Rural crafts refers to the traditional crafts production that is carried on, simply for everyday practical use, in the agricultural countryside. Once widespread and commonplace, the survival of some rural crafts is now in doubt according to the report 'Mapping Heritage Craft' (Nov 2012).
Not being generally produced for sale, they do not fall under the description of handicraft. Not being produced as a hobby, they do not qualify as arts and crafts. Not (until very recently) being produced by a dedicated full-time worker, but rather being part of a general repertoire of skills, they have not been produced for sale by an artisan class of makers. The exceptions to the latter would be the wheelwrights, saddle-makers and blacksmiths.
Examples of rural crafts would be:
- Basket making (for carrying)
- Basket trap making (for catching animals, e.g.: eels)
- Hurdle making
- Hay crib making
- Spinning yarn
- Hedge laying
- Charcoal burning
- Dry stone walling
- Cob walling
- Pond making
- Coracle making
- Boundary marker making (e.g.: stone cairns)
A wide variety of joinery construction in wood was also practiced, from tool-making through gate-making and wheel-making, to full-scale barn building. Some add skills such as beekeeping and path laying to the list of rural crafts. In coastal areas, there are additional crafts associated with the sea; such as net making for fishing, and small boat making.
Rural crafts will tend to vary in their styles from place to place, and will thus often contribute strongly to a sense of place.
Offering training courses in, and demonstrations of, rural crafts is now becoming a viable job in some parts of the British Isles, and thus contributing to the development of tourism. Artists such as Andy Goldsworthy are also exploring the artistic possibilities of applying rural crafts techniques to the making of outdoor sculptural art.
The rural crafts are to be distinguished from the pseudo-primitive "rustic" handicraft goods often seen in rural gift shops.
- E.J. Stowe. Crafts of the Countryside. Longmans, Green & Co., 1948.
- 'Mapping Heritage Craft', a UK research report of November 2012.