I happened to be putting this collection together just before June 23 and our nation’s misguided effort to reaffirm its island status. I didn’t manage to post it back then and the moment has gone .. not the issue of course, just the collective moment. In a way I’m glad I didn’t because with hindsight I’ve been able to skim away much of the embarrassing vitriol and lack of understanding.
Here you will see examples of WORLD craftsmanship, the best of which is demonstrated not only by the final outcome but also by the manner of working and the attitude, the demeanour of the maker. In many of these you will sense the true spirit of sharing.
I’m proud to be British! We can be proud that British craftsmanship ranks amongst the best in the world but it has only achieved that by assimilating the best from other cultures and it has been able to do that from a position of priviledge. We can visit other countries relatively freely and a great many of us have the financial means to do it if we put our minds to it. We have learned a great deal and have been profoundly inspired by the wider world but there is still so much more that would do us a lot of good. How are we returning the favour? Many of the artisans featured are in no position to learn anything about us, let alone benefiting from our accumulated knowledge yet from our vantage we can access almost all that we want. I want to feel fully part of this greater WORLD we live in, not separated from it. Neither craftsmanship, nor artistry, nor knowledge really ‘belongs’ to us .. it’s shared .. and we should face up to the fact that the same could apply to many of the other things we value as our own.
But to get to the point now .. here I’ve listed either treasured examples of craftsmanship on film which I’ve known about for some time or those I’ve newly discovered. More can be found on portal sites such as Reddit, particularly if you seek out the group https://www.reddit.com/r/artisan and of course YouTube if you’re prepared to risk your time and patience with a Bertie Bott’s ‘Every Flavour Beans’ experience! For more specific quality on Vimeo you can find collections from the V&A and the Crafts Council at https://vimeo.com/vamuseum or https://vimeo.com/craftscouncil
I’ve made a selection of those short films which have truly made me feel something .. whether it’s admiration for the seeming effortlessness of a perfectly refined skill; comfort in the affirmation of the power of handwork .. or it could be any one of these in combination with the pleasure of a well crafted film.
Good craftsmanship really needs equally good film-making! Bad film-making can make the beautiful seem dull .. just as good storytelling and camerawork can elevate the dullest or most reluctant personality. But fortunately the ‘personalities’ in many of these films, whether the objects made or those making them, are anything but dull or shy to begin with, as you will soon see!
Please note! Previously I included the proper video/links in this post but it was interfering with the loading of my ‘Home’ page so much that I’ve removed them. If you want to see any of the films you just have to go to my links section where they will be stored permanently. So don’t try to click on the image here, it’s just a ‘still’ I’ve chosen!
Balan the Blowpipe Maker
A very sensitive portrait of a blowpipe maker belonging to Borneo’s Penan tribe, using his own words. Balan is the last in his village to practice the craft .. but he keeps on smiling!
Guy Reid, Making Andrew
We follow the sculptor Guy Reid through the whole process of creating the figure of Andrew in limewood. A film by Margot Donkervoort.
Woodturning and painting a Japanese kokeshi doll
Yasuo Okazaki demonstrates making a ‘Naruko’ style kokeshi doll, a skill handed down to him from his father.
The painting of a Scottish Opera backcloth
Head Scenic Artist at Scottish Opera Kelvin Guy talks us through the painting of a large backdrop for the set of Donizetti’s ‘Don Pasquale’.
Moroccan mosaic art
You’ve got to witness their complete control when shaping pieces of glazed ceramic tile and making it look like chipping shortbread! Turn the music off though .. unless ambient lift music is your thing.
Sugar sculpture by Jacquy Pfeiffer
Jacquy Pfeiffer of the French Pastry School talks about his sugar sculpting.
Making cricket balls
From a time before ‘high tech’ manufacture .. 1956, the year I was born.
Making a lacquer vessel
Korean craftsman Chung Hae-Cho demonstrates all the stages of his method for making a vessel using layers of lacquer.
A ceramic teapot on the wheel
Tokoname Master Craftsman Genji Shimizu ( artist name ‘Hokujo’ ) demonstrates making a kyusu (Japanese tea pot) on a wheel.
Skakuhachi – One Man’s Meditation
Kelvin Falconer makes and plays shakuhachi ( Japanese vertical bamboo flute ).
Turning chess pieces using a bow lathe
Woodturner Mostopha Dnouch working in the street in Marrakech. Filmed by Stuart King in 2007
The art of marbling
Art of the Marbler 1970
The technique of marbling shown in this film makes use of a bath of ‘thickened’ water (using a carrageenan, derived from seaweed) because the paints used are water-based and they would disperse or sink far too readily in straight water. The method developed in Central Asia and became most popular in Turkey .. the Turkish word for it is ebru. The other common ‘marbling’ technique which came more from East Asia, particularly Japan, uses either inks or oil-based colours which will sit on water, as demonstrated in the other film on ‘suminagashi’ included in my links entry.