Grants for artisans to pass on their craft


Young people can now become blacksmiths, clogmakers or weavers under a new training programme that ensures that artisanal heritage gets passed on

‘Valuable but vulnerable’

Flemish culture minister Sven Gatz spent part of his week baking bread, forging metal and working fabric with a giant loom. The minister has just launched a programme that endures that such traditional craftsmanship is passed down to future generations.

The programme also works as a reminder to the public of the quality and craftsmanship of traditional artisans. Gatz (pictured) got his own training at Bokrijk, an open-air museum of Flemish heritage in Genk. The site recently launched its own brand, Bokrijk Brankmerkt, or BKRK, to showcase and sell products made by traditional artisans on site.

Bokrijk engages visitors with questions about traditional crafts, like how can we link the quality of hand-crafted items with new technologies and how are new crafts inspired by the old? These questions will also be on the minds of apprentices who sign up to the new programme.

The programme offers subsidies for an artisan to go through the painstaking training process of passing on the trade to a young person who wants to learn it. All kinds of trades are considered for subsidies, including shoemaking, coach building, bookbinding and instrument making.

“Our goal is to ensure that craftsmanship and technical skills that belong to our intangible heritage get the credit they deserve,” said Gatz. “We are also building bridges in education and profiling ourselves internationally because Unesco is also calling for this valuable but vulnerable heritage to be passed on to new generations.”

Photo courtesy Gatz Cabinet