The art of craft has always been something that inspires me. I marvel at handifolk doing clever things with all manner of materials. And although crafting has had somewhat of a resurgence over the past few years, I can’t help but feel that there are some older, traditional and more unusual crafts that are in danger of being lost forever.
Turns out I wasn’t the only one thinking this – The Goodlife Centre has announced the first ever Endangered & Rare Crafts weekend in central London on the 25th – 26th April 2020. Hurrah!
There will be eight heritage workshops celebrating crafts that are either endangered or taught by tutors with rare-to-find skills… and you can join in at their studios in Bankside near Tate Modern
The ‘Endangered Crafts’ list that was first published by The Heritage Crafts Association in 2017. The report identifies a heritage craft as “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”. It also summarises some of the reasons for the decline of heritage crafts in the UK including the difficulties recruiting apprentices, the increased age of the artisan workforce, high prices for articles made by hand and an overall decline in demand….
They go on to say, “We would like to see the government recognise the importance of traditional craft skills as part of our cultural heritage, and take action to ensure they are passed onto the next generation.”
This sentiment is wholeheartedly supported at The Goodlife Centre, where as well as teaching DIY skills, woodwork and upholstery, they also focus passion and resources on supporting endangered and rare handcrafts in order to interest new generations in discovering and learning about these wonderful, varied and rich heritage of skills. It is NOT where Felicity Kendall and Richard Briers hang out giggling over pots of tea and chatting to goats.
Founder of The Goodlife Centre, Alison Winfield-Chislet explains,
“We seek out those lesser known crafts men and women who still practice and encourage them to come along to The Goodlife Centre to share their lifetimes of knowledge with eager learners. Many of our tutors are the last in a line of crafters who have learnt from their ancestors.”
“Whilst you can’t hope to become an expert in a day, you will have a chance to share their passion and learn from their experience so that you can take home an ability to practice at home – and to promote these valuable ways of old before they are lost for good.”
DETAILS OF WORKSHOPS:
Paper Marbling – Sat 25th April
Paper marbling is listed as one of the endangered crafts by Heritage Craft Association since 2017. Born out of necessity, the application was one of practicality – it was used as book covers and endpapers to protect books and disguise damage from transport and handling. The craft began in the far East before reaching Europe in the 17th Century.Traditional marbled paper is made by floating paints on a size made of carrageenan (a moss powder) and then manipulating them into a pattern with combs or a stylus. This pattern is then picked up on a sheet of paper pre-treated with a mordant, (Alum) leaving a colourful and unique design once the paper has been dried and pressed. Tutor Louise Brockman is a rare combination of craftsperson and skilled tutor. Louise works for James and Stuart Brockman Ltd – a family bookbinding business. A qualified Science teacher, she has been marbling since 2001 and originally learnt to marble with Victoria Hall and later on with Ann Muir.
Rush Plait Matting- Sat 25th April
Rush matting was sadly added to the endangered crafts list in 2019. The craft was historically based around the areas of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire as rush could be harvested along the River Ouse, where it grew abundantly. Rush matting has been used as the flooring of choice by grand houses and great cathedrals in the past. Now it is practised by few and produced by even fewer. Tutor John Page began his basketmaking career with a City & Guilds course in creative basketry, having been greatly impressed by the Crafts Council’s Contemporary International Basketry exhibition. He is a yeoman member of the Basketmakers Livery Company and repairs harps. John also teaches how to make Rush and Willow baskets at The Goodlife Centre.
Linen Tassel Making – Sun 26th April
Passementerie is the art of making beautiful adornments – tassels, braids and fringes that enriches classic interior decor and furnishings. It has been on the endangered crafts list since 2017. The Guild of Passementiers in France dates from the 16th century. There are accounts of Scottish production in the 16th century, as the elite adorned their clothes with elaborate ‘Galloons’ and ‘Pompons’. By the 18th century, the use of tassels and braids was mostly restricted to furniture. Interior designers still dress classic rooms with curtain tie backs. Linen tassels can be made to perfectly match any decor. The trade for handmade passementerie always had London as its base, and was situated in areas near to the high-end furniture and textiles trades with whom they worked closely. The growth of industrial production and the middle classes in the 19th century saw new textile-making centres develop in the midlands and north, e.g. Nottingham and Derby, where there is still some today. The production that had remained in London up until the end of the 20th century has dispersed, to as far as India and China. Tutor Anna Crutchley is a professional expert in the Art of Passementerie. Anna trained in woven textiles and now makes trimmings to commission for antique dealers, furniture restorers, interior decorators and heritage organisations. She is the author of ‘The Tassels Book’ and ‘Decorative Tassels.’
