By Eddie Roued-Cunliffe & Helene Agerskov Madsen
We would like to welcome you warmly to the first volume of The Journal of Historic Crafts. The Historic Crafts website was launched in January 2010 and has had a very positive response so far. It is based on a series of blog posts, how-to's and reviews by our group of faithful bloggers and we have had readers from all over the world allowing us to think ourselves truly international.
We are now in June and we are ready to launch the Journal of Historic Crafts as a supplement to the website. Where the blog-posts on the website are of a more informal character divided into series such as "learning a new craft", "Easter" or "Spinning", the Journal is aimed to be not more formal but more in-depth. It consists of articles drilling in on specific subjects such as the language of flowers or the Scythian origin of felt, complete with references and interesting images. The Journal as you will have notices is published in a traditional A4 format but as an online Journal through the publishing tool Issuu. This tool is free to use for both us and you the reading, which means that we don't have to charge a subscription fee. On the other hand it does mean that it is only available on a computer screen unless you decide to print out the articles yourself.
We hope you will enjoy the articles in this our first volume and that you will consider sending us an article of your own for publishing in a future volume. We at historic-crafts.com aim to bring the fantastic world of historic crafts to you, dear reader, and for this we need your help.
In this, our first editorial, we would like to explain what we mean by historic crafts? We think of it as crafts with a historic perspective, which basically means all crafts, from the craft of brewing beer to the craft of knitting. We aim to be inclusive not exclusive and even include modern interpretations of historic crafts.
However, in Britain, where Eddie is based at the moment, the Crafts Council differentiates between contemporary and traditional crafts and only covers the former. This is why the Heritage Crafts Association has been launched recently and invited traditional crafters for a forum on the 23rd March 2010 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. We were invited to take part in this forum and would like to give you our thoughts on the day and on the Heritage Crafts Association.
"The Heritage Craft Association was set up because of the urgent need for action to help maintain, and to continue into the future, the traditional crafts that fall outside the remit of any existing body or organisation".
The Heritage Craft Association focuses "not on craft products as such, but rather on the transfer of skills and knowledge crucial for crafts' ongoing existence. A part of preserving these skills and knowledge is supporting professional crafters as well encouraging hobby crafters".
[caption id="attachment_1910" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Heritage Craft Association Forum © Robin Wood, Heritage Craft Association"][/caption]At the forum three questions were discussed. The first question was "Why is heritage craft important?" and this lead to an interesting discussion about the use of crafts and why these skills must not disappear. There were two main arguments; one was that crafts are a part of our cultural heritage and another was focused on the therapeutic value. In a world were things move so fast and so many people suffer from Internet addiction as key note speaker Prof. Ewan Clayton reminded us. Engaging in crafts is a good way of reclaiming perspective. It teaches adults and children to focus and gives them confidence. While the first argument supports the need to keep craft skills alive by supporting professional crafters, the second supports the need to encourage people to do more crafts on a hobby level for the sole purpose of getting a better quality of life.
The next question was focused on the key challenges for the survival of heritage crafts. Unfortunately this in our view became more focused on issues faced by professional crafters today. Among other the lack of financial support to take on apprentices, which means that some crafts are at risk of dying out. We on the other hand fear that a negative attitude to this question of dying crafts will eventually be the death of them. We believe that a more positive approach of creating visibility around your craft is more likely to work in the long run.
This brings us to the last discussion point: "How can we collectively tackle these challenges?" Some of the ideas we heard at the forum made good sense, such as appearing more at craft shows and appealing to the fact that "people love to make things". Using the media would also be advantageous, if you view it in relation to how programs such as "Time Team" has influenced the public perception of archaeology. Maybe also trying to find and promote industry champions like Jamie Oliver is for food. We would suggest trying to bridge the gab between professionals and hobby crafters by encouraging more professionals who have the equipment and mentoring skills to not only have weekend courses but to allow hobby crafters access to their skills and equipment through open access studios. This would enable and encourage hobby crafters who can't or don't want to make a living of it to still develop their skills. Like a sort of part time apprenticeship where the main focus is passing on the skills.
We felt that it was a very inspiring day and we would encourage anyone with an interest in this area to become friends of the Heritage Crafts Association. Furthermore, we would love to discuss these issues with our readers so we encourage you all to comment on the website and tell us what you think.