traditional crafts in the Guardian

Guardian readers might have been enjoying Jon Henley’s series of articles on traditional craftsmen in the Saturday edition. I spent yesterday with Jon first at the workshop of Mike Turnock the last sievemaker and then in the afternoon at my own workshop. The feature on Mike will be in this Saturday’s edition and the one on me in 2 weeks time. Here is Mike posing for the photographer with a stack of sieves. I was suffering serious camera envy as Chris the photographer had not one but 2 canon 5ds with some beautiful lenses, I suspect the photos will be great.

As for me I have just decided to upgrade my 6 year old 300d camera to a second hand 40d. Camera equipment does not make good photos though, and to be fair I don’t aspire to do anything other than snap and show craftspeoples work in the best light I can. This morning just before eating my breakfast I noticed how beautiful the morning sunlight was and took a quick snap of my breakfast. Bowl by me with home made paint and natural pigment, spoon by Wille Sundqvist, kuksa by me and Nicola. Home made muesli.

On Monday I spent the morning in the workshop and the afternoon in Sheffield contributing to a working group looking at Sheffield’s new culture strategy. The current strategy barely mentions either steelmaking or cutlery yet these are the reasons Sheffield is where it is, the things that make it a name known around the world and both are deeply ingrained in the history of mast Sheffield families. There is a strong feeling that the future lies in new technology and moving away from these old industries almost as if folk are embarrassed about the associations, it feels similar to the way in the 60′s ideas about redevelopment meant bulldozing the past and rebuilding new forward looking concrete buildings. Now we try to redevelop more sympathetically taking the best of the past and building on it for the future.

I was talking with Jon Henley about the future of traditional crafts and the danger of them being seen and presented as some rustic hangover from a mythical bygone age with no relevance to today or the future. We decided the best model was the way traditional food production has been transformed over the last 15 years. No one today views a small scale smoke house or specialist butcher or farmhouse cheesemaker as being something that has no relevance today when we have mass production of cheap food and supermarkets. I believe that traditional crafts can have a similar future as viable businesses and that publicity for those that are succeeding is a good way to promote it.

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