Accepted Paper:

Craft skills transmission and the construction of heritage discourses  
Daniel Carpenter (University of Exeter)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how concepts of heritage influence the transmission of traditional craft skills, as well as how performances of skills transmission contribute to the ongoing construction of heritage discourses.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores how concepts of heritage influence the transmission of traditional craft skills, and, conversely, how performances of skills transmission contribute to the ongoing construction of heritage discourses. Inspired by Ingold's (2000, 2009, 2012, 2013) and Marchand's (2008, 2010) apprenticeship-style methodologies, I will reflect on ethnography undertaken with Mike Rowland and Son Ltd, traditional wheelwrights in Colyton, Devon, where I sought to engage in the making process alongside craft practitioners and a journeyman apprentice, in order to reflect on craft skills transmission from a first-hand perspective.

Discussions within traditional crafts continually revert to the importance of skills transmission as a vehicle for heritage, while commonly citing a disinclination or inability to verbalise this skill. Whether or not this disinclination to articulate tacit craft skills holds up to scrutiny, I argue that crafts and heritage cannot properly be located in relation to each other without getting to grips with the challenges posed by tacit and embodied knowledge. Moreover, it is the inability to co-locate crafts and heritage, exacerbated throughout the twentieth century, which has contributed to the rise of an Authorised Heritage Discourse (Smith 2006) that is only recently being challenged as a result of the re-emergence of craft in arenas other than the well-worn art vs. craft debate.

[Daniel Carpenter is a founding Trustee of the Heritage Crafts Association, the only UK-wide UNESCO accredited NGO for intangible cultural heritage and research manager of the HCA/Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts.]

Panel P068
The Future of Craft: Apprenticeship, Transmission and Heritage