Heritage Crafts - Red List of Endangered Crafts - UK


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16 Feb 2023
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Brittany - France
The fact that various skills are no longer taught and or passed on in the UK ( and elsewhere ) comes up from time to time here.
I noticed this article today
https://www.theguardian.com/culture...-building-brexit-covid-british-crafts-at-riskDecided to follow the links to learn more.
https://heritagecrafts.org.uk/redlist/https://heritagecrafts.org.uk/redlist/categories-of-risk/Tragic what the UK is losing and what has already been lost.
More than one of the categories of "lost" or losing" some of us here* can do, but the crafts are not getting newcomers.

*I include myself in "here" as in this forum, even though I was last in the UK decades ago, I don't remember the situation of crafts and craft workers being so dire back then, it wasn't good, but to me it appears to be catastrophic. Obviously there are some craft workers who are working unbeknownst to Heritage Crafts, I know of many working in the various branches of miniatures, but this situation is terrible.
I mentioned the Compagnons du Devoir here in France in a thread.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compagnons_du_Devoir@Droogs has mentioned learning techniques in Europe ( I think it was ) from a member of Wandergesellen
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WanderjahreJourneymen has information about some countries ( UK not amongst them )
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JourneymanThere is a Guardian article ( old ) from 2006 which mentions the "International Journeyman Programme" set up in 1997.
https://www.theguardian.com/money/2006/jul/15/careers.work5Since then it appears that in the UK, the Guilds (which I believe still exist, at least some of them ? ) are doing very little ( apart from collecting fees ) and the education systems "tech schools" have decided that "tech" means IT and design, but not crafts. Are the crafts so undervalued in the UK, that no-one can make a living doing them, or is it that none of the skills are being passed on, or both?
I see Brits who live here, working and giving demos here at the craft fairs, one of the best basket makers ( baskets as art, as well as practical ) "vanniers" in Brittany , is a British woman who lives here.
The crafts are getting proactively championed by many on Instagram but it's going to be difficult to reverse the trend.
Do you have Instagram?
Cheers, Andy
The Worshipful Company of Joiners and Ceilers sponsored me through my 4 years of carving education with a huge grant, as did the Worshipful Company of Carpenters.

So the news is not all bad regarding wood occupations.
Do you have Instagram?
Nope ..I don't have anything to do with anything that belongs to Mark Z.

I meant in my original remarks, does the UK not have anything by way of encouragement ( spaces, grants, fairs etc , course, apprenticeships ) at local , or county or regional, national level in the UK. Rather than individuals "setting out their stalls" on "social media".I know ' from his "sig" that Adam W has a presence on Instagram, and Etsy gets mentioned sometimes..But that is , to my mind, people showing what they can do, and someone else "getting a cut" via ads or fees, as opposed to any encouragement from the "powers that be" in the form of venues, courses, aid etc.

If it costs money, only those who can afford it, will be able to participate. I remember for example, when I went through the education system in the UK ( spent more time in the UK when I was a kid than in Ireland , due to parents in the RAF ) that art schools taught a variety of crafts, and were free ( no fees,actually there were, they were small, and covered by the county councils, who also gave grants*) .From "pre-design" , through foundation, right up to and including degree level. Also night schools and local tech colleges had cheap courses. Arts and crafts ( including all variants of woodworking and metal working ) were things that people could "try out" if they had talent, and if they did could take it further and get the pleasure and enjoyment from and maybe make a full ( or part time ) living from.If they thought that they had no talent, some discovered that they actually did.

I had a mate who "switched horses" from factory work to Blacksmithing and had a full order book whilst still on his course, another who worked as a Jeweler, another as a Cabinet Maker ( not a kitchen fitter ) . A couple of Thatchers, Hedgers etc. Boat wrights, Musical Instrument makers, Signwriters etc etc..All could earn a living..nowadays ?

