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 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!
In case it’s not obvious, I’ve included my own choice of still together with the video/link so click on the bottom image of each to see the film. One amongst many nowadays things we have no control over is links! It’s likely that some of these won’t work tomorrow .. if you experience that please tell me and I’ll see whether there’s another source.
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