Heritage craft describes the practice of making things using specialist hand skills passed down through generations, employing tools and techniques which have often remained unchanged for hundreds or thousands of years.
Heritage craft skills were developed to make the material things needed for every day, rural life in Scotland including tools, pots, baskets, clothing, furniture and boats. Many heritage crafts are specific to a particular place, region or island. The kinds of materials available locally, together with environmental, geographical and geological features are all inseparable from the work, activities and needs of the people who live in an area.
Heritage craft items usually serve a practical purpose. Where there is decoration, it commonly follows the form or structure of the item to provide an element of functionality, such as creating shape or giving extra strength. Both the item itself, and its decorative features, can reflect the identity, skills and creativity of the maker.
The things we use and the way we make them has changed significantly over time, particularly since the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Through industrialisation, lifestyles changed as people moved from agricultural work in the countryside to take up jobs in growing urban centres of manufacturing and commerce. Breakthroughs in science and technology, together with social change and rapid population growth, enabled the efficient, often mechanised, production of items which were previously hand made by individuals or small groups. In addition, growing links with the rest of the world saw increased imports from countries throughout the British Empire.
Changing ways of life have resulted in the decline of many heritage craft skills, and some are in danger of being lost altogether. There are only one or two makers left working in some areas of heritage craft, and there are significant difficulties in transferring their skills. First, there is the time cost, as a self-employed maker who spends one day in five training an apprentice must sacrifice one fifth of the time spent fulfilling orders, and therefore a significant proportion of income. Then there is the danger of revealing family or trade secrets to create competition where there is only enough demand for one person to make a fair living.
Recent work to celebrate, sustain and preserve heritage craft skills by organisations such as UNESCO and, in the UK, The Heritage Crafts Association, has led to increased awareness, and support for makers and apprentices.
A rise in consumer concerns relating to sustainability, ecology and ethics, together with a renewed interest in hand skills and the past, has seen heritage crafts gain high-level media coverage through the BBC’s ‘Mastercrafts’ and ‘Victorian Farm’ TV shows, and The Guardian’s ‘Disappearing Acts’. Heritage craft skills are recognised and rewarded through schemes like the prestigious Balvenie Master of Crafts awards.
Scotland’s heritage crafts include the making of the Kishie basket, coopers, boat building, Harris tweed, the making of the quaich, and historic tartans. Makers in Scotland also work in heritage crafts such as green wood craft, traditional pottery, mosaics, and basketry.
Sunday 22 March will see six accomplished makers demonstrate their work at Cambo Estate in Fife. Each maker will showcase their talents and offer visitors the chance to try their hand at a wide variety of craft, including weaving, silk painting, jewellery, ceramics and feltmaking.
The winners of the 2014 Walpole British Luxury Awards were announced on Monday 03 November. The 13th annual Awards, in association with Coutts, celebrate the global strength of the British luxury industry.
Visitors to Dunoon Burgh Hall in Argyll can get a rare behind the scenes look at the practices of textile artist Sarah Sumsion and feltmakers Orains when the Burgh Hall host the first of their two Meet Your Maker events for 2014.
After a full year of careful consideration of proposals from across the country, a site in the Scottish Borders has been confirmed as the preferred option for a permanent home for The Great Tapestry of Scotland.
Close-Knit is a fifty page digital book which has been published for the iPad, for those with an interest in contemporary craft, Scottish social history and the home life of a Scottish crofter in the 1800s.
As part of our series celebrating the Year of Natural Scotland, we take a closer look at Louise Oppenheimer whose tapestries are inspired by the landscape on the west coast of Scotland.
Aberdeenshire Council joins forces with textile designer Donna Wilson to create a new tartan inspired by the area’s stunning natural and built environment.
Four charities are working together to celebrate and support the best of British craft skills with the new Heritage Crafts Awards.
The fascinating story of the ancient agricultural crop will be brought to life at the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival - Scotland’s leading celebration of nautical heritage and culture in Portsoy from the 22 to 23 June, 2013.
Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop has unveiled the first completed panels in a major work of community art: a tapestry which is engaging Scots emigrant communities around the world.
Harris Tweed is a type of cloth handwoven in the Outer Hebrides in the homes of islanders using pure wool yarns that are dyed and spun in the islands.
As part of our series celebrating the Year of Natural Scotland, we take a closer look at West Moss Side.
Harris Tweed Hebrides have been named Textile Business of the Year at the NatWest UK Fashion & Textile Awards 2013.
The Orkney Chair is a type of wooden seat with a high back made from straw which has been made in Orkney since the 1700s.
The Craft Skills Awards 2013 celebrate the dedication of makers to passing on their craft skills at a high-profile presentation attended by ambassadors including HRH Prince of Wales.
On the morning of Saturday 23 March I made my way through a snowy Hyde Park to “Manifesto for Making”, the spring conference of the The Heritage Crafts Association at the V&A.
Letter cutting is a form of inscriptional lettering, practiced by artists, sculptors and typeface designers, where text is carved into stone, wood and other materials.
The kishie is a multipurpose basket traditionally made and used in Shetland to carry fuel, manure, crops and other goods. Shetland harvests were once measured in ‘kishie-fills’.
Green wood craft is the skill of carving and fashioning wood in its original, untreated and unseasoned state.
A cooper is a maker or repairer of casks and barrels.
Two Scottish craft makers are among the winners at The Balvenie Masters of Craft 2012, an awards programme which recognises, honours and celebrates highly skilled craftspeople around the UK.
This week we celebrate Tartan Day by featuring two films which concentrate on this internationally recognised fabric linked to Scotland.
On Saturday 24 March Laura Anderson attended the Heritage Crafts Association Spring Conference at the V&A London, a day of presentations and discussions around the theme “Evolving Craft Communities: From the Stone Age to the Digital Age.”
The Great Tapestry of Scotland is a unique project to stitch the entire story of Scotland from pre-history to modern times.
This Friday we feature a clip from a popular new BBC series, ‘Britain's Heritage Heroes.’