*Basically it cost us nothing to learn a skill ( manual or otherwise ) many adult students, at my first art school , half the students were those who'd already had a "working life", doing something non art or craft related, nurses, mechanics etc..Even a coal miner, and a bricklayer. No Joiners, but the year after mine, there were two.
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Hi Adam..you posted while I was typing ( getting dinner ready here at the same time ) ..Yes I know they sponsored you..but is that situation widespread ? Do other guilds ( if they exist ) do the same ? When I read the lists on the Heritage Crafts site of what has been lost ( no practitioners ) or is down to a hand full of practitioners..it seems so bleak when looked at from here. It is by no means perfect here, but there seems to be more recognition that these craft skills are needed and should be encouraged and helped by local and national government and trade bodies.
Once they are gone, there'll be no one to pass them on , if they are needed ( In my opinion they are needed now ) again in the future.
Thanks Triton :) ..good to hear..I'll visit the GalGael.org
Your twitter and facebook links are both to places I don't go. ( like Instagram )
Opened accounts at both right back years ago when they began, they both then told me "I had followers" ( I hadn't posed anything at either, so could not possible have "followers" ) and tried to sell me advertising "to get more followers"
Scammers, with no regard for privacy.
Basically people can't afford "craft" products. It's that simple.
Why can't people afford them and why would they buy them anyway if they could?
My wife knits really nice socks - they look and feel good, last much longer than typical shop bought, can be repaired by darning etc. But to earn a living would mean charging something like £100 a pair.
Very similar scenario with a lot of "craft" work.
I understand where your wife @Jacob is coming from, my missus does crochet and the time to do say a blanket plus materials just makes them unsellable because people will say " I can buy that a lot cheaper from xyz " without realising there is a difference in handmade to machine made. A lot of people are happy with having something that thousands of others also have but there is something special about uniqueness that is only now apreciated by the few, maybe just the cost of uk living has squeezed all but the essential from peoples budgets.
Hi Adam..you posted while I was typing ( getting dinner ready here at the same time ) ..Yes I know they sponsored you..but is that situation widespread ? Do other guilds ( if they exist ) do the same ? When I read the lists on the Heritage Crafts site of what has been lost ( no practitioners ) or is down to a hand full of practitioners..it seems so bleak when looked at from here. It is by no means perfect here, but there seems to be more recognition that these craft skills are needed and should be encouraged and helped by local and national government and trade bodies.
Once they are gone, there'll be no one to pass them on , if they are needed ( In my opinion they are needed now ) again in the future.
A lot of the London guilds have bursary schemes, as does Quest, but it seems to be mainly the middle classes who can afford to spend 3 years and take on a huge loan so that they can train in what is potentially a hobby skill.

I was very lucky and went out on a limb to study for 5 years, but it was a personal choice and I knew that I could always bank on my conservation skills to get work in London, which is what I'm doing now.

The carving and gilding is an add on for me and when combined with all the other construction qualifications, it makes me employable. I still had to do an NVQ3 in wood occupations just to get a gold CSCS card and that cost me an extra £1400.

The CSCS card scheme really kicks in in 2024 and you won't get a card or get access to a "proper" site without an NVQ and there are no NVQ's in woodcarving for example.

So woodcarving will end up going down the tube because it has been tied up by NVQ qualified joiners who can carve and get access to all the work on the large conservation sites with their CSCS cards.

They don't tell you this in woodcarving college.
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Many opportunities have been lost for people to experiment to see if they have skills or at least enjoy aspects of handicrafts. I know that, here in NZ the government scrapped the extra mural activities at local colleges (such as the one I participated in where I discovered a penchant for woodturning) due to financial cutbacks.
And as Jacob said, the actual cost of producing good quality work (my wife is a talented patch worker and quilter) is not understood by the general public who have become used to cheap, mass produced products.
When I worked as a carving instructor the government funded lifelong learning courses and I taught numerous classes. We tried to get carving re-classified as vocational but failed, the irony of love-spoon making being seen as non-vocational in Wales should not be lost on you. Carving remained classified as a leisure activity then the austerity measures came in, adult education budgets were slashed by 80 percent and leisure classes disappeared. My students refused to go down with the ship, banded together and formed a thriving carving club which I can’t join as it meets on weekday mornings….
@Adam W.
Ah, I had to go and look up "CSCS card scheme" and "NVQ3" or indeed NVQ 1-7.Seems to be an unnecessarily complex and "spendy" system .The equivalents here are available , and studying and courses to obtain them are free. But they are not necessary in order to work.
The ( since I was involved in it, as firstly a student, and then for a short time as an external lecturer ) higher education "pay for it all " system that was introduced in the UK after I was no longer involved in it ( in fact I think it began after I left the UK ) is, IMO an enormous error. When I explained it to SWMBO ( french ), ( how in order to partake of higher education in the UK one must either have rich parents, sponsors or take on massive debt ) she was horrified, as were the parents ( two of whom were lecturers at Rennes University ) who were with us. Likewise my neighbour in the south of France, whose son was going to study programming at Aix. Despite them being relatively rich, nothing to pay. Grants ( bourse ) available for "living expenses" rent, food etc. Not huge amounts ( students here are often quite poor and it helps if parents can "top up" rent or food. But kids from poor families can become doctors, astronomers, physicians, or master cabinet makers or carvers. Without having to commit to debts to pay fees etc.

