Sunday, 10 May 2015

The Lost Trades Fair

Held in Kyneton Victoria, the Lost Trades Fair promotes manual and traditional trades and crafts that are considered rare and unusual in our modern age. The shift to mass production using inexpensive fossil fuel energy and cheaper, generally less skilled labour has meant that many of these traditional skills are in danger of being lost or forgotten. The fair connects skilled craftspeople with the public, not only by providing an opportunity to purchase their beautiful wares, but also by enabling us to find out more about these trades, and in some cases even to learn them.

Attending the fair was a great opportunity to see skilled makers in action and to be able to talk with them about their craft.  Given that 15000 people attended the 2 day fair, I think it's fair to say that the trades and skills of the artisans were of great interest to the public.   Why?  I guess there are plenty of reasons. Apart from a general curiosity about these trades, perhaps it's a backlash against mass produced, cheap 'stuff' produced by people who may work long hours for the privilege of being underpaid for their efforts? (I hope so). Is it because there is something special about seeing someone craft an item of beauty and function from raw materials? Or an appreciation of the skill of the artisan and what it has taken them to reach their level of skill?  Or the fact that most of us don't actually make much with our hands anymore?  I'm sure the answer is yes to all of the above. 

First up we visited the stalls of the spoon carvers.  Mr PragSust, interested in all things wood, was keen to know what sort of wood they favoured. We were able to chat to  the carvers while watching them at work. 

We love the idea of being able to find high value uses for smallish pieces of timber so we both signed up for a spoon making course. Can't wait!  I would love to be able to make my own wooden spoons.  I reckon that having lovely, hand crafted items for everyday use adds an extra layer of pleasure to life.

The Rundell and Rundell stall was a beauty, showcasing Glen Rundell's beautiful handmade Windsor chairs, stools and Shaker boxes. The attention to detail in every item he makes is just amazing and the chairs are beyond comfortable. I've sat in one and was amazed. Glen runs classes from his workshop - you can check them out on his website.

George Smithwick's coopering stall was also a big hit. George is a 6th generation Cooper so he knows a thing or two about the craft. According to Wikipedia, coopering is the craft of making wooden, staved vessels, bound together with hoops and possessing flat ends or heads. These vessels include wine barrels, wooden buckets, butter churns and casks.  Mr PragSust had done a day-long wooden bucket making course with George and testifies to his skill and patience as a teacher. I was pretty darn impressed with his bucket - not only did it look great, it really did hold water.

The scything blokes from the Southern Scythe Squad (an entertaining and informative WWW site; sustainability needs more WWW sites that get information across without proselytising or preaching) had been hard at work demonstrating the wonder of the scythe. The grass area around their stall was almost at lawn bowls level - testament to the efficiency of their instruments, and of course their skill.  We have our own scythe but were a little hazy on how to sharpen it. Not to worry, the guys gave us a sharpening demo and we were able to buy the tools to do it at home.

There were lots and lots of other stalls - blacksmiths, handmade wooden clocks, stonemasons, cob oven makers, wooden boat and musical instrument makers, bow makers ....and the list goes on.  

Oh yeah, the food at the fair was pretty good too.

So if you have an interest in the handmade, or in useful and beautiful things in general, then the Lost Trades Fair is definitely worth a visit. I'm sure the next one in 2016 will be a ripper.

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