Prior to 2017, The Heritage Craft Association, as it was called then, carried out extensive research and created a list which highlighted viable, endangered, critically endangered and extinct crafts. In 2017 The Red List was published and since then, continues to be updated to include more crafts as well as changes in the status of crafts already included. 

During the research process, information from crafts across the UK was gathered with the aim of identifying their current and future viability. 

Some crafts were found not to be viable, with no known craftsperson continuing to make these specific crafts, and therefore they were named extinct. 

Extinct crafts are currently: cricket ball making, gold beating, lacrosse stick making and Mould and deckle making.

These skills have most likely been lost due to machine use and the industry moving on from needing skilled hands. 

So what happens when a skill becomes extinct? Firstly it’s not as finite as many other extinctions we know of, although without anyone starting the craft again it could lie dormant for many years and maybe forever. Ultimately, it would take someone to be excited about the craft and see the merit in learning it again and passing it on. Learning a craft that has fallen out of current culture can pose many difficulties. A person needs to search and uncover teachings that may not be easy to find. They need to become explorers of the craft and if very little information is found they may need to recreate the craft through their own trial and error. This takes time, energy, money and determination, so what would be the point, does it matter if these skills are lost if they have no use in our modern world? 

I think with the current fast culture we have and the access to creating 15-60second films with an audience that consumes anything from cat videos, prank videos to fascinating craft and art-making videos, it just takes one person to start the chain of craft creation again, to stick out and be the only one, and this is somewhat of a privilege these days that can earn you high recognition. 

So where does In a New Light project fit in? It isn’t a purist project, meaning we are not trying to help create a space where a shoemaker teaches an aspiring shoemaker…we are disrupting the craft skills with the view to inspiring someone who would never think to use these craft skills, to utilise them and incorporate them within their own creative practice.
A Painter who is learning to make ceramic tiles to use as a canvas, for example. 

In 2021 The Red List was updated and with it, 2 out of the 3 skills we highlight within the project, tile making and gilding, had been moved from endangered into the viable category, with coppersmithing still being endangered. This just shows that crafts can move out of being endangered as well as drop into being endangered, within a matter of years.

At the time we worried about still highlighting these now viable skills within the project. However, these skills are still fragile and also they just happened to connect to the history of Barnstaple and the closing of Brannam’s Pottery and Shapland and Petter. The closure of these two prominent Barnstaple industries has surely shaped the future of Barnstaple. Being able to teach the skills of tile making, gilding and coppersmithing to artists that are building their own businesses could be seen as cyclical and creating a historical provenance, which we hope inspires new works that then go on to inspire others to look to the past for future inspiration. 


Thank you to Heritage Crafts for the images used for this blog.