In this modern age, advances in technology have drowned out some of those glimmers of the past that informed much of our contemporary product offering and design aesthetic. My fascination with all things time-worn and unique have long drawn me towards lesser-known trades, and I love engaging them in my work. Many spaces I have designed incorporate the work of artisans, such as shipwrights, blacksmiths and typographers, and lots of the pieces I sell in my shop have been hand-crafted by people who specialise in their field of old-school craftsmanship. I want to celebrate these remnants of yesteryear and shine a light on skills that have perhaps lived in the shade in recent years.
Here's my alphabet of arcane trades:
A is for...
Arrows are beautiful things. Perhaps it's their ability to fly or the fun you can have with customising the tail feathers that has always piqued my interest? They are also steeped in history – over 64,000 years old, it is estimated. The bow and arrow was a piece of weaponry that swept over the globe, from Africa, to Asia, to the Mediterranean, too. I'm imagining a slightly romantic version of its use, hinted at in history's grand tales, such as Homer's The Odyssey and medieval epics. Archers were those who fought with the bow and arrow and they would sometimes make their own arrows, though early warriors with this weapon of choice definitely made their own. An arrow maker was referred to as a fletcher, and could sometimes be called an artillator. An arrow's ability to soar and meet its mark came down to the finessing of materials and honing of skills, which speaks to my value of the craft.
An arrow's material makeup varied greatly from culture to culture, though a strong and sturdy shaft and sharp point was a constant among them all. Wood and metal were used for the shaft, and straightness and strength were of key importance. Arrowheads of bone, shell and stone have been found from earlier societies and of course metal, when advancements allowed. But it's the 'fletches' at the tail end where things get interesting (for me). This is perhaps where archers and arrow makers could mark their pieces as unique, as artefacts have been found with feathers and other substitutes, such as tufts of fur and pieces of animal hide, and sometimes leaves. In fact, some arrows have been found without anything at the end, meaning that some archers felt that their arrow needed no help with stability and would meet its target swiftly. Personally, I'm not averse to a pompom or colourful flourish, though my arrows will never find themselves flying through the air. Their mark has been met, and they sit as another string in my decorative bow.