Sunday, 14 February 2010

Mastercrafts

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.

15 comments:

niftyknits said...

forgot all about this, bother! I sent off for the info about taking part but didn't fancy 6 weeks away from home.

Emma Angel said...

I'm so glad that you posted about this i had no idea it was on! I love Monty Don.
Thank you x

fridica said...

Thank you so much for alerting us to this - I would have never known, I only watch a few regular shows on bbc. This will be a joy! (I'll try to ignore the reality-show aspect of it)

James Wilkes said...

Hi. It's amazing how much interest the program has generated. I'm a green woodworker and web designer. I do the design for Fivepenny Chairs so thank you for the link! (I noticed people coming to the site from your blog) It's so nice that people are still making things on a small scale in lots of different crafts (such as yourself). Cheers!

Ali said...

I saw this and really enjoyed it too, it was absolutely fascinating and I can't wait for the next one. You're so right about the point on price, I think this programme was a real eye-opener about the effort involved in such craftmanship.
Ali
x

Michelle Engel Bencsko said...

I hope we can get this series over in the states someday. Sounds great.

Flora May said...

I'm really looking forward to the stained glass one (er, obviously!)....what with Kirsty featuring the craft in Handmade Homes as well, there seems to be a bit of a revival going on...hooray!

Nic said...

I watched this and thought it was great. Even though Monty is older than my Dad, I do have a little crush on him so add crafts and it was a must ;)
I agree about the competition element but I don't think Sarah would have done as much if she hadn't been competing and it did highlight how some people are better than others at everything, crafts included.

Clare said...

Oh no!!! I'm on a year abroad and not being able to get iplayer has just become a little harder to bear. Definitely something to get my mother to record.
Only thing is though, why does everything have to be some sort of voting out competition in order for it to be deemed interesting...?

Three Owls said...

oh how I miss the BBC....thank you for the synopsis though, it sounds like an amazing idea...

hawthorn said...

I also watched it and wished I could have done the course. It underlines the fact that most people have no idea the true value/cost of hand crafted items. They would baulk at the thought of paying for a 700 pound chair without taking into the consideration of the time involved making it and the time it would last.

A Time for Stitching said...

Thanks for this info. I hadn't heard about this programme either and it's definitely the sort of thing I like to watch. Also watching Monty Don on My Dream Farm recently. Let's hope the new interest in all these traditional skills will revive them before they disappear altogether.
Teresa x

MitziMakes said...

yay for crafts making it onto tv!

Tumus said...

I wonder if this is being broadcast to BBC America as well. That would be swell if it was. If not i'll have to hunt down the series on Hulu or BBC itself, thanks for the reminder!

Susie Hallam said...

For those that enjoyed the rogramme, thought you might be interested in the Mastercrafts facebook page.

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