Museum News

Heritage Craft Heroes – Three women makers promoting Endangered Crafts


Here at the Museum our focus is always on keeping crafts and skills from the past alive. Many are at risk and our aim is to ensure the survival of these traditional techniques. The Museum hosts some of the most varied heritage craft courses in the country – several of which are on the Heritage Crafts Association’s Red List of Endangered Crafts – take a look on our website to see if there is one for you.

To further promote crafts at risk, the Museum is also hosting three women makers and members of the Heritage Craft Association during August. Each is a specialist in their area with a passion for demonstrating their craft.

Keep reading to find out more…

Anna Rennie, Artisan Silversmith and Maille Maker, 8-10 AugustAnna tailoring a mail shirt 1

A skilled Silversmith and Maille Maker, Anna creates all pieces by hand and is fiercely passionate about sharing knowledge of her craft.

Originally from Cornwall, Anna studied at her local college to attain a degree in Silversmithing and Jewellery after which she studied at Bishopsland Educational Trust to further her silversmithing skills. She now works as a Silversmith, Maille Maker and lecturer.

More commonly known as chainmail, maille refers to metal rings which are joined together in a pattern to create a protective mesh. Historically worn by soldiers on the battlefield, maille is flexible but also incredibly strong – in essence a metal fabric!

Anna is currently under the mentorship of Maille Maker, Nick Checksfield, where she is learning the finer points of the craft such as tailoring and restoration.

The skill of maille making is sadly on the critically endangered crafts list. Originally developed all over Europe and the East, maille was used in the UK on and off until recent times where it was used by tank crews in WWI and by butchers.

During 8-10 August, you can watch Anna in action as she demonstrates and discusses her craft.

Rachel O’Connell of ROCWORX®, Marbling Artist, 15 – 17 AugustRocworx

Marbling was traditionally used for book covers and end papers, the patterned paper ensured that damage due to constant or rough handling wasn’t so obvious. Today, there are fewer than 20 people still marbling in the UK.

Marbling Artist, Rachel O’Connell of ROCWORX® uses a combination of traditional tools, heritage-craft techniques and a contemporary design aesthetic, to create beautiful items which will last a lifetime.

Rachel has marbled for several decades, first training in Turkey in her teens. Turning a much loved hobby into a thriving business, her website is ever evolving as she develops new products. Working in interior design, Rachel trained in leatherwork for upholstery and now combines the crafts of marbling and leatherwork to create homewares, lighting and soft furnishings as well as artwork, books, cards and stationery.

The art of marbling consists of floating ink or paint on a surface to create a pattern. The design is then transferred onto paper or other items, producing patterns similar to smooth marble or other

kinds of stone. The result is extremely complex patterns which require very high levels of skill to attain.

Rachel will be demonstrating this skilled process and chatting about the history of marbling during 15-17 August.

Katie morganKatie B Morgan, Folk and Fairground Art, 23 – 25 August

A decorative artist specialising in folk and popular art including the restoration of wagons and fairground rides, all of Kate’s work is completely hand-painted.

Early fairground art featured intricate wood carvings, painted banners and exotic jungle and animal scenery. With limited access to books or media and foreign travel beyond the means of most, a painting at the fairground was many people’s best chance of encountering a lion, giraffe or polar bear.

Gilding is an important feature of fairground artwork, with genuine gold leaf used in early styles. Later the use of coloured glazes painted over aluminium leaf became popular, amber yellow giving an impression of real gold, though much cheaper than the real thing! These glazes were christened “Flamboyants” and feature heavily in a great deal of fairground art.

The craft has a varied and rich history, changing over the years to reflect economic conditions as well as the cultures and fashions of the time. Today many artists focus on recreating older artwork styles whilst others continue to push boundaries with new themes.

We are delighted to have Kate joining us to discuss her love of this specialist craft including the use of gilding and how this form of artwork has evolved over the years.

If this all sounds of interest, you can learn more about Heritage Crafts at our Made by Hand weekend on the 16-17 September. During this event we will have many more visiting heritage craft specialists from the Endangered Crafts list, along with some of our resident and regular demonstrators showcasing their skills at the Museum. Find out more here – LINK.

Anna and Rachel will also be returning to the Museum on 16 and 17 September for our Made by Hand: Heritage Crafts and Skills weekend accompanied by a host of other endangered craft specialists.