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A Celebration of Traditional Devon Crafts and Trades


The western world is in flux: the advance of new technologies, economic erosion in previously wealthy countries and new workplace dynamics are changing communities and applying new pressures on working people. Rural communities often bear the brunt of these socioeconomic shifts. Devon is a typical example. Largely an agricultural economy, with small local industries and pockets of wealth around some towns and cities, it is also home to some deprived communities and remote hamlets and villages that have changed little for decades. Yet, Devon has spectacular landscapes, a rich history and a myriad of traditional artisans, crafters and trades people. These individuals remain a constant in a changing world: often working quietly and unobtrusively, far from the madding crowds, honing traditional skills and weaving the fabric of the lives and landscapes around us. I have had it in mind to start a project recording examples of their lives and work for a few years now: to creating a celebration of the unseen and little known and to developing a record of the contexts in which these people work, the intimacy of the relationship between the producer, their product and the contexts within which they work.

I conceived the idea for this project sometime ago, as I have friends who are artisans and traditional trades people and have always appreciated the quality of traditional, handmade products that results from individual inspiration and skill. However, I am in the very early stages of making it happen. As portrait work is a departure from my usual specialisms of macro and nature work, I have approached a few local trades and crafts people to work with them as research and development and to test my skills as a portrait photographer. I have photographed a craftsman lime mortaring a renovated section of a local canal that was used during the 19th century and which forms part of an old industrial landscape that includes the granite tramways that transported granite from Dartmoor’s mines to the port at Teignmouth. I have also visited a master thatcher, a leather shoe maker and a lobster fisherman. Results from these initial visits have been very positive and I am now applying for grants to take the project forwards and I aim to include a world renowned luthier, wheelwrights, ceramic artist, green oak timber framer, cider maker, charcoal burner and many more diverse and interesting traditional trades people from all reaches of Devon.   

I envisage the project finishing with a roving exhibition that would visit every area of Devon. The exhibition would be available for venues such as community centers and hospitals to really reach people of every background and age so these traditional skills can be celebrated by everyone. A roving exhibition of this sort would be entirely dependent on attracting funding and I am in the process of applying for grants to make this happen. 

I would love to hear about people who are pursuing traditional trades in Devon who would be happy to be a part of this project or if you have a venue that would like to host the exhibition from 2019 onwards. 

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