A note from the Heritage Craft Association Annual Conference

Heritage Craft Association Annual Conference (HCA), V & A, London, May 9

This is the 3rd conference I have attended which have always been thought provoking, informative and inspiring. This year's did not disappoint.

One of the speakers was West Dean College Short Course Tutor, Felicity Irons, who charmed the audience with an insightful talk about the harvesting of the rush she uses to weave baskets, mats, bags and even slippers. The rush comes from the rivers in Bedfordhsire and she showed this process to be romantic and at the same time hard physical graft. She also talked about some of the challenging commissions she receives for her aptly named company Rush Matters. You can admire her work if you visit National Trust house Moncute or Hardwick Hall in Suffolk. If you want to try Working with rush yourself, then you will have to wait until next spring as Felicity teaches just once a year, out of harvesting season.

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Sir Christopher Frayling

Once again the HCA pulled together a passionate group of speakers which this year included the eloquent Sir Christopher Frayling, former Dean of the Royal College of Art, who opened the day with his talk 'A place for Crafts'. He whisked through his fascinating potted history of craft since the Arts and Crafts movement, querying craft's perception in the world of today.

'…it's time to speak loudly about crafts,' Sir Christopher said and referred to the misinterpretation of the three R's that are referred to constantly in education. His research has shown that originally they referred to; Reading, Reckoning and Wroughting - i.e. making.

He continued by saying the heritage crafts of yesterday are alive today, finding a contemporary idiom of expression whilst still drawing on the past.

Sir Christopher also sited Grayson Perry's quote from a couple of days earlier when he opened the inaugural London Craft Week, 'Craft is a love affair with materials'. I am sure many of us can identify with that!

Keep up the good work HCA for championing the heritage crafts, alongside the contemporary, lest some skills are lost forever unnoticed form today's and future worlds.

Rosemary Marley is Senior Short Course Organiser at West Dean College

Further Information

Check out their website if you would like to know more about the Heritage Craft Association or support their work.

Felicity Irons teaches at West Dean College in the spring. Keep an eye out for her next course on her tutor page here.

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