Heroes protecting our heritage

In an exciting new television show, The Prince's Master Crafters, airing on Sky Arts, Freeview channel 11 and streaming service NOW on Wednesday 18 May at 8pm, six amateur makers will explore the history and importance of six heritage crafts. They’re joined over the six episodes by some of the country’s leading master craftspeople who each week set them a new task. The series will culminate with a grand finale at Dumfries House, home of the Prince's Foundation.


Endangered flora and fauna of Namibia (Derek Hunt Artist)
The UK has a rich heritage of traditional crafts - from woodcarving to blacksmithing and weaving to stained glass - but we risk losing them forever with four heritage crafts being declared extinct in the last year alone and a further fifty six listed as endangered. The importance of preserving these incredible skills cannot be overstated and it is incumbent on us all to recognise, value and protect them. 

One of the experts taking part in The Prince's Master Crafters is the extremely talented, stained glass artist Derek Hunt of Limelight Studios in Leicestershire. We are lucky enough to include this self-described 'Scottish mongrel' in our CraftCourses family of makers, delivering outstanding, Gold Award winning courses and helping to preserve this intensely beautiful and ancient skill.

Derek very kindly gave us an insight into his world and the importance of initiatives like this in raising public awareness.

Royal Victoria Hospital, Edinburgh (Derek Hunt Artist)
Q1. What inspired you to become a glass artist?

I walked into the stained glass department at Edinburgh Art College in 1980 and just knew it's what I wanted to do. I saw all the wonderful colour and light and I was so inspired to create art with this material that I spent the next three years studying it. After I graduated I worked for a stained glass company in Leicester for a few months before setting up my own studio in 1985. I've been a professional glass artist running my own studio ever since. I wear different hats in my work, one is the Artist's Hat, another is the Accredited Conservator's Hat, and another is the Teacher's Hat. I like the variety, and every day is different.

Derek in his studio with three Ashton Hill Award-winning women from the Worshipful Company of Glaziers
Q2. Who are your stained glass heroes?

I suppose one of my first stained glass heroes is the UK glass artist and painter Brian Clarke, who is probably the most famous stained glass artist in the world at the present time. He wrote a book on stained glass back in 1979 called Architectural Stained Glass which I read at Art School and it changed the way I thought about stained glass. He showed me and future generations of artists that stained glass could be a contemporary art form just like painting, and could work in modern architectural settings like shopping centres and airport terminals. Other stained glass heroes include Chagall, the UK glass artists Martin Donlin and Graham Jones, and John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens.
Richard Newcombe Court, Cambridge (Derek Hunt Artist)
Q3. What is it you enjoy most about teaching your craft?

I particularly enjoy teaching the younger generations the things I've learned over the last 37 years designing and making stained glass for public buildings and private homes. I am passionate about keeping this wonderful craft alive and I really enjoy teaching fellow creatives how to work with the materials to create exciting new art.
Q4. How were you chosen to take part in The Prince's Master Crafters?

I was contacted by the TV company who were researching for experts to teach the various heritage crafts featured on the program. They found my Facebook page and my YouTube Channel which makes inspirational videos and tutorials on stained glass, and after an initial interview decided to ask me to take part as the stained glass teacher on the show. Have a look at my YouTube channel if you get a moment, its www.youtube.com/DerekHuntArtist 

Saffron Lane Doctor's Surgery, Leicester (Derek Hunt Artist)
Q5. How do you think we can prevent the further loss of our heritage crafts or do you think it is inevitable?

It's not inevitable that we will lose our heritage crafts, but we need to act now to ensure they have a vibrant future. The great collections of historic glass in our churches and stately homes are increasingly being well looked after by highly skilled conservators, with years of experience and specialist training in how to care for this precious heritage. My ambition is to ensure new stained glass not only survives but thrives in the 21st Century, and the very best way to do that is to inspire the next generation of fellow creatives to use stained glass in new and exciting ways we haven't yet dreamed of. I am excited to see what painters, sculptors, graffiti artists, and other creatives can do with stained glass, once they are shown how to use this most versatile of materials. 
Q6. Do you think there is renewed appreciation for these traditional skills or are we, as a nation, too complacent?

I think there is a real renewal of interest in traditional skills, in the world of handmade things, the world of original art, the world of things which can't just be reproduced digitally on a computer. Look at the revival of interest in vinyl records, in polaroid cameras, in vintage fashion rather than fast fashion. The younger generation have only known a fast, instant digital world, and I think they value originality and uniqueness much more than we might imagine. I believe we are all beginning to value the uniqueness of handmade things much more, and want to surround ourselves with beautiful things which are made to last with the best materials, and have an integrity about them.
West window, St Mary's Church, Yapton (Derek Hunt Artist)
Q7. If you could fast forward a few decades, do you think more heritage crafts will be lost in the annals of time or are we starting to see a resurgence in popularity through initiatives like CraftCourses?

CraftCourses is a fantastic portal into the world of handmade crafts, and it provides so many opportunities for those with a curious mind to start their own creative journey in their medium of choice. It's never been easier to find a great tutor to teach these heritage crafts, and I believe in a few decades time we will have a very healthy crop of new talented craftsmen and women who have found their passion for the handmade and turned it into a full time career. That's why it's so important we offer high quality teaching at an affordable price point, enabling as many people as possible to experience the joy and satisfaction of learning new skills and applying them in creative ways.

The final episode of The Prince's Master Crafters will see the makers visit Dumfries House, home to The Prince’s Foundation, to seek inspiration for their showcase pieces. They’ll then take part in a graduation like no other as they present their individual pieces to His Royal Highness himself at his private residence, Highgrove House. All the showcase pieces are then displayed at The Prince’s Foundation’s new training base at Highgrove.

We at CraftCourses along with all of our fellow creatives, can look forward with anticipation to the show which we're certain will make compelling viewing and help to shine a spotlight on our heritage crafts. We all have a part to play in their veneration and preservation.

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