Part 2 - Modern craftsmanship: a new lease of life?

March 10, 2020 3 min read

Part 2 - Modern craftsmanship: a new lease of life?

In the second instalment of our special craftsmanship series, we’ll look at signs that craftsmanship is gaining in popularity, following a shift in consumer value perception…

Industrialised manufacturing has dominated the luxury goods market, but this doesn’t mean the end of traditional craftsmanship and artisanal techniques.

Craftsmanship is heading for a resurgence as it presents an alternative to mass-produced, low quality products.

Those quick to dismiss the craftsperson as a ‘hobbyist’ or consign traditional skillsets to the past will be surprised at the sector’s worth. It contributes £4.4 billion to the UK economy, with more than 169,000 people currently working in Heritage Craft businesses. Employment is predicted to rise by 12 per cent over the next two years, according to recent analysis.

Not just a relic of the past, traditional hand crafting skills are alive and well; preserving our cultural heritage and operating as a vital force in our economy.

Multiple pressures

Craftsmanship industries nevertheless face multiple pressures. Producers must adapt to the changing face of the consumer, such as identifying the needs of millennial buyers and growing a social media presence.

The succession and transference of skills is also critical. The methods and processes of a certain trade may only be known by a few practitioners—as the older generation of craftspeople retire, traditional skillsets must be passed down to avoid extinction.

A list of endangered UK craft professions from the Heritage Craft Association (HCA) cites around 40 occupations as ‘critically’ at risk; including bell founding, horse collar making and metal thread making. Roughly the same number were deemed to have ‘uncertain’ long-term viability.

The maker tradition

A ray of hope perhaps? Traditional craft professions are enjoying growing support from environmentally-aware customers. Craft trades play a prominent role in conscious consumerism, driven by a shift in value perception and the threat of climate change.

What has been dubbed the “maker tradition” is a now a cultural force across the globe. We have seen an increase in artisanal exhibitions and literature, which aim to demonstrate what humans can do better than machines.

Craft has even become a medium of protest for those who eschew wasteful mass-production, as exemplified by “Guerrilla Knitting” across the UK. This trend is growing in momentum—the HCA has announced ‘Craft Uprising’ as its 2020 conference theme.

Culturally, widespread public interest in craft can be seen in popular television shows such as The Great Pottery Throw Down, which is now in its third series; and the multigenerational Great British Sewing Bee, featuring both a 71-year-old judge in Esme Young, and a new 31-year-old host, Joe Lycett.

 “There’s a surge of interest across generations in bespoke goods and the craftspeople who make them,” says Jeff Fuller, director of Gwyn Carless at The Light Yard. “Seeking out made-to-order products, with better longevity and ethical, environmentally responsible provenance, is a rapidly growing trend.

“Many realise that although the price point is usually higher than you’d find in megastores, the quality means a better long-term value. In our case, it’s low energy usage and a lower embodied and operational carbon footprint. We use traditional hand crafting to produce our fixtures—methods that haven’t changed for generations. This is at the heart of what we do. Mass-production isn’t who we are.”

For more insights into the resurgent craft tradition, follow Gwyn Carless at The Light Yard on our social channels: FacebookTwitterInstagram and LinkedIn. To speak with a member of TLY’s team, call +44 (0)330 2233 940 or email info@thelightyard.com.