In 2018 the (then) Flemish Minister of Culture Sven Gatz initiated a subsidised program for master-apprentice projects. Passing on craftsmanship and skills – to safeguard the knowledge and traditions – is a very involved and time-consuming process. Grants were launched to give people time and space to, in the course of several months or years, apprentice with a master in a certain trade. This financial support made possible, for both master and apprentice, to really focus on passing on the knowhow, extensively practice it and in doing so building up expertise.
Master and apprentice both receive part of the grant. (At most €2000 per month to be divided between them for a maximum duration of 2 years, so a maximum grant of €48,000. Most projects did not apply for the maximum grant). Twenty-seven grants were awarded in 2018 and a further thirty-five in 2019.
These grants fit within the Flemish policy regarding intangible heritage: the vulnerable, yet immensely valuable heritage in the heads, hands (and hearts) of people. Often crafts or techniques. It is about traditional crafts such as forging, embroidery and printing, but also about cultural heritage, such as the restoration of old manuscripts. The minister also sees craftsmanship as a culture-wide approach with, for example, trajectories for putting tattoos or working with Brabant draft horses on our fields. Stage arts are also discussed, such as the craftsmanship of the stage designer or the instrument builder. Finally, there is also craftsmanship brought to Flanders by newcomers, such as playing Moroccan instruments. This leads to exciting intercultural cooperation.
This grant system clearly responds to a major need in the field: enabling the individual transfer of knowledge and skills in an often specialized context, whether or not threatened, with a high heritage value and strong social relevance by removing certain financial thresholds for both master and apprentice. The students' new knowledge of old practices often leads to new creations, such as jewelery or fashion.
ETWIE is a partner in five approved applications on the transfer of intangible knowledge and heritage of a particular technique, including one on artisanal embroidery and one on embossing.
Anita Meersman (master) and Maaike Van den Abbeele (apprentice) received a grant for passing on the craftsmanship in artisanal embroidery. Anita has been making high-quality embroidery for years. The artisanal embroidery exists in between manual and digital embroidery. A type of embroidery-machine is used, like a carpenter would use a band saw, but it still requires a particular dexterity and coordination between both hands and feet. Manual embroidery is barely practiced anymore, because almost everything is done digitally. Artisanal embroidery is also threatened. It takes a lot of practice, technique, concentration, control and patience to master this craftsmanship. Maaike and Anita try to preserve this living heritage. Cheers to them!
Master Patrick Storme and four students, who already have experience in the goldsmith's art, received a grant to pass on the craftsmanship in metal embossing. This involves both shaping the copper or silver plate and applying fine details and delicate textures. Many years ago, Storme's career started in a similar learning system, so he really appreciates the value and benefits this master and apprentice approach can offer. It all started when his teacher and mentor Wim Ibens asked him to participate in the reconstruction of the 13th-century Saint Gertrude Shrine in Nivelles. This magnificent gothic style shrine is a fine example of silversmithing, in which skillful embossing is beautifully represented.”