Endangered crafts: the Red List 2021


The Red List of endangered crafts has been released for 2021 and is of great interest to us. The concept is that our traditional crafts, just as our heritage buildings and our native species, are at risk of extinction and need to be protected. They also need to be passed on to future generations so that these rare and beautiful skills are not lost forever. 

We have been members and supporters of the The Heritage Crafts Association (HCA), the organisation who publish the Red List, for a decade now and admire this initiative. As the UK's advocacy body for traditional heritage crafts, the HCA work with official governing bodies and agencies to provide a supportive framework for craftspeople and those that care about traditional craft. 



The HCA have a ‘Red List’ of traditional skills that are becoming rapidly at risk of extinction in the UK, from the making of cricket balls to clay pipe making.

The latest additions to this list appear to have pricked the conscience of the British nation and recently been included in national press articles as well as on BBC's hilarious comedy news quiz Have I Got News For You, which gave the topic a full 4.5 minutes of prime time TV! 

The Covid-19 pandemic has had an inevitable impact on traditional craft skills where many craftspeople have been pushed to the brink to keep their skills alive. We talked to our Makers throughout the pandemic and did our utmost to adapt to the changing landscape, offering classes live online, kits and handmade shops, but there is little doubt that this has been an incredibly tough year for our industry. 

There is some good news; crafts like pole lathe turning and gilding have seen an increase in interest and we have certainly noticed their popularity on our courses.

However, there are new crafts that have been added to the endangered list: 

20 new traditional crafts on the endangered list:


Barometer making


1. Barometer making. A barometer is an instrument which measures atmospheric pressure, used in forecasting the weather and determining altitude.


2. Bowed-felt hat making. The making of hardwearing functional hats from raw materials like wool. Browse millinery & hat-making courses here


3. Brilliant cutting. This is the art of cutting a pattern into flat glass with a rotating stone wheel and then polishing it to a high finish.


Compass making 


4. Compass making. This includes the making of compasses and other navigational instruments. In a modern world relying on 'sat navs' on mobile mapping applications compass making is becoming an endangered art form. 


5. Coiled straw basket making. Also known as Lipwork, this is the art of coiling a basket from wheat or oat straw. Browse all basketry courses here


6. Copper wheel engraving. Glass engraving using lathe mounted copper wheels and grit paste.


Diamond cutting


7. Diamond cutting. The cutting and polishing of diamonds. Browse our gem cutting & lapidary courses here.


8. Currach making. The making of Irish boats with a wooden frame and traditionally covered with hide or canvas.


Pleating fabric


9. Pleating fabric. The hand pleating of fabric using cardboard moulds and setting the pleats with steam, a good example is the process used to create the pleats in kilts. Browse all courses that cover the skill of pleating here.


10. Frame knitting.  The process of producing fabrics and textiles using a knitting loom or hand knitting machine. Browse all machine knitting courses here.


Glass eye making


11. Glass eye making. The making of prosthetic eyes from cryolite glass.


12. Hazel basket making. The making of frame baskets using split hazel, also known as whiskets. Browse frame basket courses here.


13. Highlands and Islands thatching. The thatching of roofs in the Highlands and Islands tradition.


Horse hair weaving


14. Horse hair weaving. The manufacture of horsehair upholstery fabric (also known as hair cloth) on a cotton or silk warp.


15. Shetland lace making. The making of very fine hand-knitted lace. Browse all lace-making courses here.


16. Pointe shoe making. The making of shoes designed for ballet dancers. 


Mouth-blown sheet glass making 


17. Mouth-blown sheet glass making. The making of sheet glass using the technique of mouth-blowing. Browse all glass-blowing courses here.


18. Silver spinning. The process of shaping flat silver into a hollow item using a lathe. 


19. Wooden fishing net making. The construction of bentwood steamed ash or oak fishing nets and poles.


Sporran making


20. Sporran making. The making of sporrans from a range of materials including leather, fur, metal and horsehair.


For a full list of all of the critically endangered, traditional craft skills please click here. 


These traditional craft skills have been classified as ‘critically endangered’ and are at serious risk of no longer being practiced in the UK. There is a steadily shrinking community of craftspeople who are finding that there are fewer opportunities to train in these important skills. Many of these skills have been outsourced outside the UK so it is no longer financially viable for craftspeople to commit themselves to making full time. Many of these skills are also becoming impossible to pass on to future generations, as there are no mechanisms to pass on the skills and knowledge. 

At CraftCourses we support the HCA in their quest to futureproof heritage crafts and champion their continued practice. If you would like to learn more about how you can get involved, or perhaps make a donation to the cause then you will find more information here. 

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