sense of accomplishment and increased wellbeing. As examples of tacit knowledge that cannot easily be passed on in written form; they survive only through practice and the transmission of skill from one person to another. The Heritage Crafts Association, which is celebrating its tenth year in 2019, is dedicated to safeguarding heritage crafts skills for the benefit of everyone.”

Letterpress at Zantium Studios

 

So, which crafts are on the list?

The Red List actually features 212 crafts, with varying classification from Endangered through to Extinct.

You can see the full list here but some stood out to us as our site features courses and workshops based on these valued crafts or those closely related:

  • Pottery (Industrial) – naturally we have a wide selection of courses in pottery and ceramics but we also work with many in the historic area of significance, pottery heartland Stoke-on-Trent.
  • Basketwork is also new to the list this year, but there is hope that with influence from furniture retailers it could become viable again.
  • A number of papercrafts feature on the Red List including Papermaking, Marbling and Letterpress all of which we have extremely enjoyable classes listed on our site.
  • Bee Skep Making is endangered so we are pleased to feature a course that teaches how to make a lip-work straw skep to be used in beekeeping.

 

Papermaking with Garden Plants at Morley College

 

 

Straw Skep Hive Making at Bees for Development

 

Split Hazel Basketry at Acton Scott Historic

 

These are a just a small selection of the heritage crafts that we are hopeful to play a part in preserving, and if you are a practitioner in any of the crafts on the HCA’s list and would like to pass these skills on to future generations please get in touch - we would love to hear from you and see how we can work together.

 

If you enjoyed reading this you might like to read Craftspeople! Do you want to hear some good news?

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