Glad I went through the UK system as a student when I did..loooong time ago..when it was free, one could explore one's talent, without racking up a huge debt.
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re The cost of handmade items making them unaffordable . Back in the 70s I had an involvement ( part owner ) with a craft shop in a relatively poor area. Nevertheless we did a brisk business in handmade items which in some cases cost half a weeks wages or more. We also sold "exotic wools" ( alpaca, Icelandic sheeps wool, even poodle wool, the latter made for us by a retired army major ) along side our craft goods, lots of them locally made with 5 or 10 kms from us.We had a team of local ladies who would hand knit or crochet items to order for our customers, they were not cheap.We had no mark-up on their work, for us it was on the wool used, but sold at our normal shop prices.From £50.oo and upwards for a cardigan with cable stitch details etc up to £200.00 or more for Aran type patterns.Sold like hot cakes, waiting list was 3 months minimum, lot of repeat customers. handmade porcelain figures ( local artist ) from £5.oo for simple ones to £25.oo or £50.oo for a "rough likeness", again a waiting list and we took deposits to send finished pieces all over the UK and abroad. On those like on our other craft goods our mark up was 30% + Vat.We did well.
No one ever said " I can get that or something like it cheaper elsewhere". Christmas time we had some customers coming over a 100 kms to spend a hundred or more with us. Never heard "that is too much" , but I did allow some to put regular money by towards a reserved piece or order.

What happened to the Uk , that apparently this support for craft workers is no longer possible?

Here the average wage is no more than the average in the UK ( example nurses here get less than in the UK, likewise teachers ), I've known UK nurses and teachers who bought houses here ( to retire to ) because it was ( and still is ) so much cheaper to buy a house here, than in the UK. But until Brexit our food prices etc were not more than 20% cheaper than the UK for basics. so it isn't like the average french person has a great deal more disposable income than someone in the similar job in the UK. But they do spend on Craft items, and Handmade stuff. Our village / small town ( 7000+ mainly retired people or second homes for Parisians, thus partly empty for much of the year ) not "rich" , has two cabinet makers ( only one does kitchens ) 7 working artists, and 3 antique dealers , and everytime there is a Craft fair in the area ( there are many if you include the garden fairs etc ).The baskets, artisanal honey, garden sculptures , musical instruments, plants, old style farm implements fly out. They are not cheap. €5.oo for a roof slate with "Menthe" written on it in bad cursive "handwriting" and they fly away. Wooden toys are always a hit, welded wire "things that look vaguely insectish " to grow tomatoes up. The guy can't make enough at €25.oo a pop and upwards. Good Breton style cabinetry ( I know a local cider maker who has a house full of it, not antiques, but made to order for him ) at €500.oo up to €5000.oo. per piece.

As in the UK, here there are still many houses without any real furniture ( not every one appreciates well made things ) , no books, but a huge TV. There is an Ikea about 200kms from here and many go there. But there are enough people to keep the craft workers and "the art artisans" working, they're not getting rich ( all of them ) but making enough to buy their houses and so on. The local "Chambre des Artisans" organises many events, pays for training, and apprentices, runs full time courses, Bricklaying, Hairdressing , Cabinet making, Joinery, Electricians, the whole range, Glass blowing, Framing, huge list. What they don't do on site ( big "campus" ) , they'll organise and pay for someone to travel and do elsewhere, and they run schemes to get the students into jobs or set up their own business, plus loads of regional and government aids and grants.

Again it isn't perfect, but why can't the UK encourage and aid like that ? Why does a sufficiently large percentage of the average french person so obviously appreciate and buy well made Craft items and keep the crafts alive, and apparently the average UK person not do so any more ? They used to when I was there.

There is a national "heritage day" in France each year, where nearly all the museums are "free entry", and many private owners of Chateau, Manoirs, Parks and Botanical or Landscaped Gardens are encouraged to do the same.open their properties and in many cases their homes to the public...many do so.

That and similar events throughout the year seem to keep french people in touch with their heritage.as do the TV programmes such as "Les Racines et des Ailes"..Weekly, prime time, FR 3 , each week a long 1hr 30 mins ( sometimes longer ) documentary on a Chateau, a Region and it's crafts, a town or city and it's history, monuments, buildings and what was made there and who made it. Or who makes it now, frequently featuring craft workers . A fantastic one this year about the restoration of the Orient Express. Featuring the restoration of the marquetry, the glass, the porcelain, the carriages etc.

