Good practice from Norway:

Scholarships in traditional crafts

Background

In a time of technological changes and new ways of consumption, our needs and ways of using cultural artifacts like tools, clothes, jewelry, instruments, houses and so forth, changes. This has had a big influence on how the crafts are being practiced and the demand of artisan services. The decline in active professionals mean a decline in master artisans and fewer apprentices, and this again makes a threat to the very knowledge safeguarded by the constant practice of these crafts through generations.

Stipendiatordningen for tradisjonelt håndverk (The scholarship of traditional crafts) is a funding by the Norwegian state for professional artisans – or crafters – to further develop specialization through research in the field of their craft through a 3 year scholarship.

Above: The ceramist Sissel Wathne specializes on surface finishes in her fellowship project.

Objectives

As a response to the needs of museums and others with responsibility of protecting our tangible heritage, Stipendiatordningen, was created back in 1995 as an attempt to capacitate artisans to historically informed craftsmanship. The work of these fellows has later been important to the restoration of important cultural monuments like the stave churches.

Stipendiatordningen also responds to non-institutional needs, such as:

  • the need of specialization at a high performing level,
  • the need for master artisans to lift and discuss complex issues inherent to each craft,
  • the need to inspire new apprentices
  • the need to consider the tradition (historic practice) as a part of the contemporary practice and the historic practice as a contemporary practice.

While the educational system of Norway in general has developed towards a higher degree of specialization and longer studies, the crafts have not seen the benefit of this. The role of the scholarship is to provide a way for high-level artisans to keep expanding their competence in the same way as the artistic performing artist has had within the institutions.

How it was done

The scholarship currently includes 6 fellow positions that run through a 3 year period. This means that every year two new positions are vacant, and gives the possibility to address needs within particular crafts or of particular artisans. The craftspeople do not get a formal academic degree, but has to deliver an extensive written, oral and practical exam at the end of their project.

The content of the scholarship is structured around a central theme and research question. Artisans are expected to base their projects on material, visual, written and, especially, living sources, doing research through the knowledge of others as well as through personal experiences in practical work. A central part of the philosophy behind this scholarship is that it should enhance the knowledge in the craft, more than the knowledge of the craft.

Given time and economic security, the artisans have the possibility to develop central projects aimed particularly at the expanding of knowledge of materials, techniques, historical informed practices, esthetic ideals, cultural dimensions of artifacts, functional understanding, etc. Through the Norwegian Crafts Institute they also have a platform for communicating the different aspects of their work, through lectures, guidance and publications.

The artisans represent an amazing variety of crafts, and been working all over Norway and abroad. Below are a few pictures showing a diversity of crafts as of 2018.

The blacksmither at work.

The process of making filigree.

A belt produced according to the duodje tradition of sami craft.

From the gun-smithers workshop.

The mural painter testing the quality of different surfaces. All photos: Norwegian Crafts Institute.

Key factors

1. The artisans

Finding professionals that wish to dive into the traditional performing of their craft.

 

2. Flexibility

Adjust content to each craft and each project.

 

3. Methodology

Building competence in how to do research in crafts.

 

4. Diversity

Representing the diversity of the crafts.

 

5. Understanding

Building understanding of the importance of practical cultural knowledge among decision makers and society alike.

Last updated June 26, 2018