Recent events may have altered the course of orrery making...
The Heritage Craft Association(HCA) is an organisation responsible for pushing endangered crafts to the fore in order to prevent them from becoming extinct, yes that's right literally EXTINCT. Some of the craft that they help to promote I had personally never heard of and there are others that I thought were doing just fine, well apparently not. Check out their Red List of Endangered Craft, you will find us on it.
When we joined the Red List last year I did not expect what came next.... Enter The Michelangelo Foundation. It turns out that we were chosen to be a part of the first steps of a journey to bring endangered crafts across Europe back from the brink of obscurity.
You can read more about The Michelangelo Foundation and their collaboration with the HCA in a press release on their website.
...It began in May 2019. My father and I were contacted and asked to appear in a brief film about us and our craft, this film was to be shown at fairs in the UK and across Europe. Of course we obliged and in September we filmed, over two days, in our workshop and at a couple of other locations near by.
The film crew arrived a little late the first day, not their fault mind you as some of their filming equipment went missing on the flight over from Amsterdam. Thankfully it was retrieved but it did mean we lost half a day and as the crew were on a tight schedule we had no time to waste.
We travelled into Thetford where we found the volunteer staff at The Charles Burrell Museum more than accommodating, letting us film after hours. Whilst in Thetford I introduced our new friends to the local cuisine, looking back on it now I am not convinced Weatherspoons was a good choice. Fed, we pushed on with our mission.
The filming continued back at our workshop. The cameras they use are amazing, so amazing in fact as to work best in minimal light. Not the most conducive method of working on lathes when wanting to retain all 10 fingers but we succeeded with digits intact.
The director, Thibault Vallotton, inspired by the opening credits of Peaky Blinders no less told me that he wanted a Victorian industrial scene as a back shot. Norfolk is a rural setting and the best we could find at short notice was Stoke Ferry which is home to a few old building and one in particular made it into our film. Stoke Ferry Hall is an imposing rectangular red brick building with sash windows and an elaborate stone entrance, it is reminiscent of a time when words like lathe and mill would have been common parlance.
Under the direction of Thibault. my father and I walked up and down a street in Stoke Ferry for what seemed like an eternity for a shot that didn't make it into the finished film. Perhaps that was retributions for our Weatherspoon visit, hmm I wonder. Of course in reality the finished video is only three minutes long. The fastidious nature of the film crew was imperative what with the short time that they had with us. I would do well to remember that fact if a similar opportunity was to arise again.
Fast forward to February 2020. The film was premiered alongside two others at Sommerset House in London. Wow, what a venue. We watched along with a full house, following introductions by HCA Chair and Calligraphy specialist Patricia Lovett and The Michelangelo Foundations co-executive Alberto Cavalli.
You cannot fault the film, the shots looked amazing and it was well received by the room. I left Sommerset House feeling a little taller, not just confident from the warm applause that we had received but inspired by the words of Patrica and Alberto, that our craft can still have significance in a world which is all too busy rushing forward towards the next thing. We need to stop, take stock of what we have. All importantly we need to make sure that we never lose our ability to invent, to craft, to do the things that make us unique.
I need to make more of an effort to share my work, not just finished orrery but also the process we use, tools we make and what we am currently working on. This is my first steps towards doing that. I will be sharing more ideas on this blog and on social media, I am leaning more towards Instagram right now. I would be honoured if you followed us on the journey.
You can see the finale video below, notice my pedestrian sentence in subtitle form in the thumb nail. Note to self... 'must be more inspiring'. The two other films on show were of Collar & Harness Maker Kate Hetherington and David A. Smith who has far to many talents to list.
Great blog post.
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One busy orrery makers attempt at giving a peak behind the curtain of an irregular job in somewhat regular intervals.