Hand Stitched & Pleated Lampshades – Sat 25th April
Traditional lampshade making is not strictly speaking on the endangered crafts list, but tutor Ian McQueen is one of a rare breed of lampshade makers. Ian is a City and Guilds trained craftsman who makes elegant traditionally built fine lampshades for interior designers and high end shops. He has been awarded the City & Guilds Medal of Excellence as well as The Guild of Master Upholders Award. Learners have come to the Goodlife Centre from North Carolina and Zambia to learn skills from him to take home. His lampshades are sophisticated – lined with silk so light glows through, some are dramatic and simple in Ikat or Linen. The craft of traditional lampshade making is connected to millinery and glove making. Each hand made metal frame is wound with a thin ‘India’ tape before the fabric is hand stitched – not glued – to the frame so that it retains their shape and structure to give years of pleasure. The stitch is known as ‘Streetly’ stitch and was used to allow hand made gloves to be flexible and strong.
Fore Edge Painting – Sun 26th April
Fore edge painting has sadly been on the critically endangered crafts list since 2017. Fore edge painting is the craft of applying an image to the pages of a book, which magically disappear and reappear as the pages are relaxed or refanned, like a secret magical masterpiece. Earliest examples of fore edge painting are credited to the Royal binders Lewis Brothers in 1660, with a renaissance in the second half of the eighteenth century, circa 1760-1800 with the Edwards Bindery in Halifax and London. A recent revival saw more work in the late 1900s Rare tutor, Martin Frost Martin comes from an artistic family; his father was a portrait painter and his mother managed an art store. He trained in Theatre Design, working on large-scale backdrops and costumes, then to graphics in the newspaper trade, but eventually found his niche when his friend Don Noble showed him how to create magical vanishing fore edge paintings. For his 48 years developing and promoting the scarce art of fore edge painting Martin Frost was awarded an MBE in 2019. He was also named as 2017 Maker of the Year by the Heritage Crafts Association.
Gilding on Glass – Verre Eglomise – Sat 25th April
Traditional Verre Eglomise, from the French term meaning ‘glass gilded’, is a process where the reverse side of a piece of glass is gilded with gold or silver leaf using a gelatin adhesive. The result is a mirror-like, softly reflective surface that when combined with reverse painting techniques creates rich, shimmering and beautifully reflective pieces of artwork. As a professional craftsman working as a carver, metal worker and gilder, rare tutor, Jon Hall has experience with many creative techniques. Most of them are extremely complex and time consuming, but as always there are ways of simplifying the process and Jon possesses a rare talent to help learners pick up new skills quickly through gentle guidance.
Upholstery Hand Caning – Sun 26th April
Chair seat weaving, and especially chair caning was practiced in South East Asia, Portugal, France, and England in the mid-1600s, becoming very popular and extensively used through the 1700-1800s and on into the early 1900s. It has been on the endangered crafts list since 2017. After the Fire of London in 1660, demand for replacement furniture meant caning took off in the UK – initially undertaken by basket makers. Thereafter it was established as its own craft and was based around the city of London, in particular St. Pauls and Commercial Road. In the 20th Century the base moved to High Wycombe to take advantage of transport links and demand from the industrial North. The techniques and materials have not changed much in all the years and only a few common tools are necessary to repair chair seats, making chair caning a craft that nearly anyone can master with just a little patience and tenacity. Our tutor, professional upholsterer, Rachael South learned her craft from another professional caner; her grandfather, who had a street licence to cane chairs in London.
Fabric Flower Making – Sun 26th April
We are so often exposed to poor quality mass produced synthetic and plastic artificial flowers, it is a beautiful contrast to behold the work of a professional hand crafter of fine silk botanical beauties.
Rare tutor, Anne Tomlin is a milliner and 3D botanical artist inspired by the Sussex countryside around where she lives. She studied textiles at Farnham, graduating with a first-class degree in 1983, followed by millinery at The London College of Fashion. She was one half of the renowned hat label Bailey Tomlin with an international reputation, selling to many top stores including Liberty, Harrods and Saks 5th Ave.
She now makes bespoke hats and headpieces, and miniature wild meadows that reflect her lifelong love of the natural world. Using fine silks, wire, paper clay and millinery materials to create one 3D botanicals that are made with attention to detail and often with a sense of playfulness. She also makes studies of nature and wildflowers showing her concerns for our loss of wild meadows.