| LONDON, April 4
LONDON, April 4 Jewellery from jet black stone
once favoured by bereaved Victorians and hand-knitted sweaters
from Scotland's Fair Isle opened a show of British crafts on
Thursday, their makers among a handful of people to still
practise each trade.
"Crafted - Makers of the Exceptional" at London's Somerset
House showcases the work of modern manufacturers and individuals
in traditional British crafts who are defying a long-term
decline in industries which attract few young people.
The craftsmen work at their stands, hand-stitching leather,
printing poetry using a traditional letterpress and knitting
intricate Fair Isle fishermen's sweaters.
The master watchmaker from Geneva-based Vacheron Constantin,
the world's oldest watchmaker in continuous production since
1755, assembles the tiny components of a timepiece using skills
which take years of training to learn.
The global luxury industry's double digit growth every year
since 2007 has prompted a reappraisal of the importance of the
crafts that underpin it, according to Walpole British Luxury,
the association behind the exhibition.
"What has been bubbling under the surface is a renaissance
of individuals who decided of their own volition to become a
maker, learn that craft and are now at the top of their field,"
the Walpole Crafted programme's chair Guy Salter told Reuters.
Jewellery designer Jacqueline Cullen is one of only a few
crafters to use Whitby jet, a 180 million-year-old black fossil
once worn by Victorians as "mourning jewellery" after the death
of a family member which often contained locks of hair from the
deceased or a photograph.
But Cullen is the only designer to try to shed the rock's
association with death, creating instead large pendant earrings
or chunky rings encrusted with droplets of gold and crystals.
"Jet has been put in a pigeon hole of death and grief and
morbidity rather than appreciated for the raw material," said
Cullen, who has been working with the black rock for 10 years.
Named after the northern English fishing town where it was
extensively mined more than a century ago, Whitby jet is now
rare and Cullen relies on supplies of the stone from an
abseiler, who descends old quarries to collect the raw material.
"There are a few people using jet in Whitby but they are
using Victorian designs and designs for tourists. I'm the only
one that has taken jet to a 21st century audience," Cullen said.
When Mati Ventrillon began knitting on Fair Isle, off
Scotland's northern coast, she was one of only three knitters
producing Fair Isle woollen sweaters on the windswept island.
Now interest in learning the complicated knitting style is
growing on the island of 60 people, Ventrillon said, with three
more residents picking up needles in the last year to create the
"When you think about a place that only has 20 houses, the
population is ageing and there aren't many jobs, people need to
be very creative...(knitting) has always been something extra to
do to bring food home," Ventrillon said.
"Crafted - Makers of the Exceptional" runs from April 4. -
April 6. at London's Somerset House.