Lost Trades Showcased at Toowoomba
Words and photos: Patrick Szewczuk
Toowoomba, 6-7 October 2018: I was told once that the wheel was easy; the carpentry was hard. The point being it took a lot of work and craftsmanship to make big things happen. We needed the right tools to work the materials in the right way, and bring about one of the most important inventions ever.
Our trades have traditionally been passed down from master to apprentice but as industries automate and retailers worry about costs per unit many of our trades which take time to learn and master are at risk of being lost.
The Lost Trades Fair is looking to preserve our traditions and is now in its fifth year. This show should be a centrepiece in the calendar for all makers and craftspeople to continue the age-old relationship of master and apprentice as a way of preserving tradition and community.
Of course the Lost Trades Fair is not limited to woodworkers but many rare and forgotten crafts, such as those working with textiles who turn wool into thread and then into the jumpers and clothes we wear. The Lost Trades Fair brings together a community of leather workers, bookbinders, jewellers, painters and calligraphers among others who set up next to the woodworkers; the wooden toy makers, luthiers, woodcarvers and furniture makers. For the modern designer, crafting a new piece is often about blending elements from different trades and the fair provides the perfect platform to do just that.
The fair also provides the perfect space to begin learning from the truly experienced masters and access to a welcoming community. Many were keen to share their knowledge, allowing attendees to pick their brains for the names of suppliers of materials and tools, the right technique to get the right finish, or simply a lifetime of information and knowledge needed for the next generation of makers to carry on the trade.
Master carver Bruce Weier, a Toowoomba local, ran the peering crowds through the process of carving a relief from blocks of timber. ‘The right tool is crucial’, he said, with literally thousands of chisels, gouges and knives to choose from. It is clear from the quality of his work that care and technique and knowledge can go a long way in shaping a world class piece.
The fair is a priceless experience for those with the drive to create but not able to figure out where to start. Even if your focus is on a newer trade, it is important to know that a wider community exists with a rich history of tradition that has in fact shaped the world as we know it today. In a fast paced digital and automated age some trades, once crucial to our survival, are now mainly the in the realm of the hobbyist. The trades which are pursued by these modern masters of the Lost Trades Fair with artisan level of craftsmanship are producing heirloom quality pieces which are built to last generations instead of just until next season.
The diversity of the crowds who attended – young, old, locals and travellers – are a hopeful and sure sign that our traditions and trades will continue, at least for now to be handed down to the next generation and carried on.
Over 70 artisans took part in the Lost Trades Fair in Toowoomba this year, while attendees numbered just under 11,000.
The Lost Trades Fair will next take place in Kyneton, Victoria on March 9 and 10, 2019. The Toowoomba LTF follows in May with a NSW event scheduled for later in the year. For information and updates see www.losttrades.info
Patrick Szewczuk is a Sydney based carpenter who has also worked in community radio.