Sunday, 12 April 2009
Heritage craft skills
I have always been fascinated by rural skills and traditions. I can remember riding through woodland at Odstock in Wiltshire and seeing a man making hurdles from carefully-coppiced stools of hazel - I hope his son is carrying on this tradition. At agricultural shows I have always been interested in watching the chap with the pole lathe, turning chair legs, or the basket-maker (something I have had a one day course in and would love to pursue) or the potter or whoever has a demo. spot that day. I often think that I was born in the wrong time. On my mum's side I come from a long long line of Northamptonshire lace makers. I have always been drawn to needlecrafts, and love to embroider, and do x-stitch, spin, needle-felting, hand-made quilts, hand quilting, plus knitting, crochet and upholstery (hitting something with a hammer is SO satisfying!) Although my mum taught me to knit when I was little, and I was shown how to crochet last year (thank you Sarah), and I used to go to Upholstery evening classes, the other skills have been self-taught with the aid of books. My husband works with wood - and is a skilled turner, repairing chairs in particular and antiques in general and he has a real affinity for anything made from wood. He has also done dry stone walling course in the past. The satisfaction derived from making something from scratch - be it a meal, or a loaf, or a cushion-cover or a gate or basket, has to be experienced to be appreciated.
Last weekend I was fortunate enough to find three wonderful books about rural crafts - Made in England by Dorothy Hartley; Household and Country Crafts by Allan Jobson, and The Complete Practical Book of country Crafts by Jack Hill. They catalogue wonderful skills and traditions but sadly many of these are dieing out for one reason or another - and not necessarily from lack of demand. So much knowledge and skill has already been lost and these traditional skills should be more than just a demonstration at an agricultural show.
I hope that you will visit the Heritage Crafts Association which is keeping these wonderful traditional crafts alive. If you have a blog, mention them on your blog, and put a link on facebook or twitter or whatever social network you enjoy. Then set yourself a task to learn one new thing to make in the coming year - one skill, one traditional craft perhaps.