"An Embodiment of Human Creativity"
[Monday, March 2, 2015]
Silas Pettifog arrived at
the Sevenoaks Skills Centre
expecting an ordinary day in
class and got nothing of the sort.
The first thing that happened was
his friend Idina grabbing him
and then crying on him.
"I thought you were dead,"
she said. "Someone with
your name -- and it's not
a common one -- and with
the same model car got in
a bad crash last weekend,
right over in Maidstone."
"Oh, him," said Silas.
"Same thing happened
a few years ago when I
was sixteen -- I had just
got my driving licence.
That prat needs to learn
how to drive a car."
"Well, at least you're
all right," said Idina.
"Come on, I don't want
to be late for class today.
There's some bloke from
the Heritage Crafts Association
coming to give a presentation."
The HCA identified crafts at risk of
dying out, and worked to recruit
new people to learn them.
They often came to
skill centres and
in search of volunteers.
Quentin Yates was
a lively fellow, full of
passion about the arts.
He talked about how the HCA
classified the crafts as being
extinct, critically endangered,
endangered, or currently viable.
"Now, sieve and riddle making
was recently revived," said Mr. Yates.
"That leaves four other crafts extinct:
cricket ball making, gold beating,
lacrosse stick making, and
mould and deckle making."
Silas raised his hand, and
when called upon, said,
"My family still makes
moulds and deckles."
Mr. Yates got all excited.
"What can you tell us about it?
Do you know how to do it?"
"Well, mostly," said Silas. "I
started learning at sixteen, and
haven't finished my apprenticeship
yet. My mother and I make moulds and
deckles, because it was passed down
through her family. My sister Lilias
is more into using those to make
handcrafted paper and cards."
"I'm so happy to hear that," said Mr. Yates.
"So few people appreciate handicrafts
these days, and they don't understand
what beauty we lose when they die out."
"The fact that I still find so much beauty
in a handicraft is because my mother
taught us to see not just the craft as
a product but the craft as an embodiment
of human creativity and human labour,"
said Silas. "It's a special profession."
"I don't suppose your mother might
be willing to teach anyone else, if we
could find new students?" said Mr. Yates.
"We've found some for other crafts."
"Sure, if they're willing to work hard,"
said Silas. "It's hard to keep up and
teach at the same time, especially
with me taking classes here -- but
Mum wanted me to study business
for when I take over from her."
"Wonderful," said Mr. Yates.
"Let me just get your address,
so I can reach you later, and
we'll get on with the discussion."
Silas wrote down his address
and passed it to Mr. Yates.
"This is so cool," said Idina.
"Maybe you could bring some
of your stuff to the workshop
and show people how to make
them, or how they're used
in making fancy paper. I saw
some with seeds in it once."
"Oh yeah, we build things for
a family business that makes
that kind," Silas said. "They
are called Garden Cards."
Maybe a demonstration would
help his family business grow, too.
* * *
"The fact that I still find so much beauty in a handicraft is because my mother taught us to see not just the craft as a product but the craft as an embodiment of human creativity and human labor."
-- Vandana Shiva
A Skills Centre is a type of Britannian school and community center that teaches crafts and practical skills. It serves some of the same purpose as a community college or trade school, but often has a range of students from high school to college age, sometimes wider.
Sevenoaks Skills Centre is located in Sevenoaks, Kent, England. See a cross-section, 1st floor plan, 2nd floor plan, and 3rd floor plan.
The first floor has two lecture theatres for large classes and presentations. A staircase leads from the Café to the second floor. Some of the classrooms are pretty traditional with desks or tables and chairs. On the third floor, the collaborative learning area has more creative furniture and the individual study area has some seats near the windows.
The Heritage Crafts Association (HCA) is a United Kingdom charity that supports and promotes traditional crafts.
The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts
Crafts classified as ‘extinct’ are those which are no longer practised. For the purposes of this research, this category only includes crafts which have become extinct in the past generation.
Cricket ball making
Lacrosse stick making
Mould and deckle making
The last paper mould and deckle maker in the UK, Ron MacDonald, sadly passed away at his home near Maidstone, Kent, in November 2017. Ron did manage to pass on his skills during his lifetime, but his main student, Serge Pirard, lives and works in Belgium. As a result, mould and deckle making is now listed on the Red List as an extinct craft in the UK.
Ron started to learn mould making when he was 16 years old, undergoing a five year apprenticeship at his father’s company Amies & Son Ltd in Maidstone. At the time, moulds and deckles were mainly supplied to paper mills manufacturing sheets of high quality paper for stationery and arts. There is still a demand for good quality traditionally made moulds. Like many of the crafts we have looked at in the course of the Red List research, this has a knock-on effect on other allied crafts, such as commercial handmade paper making, which also features in this edition of the Red List as a critically endangered craft.
There are ways to promote old crafts.
Mould and deckle making can be done the quick and dirty way, or with more elaborate steps.
Homemade paper can be made to include seeds.