ye olde excellence
We here at HML have had some very intense discussions this past year about crafts. the loss of skill, things that are on trend (macrame! polymer! weaving!) and crafts that seem to have fallen by the wayside somewhat. So much so that it is hard to find current practioners of not only excellence but also forward thinking contemporary craft practice. We know of course that this goes beyond having a great website or a profile on the Design Files but if we can't find them, then who can?
I was thrilled to find this book, the very Anglocentric 'The Book of Forgotten Crafts' which focusses on skill specific crafts that seem to have become so specialised and arcane there are fewer practioners than ever. The titles alone should pique your interest enough. They put each of these crafts in an historical context and then give an extensive interview with a current practioner. The overarching theme is skill and tradition. I'd love to see more of an emphasise on preservation and skill sharing.
As damning as we can all be about 'hipster' culture we have many things to be grateful for. This new generation of interest in artisanal living has meant there has been a resurgence in some long forgotten crafts. Last year saw traditional sign writing making a big comeback. Handmade shoes were everywhere at the design markets along with handhewn furniture.
As a domestic crafter what interested me about the profiles in the book is how their craft is a lifelong process of learning and refining. They were pretty singular in their passions. I can't imagine the dedication it takes to be a lobster pot maker or cricket bat maker or even a gunsmith. There may not be a big call for broomsquires these days but there should be (I am now obsessed with learning how to make my own broom).
The book also includes illustrations taken from The Complete Book of Country Crafts published in the 1970's - not that long ago really, but so very long ago in many ways. The Book of Forgotten Crafts, though published in 2011 is a throwback book that not everyone will like. I love it and it's a great reminder to not always get lost in the visual splendour of the internet. Some days it's important to sit quietly with a good book, or a loom, or a pair of needles and learn how to make something slowly and well. RAMONA