Back in December 2008 I first blogged about the need for a traditional crafts organisation. The Government funded Crafts Council has a limited remit for the “innovative contemporary” crafts leaving all of those of us making traditional functional work with no support or promotion at all.
So it was that six years ago we had the first meeting of our proto committee and formed the Heritage Crafts Association, that meeting took place in a tiny basement room just off Trafalgar Square we were able to borrow for free. We all paid our own train fares to London and continued to do so for the first two years of the organisation, we were passionate and on a mission.
That was followed five years ago by the official launch of the HCA at the Victoria and Albert Museum with Phil Harding and mentors from Monty Don’s Mastercrafts program.
Along the way we have lobbied hard in Westminster enlisting the help and support of government ministers civil servants and members of the house of Lords. The message is always the same, the innovative contemporary end of the craft spectrum has support and the rest if the craft sector should have equal support. This would allow us to address serious issues such as the lack of entry routes for young people wishing to get into the crafts, the decline in practical skills taught in schools and the lack of national promotion at high profile events.
In 2011 we were absolutely delighted when HRH the Prince of Wales agreed to be President of our tiny new organisation. He has a been a passionate supporter of heritage crafts of all kinds.
In many ways it feels like we have been too successful. We are seen now as the voice of the sector, we are constantly asked to comment on papers and contribute to developments such as the Governments apprenticeship schemes yet as a tiny organisation we do not have the resources to do it all. Sometimes we end up spread too thinly and not doing everything as well as we should. At our last committee meeting we decided to concentrate back on the core mission of helping our membership to promote their businesses and ensure that skills are passed on to the next generation.
One of our key achievements has been working with government on a key piece of research Mapping Heritage Craft This made a clear case for the first time that the Heritage Craft sector is important to the UK economy. It contributes £4.4 billion in GVA and that it’s expected to grown in employment terms by 12% in the period 2012-2022.
We set out over a year ago to build a great site to promote makers work and websites, our makers website has had serious issues with the web developers which we are currently trying to resolve but we remain confident that it will when resolved be a great way for customers to find great craft.
We have an amazing set of Heritage Crafts Awards endorsed by HRH the Prince of Wales, it is always a joy to see the best makers gain the recognition that this sort of award brings after many years hard work in the workshop. And whilst on the subject of recognition we have been incredibly successful at putting forward craftspeople for national honours with many that we have proposed receiving MBEs, this not only benefits those that receive them it brings recognition to the whole world of craft and shows that excellence in craft is something to aspire to and be proud of.
Our monthly newsletter keeps members up to to date with opportunities and happenings in the craft world as well as being an opportunity for members to share their news with a wider audience. We are continually asked by journalists from print media and tv for new stories so the more members keep us in touch with their work the more we can pass on.
This year sees the launch of the first ever London Craft Week with HCA as one of the lead partners, who would have thought that would happen 5 years ago? The HCA conference at the V&A is part of London craft week with great speakers including long term craft supporter Sir Christopher Frayling, the Craft Buyer from The National Trust and Creative Director of Harris Tweed all talking about why provenance is important. Do you make enough of it when telling the story of your work?
So five years ago nobody even used the term Heritage Crafts, we have come a long way but there is much more to do. Our membership has grown only slowly since our first supporters joined and in order to really represent the sector well and be self sustaining we need to grow our membership from 400 now to 1500 in three years. With well over 100,000 craftspeople working in the country that should be possible. We hope that the annual fee of £20 for individual craftspeople is seen as very reasonable and aim to offer good value in supporting and representing craftspeople and addressing the issues they face. We are always open to new ideas and if you feel there is anything we could be doing better please let us know.
I wonder where we will be in five years time.