We also have the carp TV that you do, except even worse, mask singer meets celebrity castaways cooking type of horror. But at least two TV channels ( ARTE and la 5 ) every day run cultural or current affairs , or historic stuff or documentaries, all day 24/7 without doing "the program repeats itself every 15 minutes" like 24 hour news ( we have them too..BFMTV ) .

The bad thing ( obviously there has to be one , or some ) about being an artisan craft worker here is / are the obligatory social security charges ( like the UK's Health and Retirement contributions ) ..they are about double the UK rate, I think ?. Artisans ( if they are micro businesses , turn over under must be below around €65k per year, ATM pay about 26 % of their gross in "obligatory contributions"..and on top pay income tax on the remainder ). Limited company type set ups pay differently. Most "Artisans d'Art"* ( self employed craft workers ) are in this "micro entreprise" group, they don't get rich, but most make a living.

Liste des métiers de l'artisanat d'art in France ( basically list of officially recognised craft workers trades )
Consists of 281 metiers ( trades )..
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Maybe it isn’t ancient enough to be considered a craft but I was surprised by the omission of precision engineering. Almost every small machine shop I’ve visited to have a component made or altered has been a single, immensely skilled old boy. When he’s gone, another shop goes.
We have a very skilled, very busy machine shop in our village. Again, one man who has struggled in vain to get an apprentice. (Lack of interest and lots of red tape.)

What happened to the Uk , that apparently this support for craft workers is no longer possible?
Part of the answer is that industrialisation and the disappearance of the "artisan" hit Britain sooner. When we were kids "real" bread was virtually unknown but there was a slow shift from wrapped sliced white , to wrapped sliced "brown", to whole meal etc and I can now buy a fair imitation of a croissant or a baguette at the local Co-op! Our new local butcher is an "artisan" butcher and I can even buy black pudding made with fresh blood! There's progress. Tastes good too. The reappearance of the artisan?
One thing we noticed in France (cycling) which you'd never see in Britain was roadside foraging. Both ends of the spectrum: little old peasant lady picking dandelion and other salad leaves, posh family with big car parked collecting snails.
re' dandelions etc.... In Montreal many of the locals still go gathering them and other spring fleurs (leaves at last) from the northern/north eastern part of the island, where is less development and the area they go to more riverside etc.
That craft skills are dying is no surprise - industrialisation and mass production is far cheaper than one off items. For some items there is clearly no real demand however skilled the artisan may be - eg: stone arrow heads. That some craft skills die is inevitable - the alternative being preservation of an effectively infinite number of crafts.

The proposition that craft made items are better made/will last several lifetimes is also misplaced - quality varies massively. In a society where change was slow to imperceptible, things which last a lifetime had understandable value. Technological change often now renders obsolete that which 10 years earlier was cutting edge.

That different societies evolve at different rates is no surprise - economies and cultures do not run at a similar pace internationally.

However, I am saddened by the loss of these skills. Future generations may be left wondering how 20th C man created the flat pack wardrobe, just as we speculate on the tools and techniques used by Romans, Greeks and Egyptians to build aqueducts, the Parthenon and pyramids.

I did find an explanation comparing the value attached to the arts vs crafts:

Art relies on artistic merit whereas craft is based on learned skills and technique. Art is well known for serving an aesthetic purpose. On the other hand, craft serves human objectives. Art gives particular attention to ideas, feelings and visual qualities.

Perhaps to generate more funding for the preservation of craft skills we should focus more on the creative and aesthetic value of craft skill, and the way craft is the enabler of artistic endeavour.
Here in the UK the people most likely to be buying furniture for instance are also having to pay half their income on a mortgage because housing here is overpriced compared to EU countries, starting with the price of land being much greater and then the profits made by the large house builders (my thoughts totally unsubstantiated by any evidence other than my experiences of moving 18 times in 20 years, including living in Austria and France). Many countries also seem to value their traditional crafts more.
Another big problem is careers advice, although quite a time ago my son was advised to become a car mechanic, no other jobs suggested although he showed some promise making things, we sought out alternatives he would like - and he gained an apprenticeship as a silversmith - with a 2 man award winning silversmith workshop in the next village and day release to a top London Art college. How many youngsters are advised to look at traditional crafts as a career?