Heritage Crafts and Sussex Heritage Trust award five new grants to help save endangered crafts from extinction

A block printer, a trainee rake maker, a reverse glass sign artist, a reverse glass gilder and a hand hewer have been awarded grants to help safeguard some of Sussex’s most endangered craft skills.

Heritage Crafts and the Sussex Heritage Trust (SHT) have awarded the grants through the Heritage Crafts’ Endangered Crafts Fund, which was launched in 2019 to increase the likelihood of endangered crafts surviving into the next generation.

Sarah Burns is a textile block printer and natural dyer from West Sussex. Her craft is founded on the use of seasonal natural dye colours that are foraged from the hedgerows and fields around her – fruitwood prunings in winter, hedgerow cuttings in the spring, fruits and flowers in the summer and warm oak tannins in the autumn. She will use the grant to install two large dye kettles to increase her output and make the business more sustainable whilst upskilling her apprentice.

Kevin Copeland is Woodland Manager at Veterans’ Growth, a charity in Westfield, East Sussex, dedicated to helping ex-service personnel who are suffering from mental health issues by offering horticultural therapy and support. Kevin will train in traditional wooden rake making in order to pass these skills on to service users and the wider community. Rakes are useful to the charity, as they hand collect the hay from their meadows, and to others in the area who are interested in farming and managing land in a more traditional and sustainable way.

Eddy Bennett is a reverse glass sign artist from Brighton who uses acid etching to create the distinctive patters recognisable from Victorian-style advertising signs of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His grant will enable him to purchase a plotter to cut vinyl etching stencils and provide custom stencils to other reverse glass sign artists in the region.

Charlotte Kenward offers traditional gilding across Sussex in restoration and conservation projects as well as for sculptures and private commissions. Her project focuses on developing her reverse glass gilding skills to be able to offer traditional reverse gilded house numbers and signage to heritage properties, thus supporting the rich architectural heritage Sussex has to offer. 

Travis Smith will train in hand hewing of timber, converting tree rounds into structural timbers using only hand tools, applying his skills to the conservation and restoration of historical buildings. In time, he also plans to pass on these skills to others who have a passion in historic timber conservation by running formal courses. 

In 2021 Heritage Crafts published the third edition of its groundbreaking Red List of Endangered Crafts, the first research of its kind to rank the UK’s traditional crafts by the likelihood that they will survive into the next generation. The report assessed 244 crafts to ascertain those which are at greatest risk of disappearing, of which four were classified as extinct, 74 as ‘endangered’ and a further 56 as ‘critically endangered’.

The successful project joins six previous Sussex recipients funded through the partnership between Heritage Crafts and SHT, including a trainee millwright, two flint wallers, a brick maker, a trug maker, a wallpaper maker. Nationally, over 50 projects have been funded through the Endangered Crafts Fund since 2019.

Mary Lewis, Heritage Crafts Endangered Crafts Manager, said:

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Sussex Heritage Trust to address the specific challenges to endangered skills and knowledge in Sussex, a region renowned for its craftsmanship and material heritage.” 

David Cowan, Chairman of the Sussex Heritage Trust, said:

“Excellent architecture and design, traditional building skills and craftmanship are an important part of the rich heritage of Sussex. This partnership with Heritage Crafts addresses the particular challenges of these crafts and facilitate the transfer of endangered crafts, building skills and knowledge to the next generation. With thanks to The Ian Foulerton Charitable Trust for funding this important work.”

For more information about the Endangered Crafts Fund, email Heritage Crafts Endangered Crafts Manager Mary Lewis at mary@heritagecrafts.org.uk or SHT CEO, Helen Reeve at helen.reeve@sussexheritagetrust.org.uk.