The BBC launched a new series this week called Mastercrafts. It's all about traditional crafts: weaving, thatching, metalwork, stonemasonry, stained glass and wood craft. The first episode - featuring green wood craft - was shown on Friday (and is currently available on the BBC iPlayer if you're in the UK).
The basic format of the show is that three people take part in an intensive six week course, being taught their craft by a skilled mentor. Meanwhile presenter Monty Don meets other people working in the craft today and chats about the historical significance of the skills they're learning. In the green wood episode the mentor was Guy Mallinson (who runs several woodcraft courses) and they met a chairmaker, a boat builder, a team restoring an old barn and showed traditional, sustainable woodland management.
Of course, just learning about all this stuff isn't enough so there's an added "competition" element - which apprentice is the best? who is falling behind? who has the skills to win the best chair competition? etc etc, which all feels a little forced and "made for TV" but does highlight how some people have a natural aptitude for the crafts & how it might look easy but it really isn't.
I really enjoyed the first episode and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series - especially the episode on weaving which my blogging buddy Momtazbh took part in. It's always great to see people making stuff on telly, and fantastic to see a real emphasis on skills.
As someone who (like many designer/makers) regularly has to defend her prices I also loved the discussion about pricing which took part in this first episode. Meeting super talented chairmaker David Saltmarsh they mentioned that his chairs start at around £700 - the sort of figure that makes people say things like "How much?? I can get a chair at IKEA for £20!" - but went on to explain that at least 50 hours work goes into making one chair, that he aims to earn "about £10 an hour" for his work and that like many other craftsmen he doesn't make a full time living at his craft (he also runs a small farm).
You can read all about how David makes his chairs here on his website and also view the chairs he currently has for sale.
UPDATE - to celebrate the launch of the Mastercrafts series & the publication of the supporting book, RUBooks are running a competition to win a woodland workshop course with Guy Mallinson! If you're in the UK click here to enter before 25th March.