Passing down craft skills in Mexico and Japan

Published: 13 Jan 2017

Author: Ruth Davey
Passing down craft skills in Mexico and Japan

Ruth Emily Davey, a shoemaker from Machynlleth, has recently returned from an eight week research trip to Mexico and Japan, where she investigated the passing down of craft skills. Her travels were enabled by a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship Award, supported by the Lloyd George Foundation.

Ruth runs her own shop in Machynlleth making handcrafted shoes and she is currently training two apprentices. With craft skills on the decline and with a lack of funding and training available for makers, she wanted to visit two countries with a rich and diverse history of craftsmanship, and discover how, at a time when demand for factory made goods continues to increase, they are ensuring these skills are passed to future generations and not lost to the world.

Ruth spent time with small communities in the south of Mexico who continue to practise weaving, the art of their ancestors. In contrast, she visited large scale companies in Japan who train many apprentices. She was impressed by the national honours system present in Japan, whereby master craftsmen are commended, which means traditional craft skills are protected.

“I discovered so much on my journey that I am hoping to implement here in the UK. I was extremely lucky when, aged 18, I found an apprenticeship with a shoemaker who taught me one to one for many years. I want to use my Fellowship to help bring 'making' and crafts to our education system, and promote one to one apprenticeships to help young people learn a craft once again. I believe there needs to be a revival of the master to apprentice way of teaching” – Ruth Emily Davey

Since she has returned to the UK, Ruth has been busy creating a collection of shoes from her travels, using a piece from every workshop she visited in Mexico and Japan. At the end of January 2017 she will be opening an exhibition at her shop to display this collection.

She gave a talk about her Fellowship at the 2016 Heritage Crafts Association conference, and has also spoken at her old art college, Coleg Sir Gâr in Camarthen, and to local groups. She plans to continue to present her findings to relevant organisations in order to make the case for crafts and making to be made a bigger part of children’s education and to influence others in supporting apprenticeships in craft.

Read Ruth’s report here

Notes to Editors

Contact: [email protected]

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About Ruth Emily Davey

Ruth Emily Davey is a QEST (Queen Elizabeth Trust scholar), a previous winner of the creative unit award at Aberystwyth Art centre and winner of the Balvenie Young Master of Craft Award 2011. She runs her own shop in Machynlleth making handcrafted shoes and is currently training two apprentices.