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PostPosted: Sun Mar 17, 2019 7:52 pm 
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According to the Heritage Crafts Association (https://heritagecrafts.org.uk) flute making is a critically endangered craft. Are there as few flute makers making a living by making flutes as they seem to say? Are these skills in danger of being lost?


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 17, 2019 8:31 pm 
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The author of that article seems woefully uninformed, on many levels.

Plenty of makers out there and more coming up. This same topic actually came up on the forum just in the last month or three, have a look back if you’re interested.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2019 12:55 am 
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I do occasionally worry that many of the top makers (Burns, Copley, McGee, Olwell, etc) are in their 60’s or older. But I have faith that the next generation won’t fail us when that day comes. I’m happy in particular that Pat Olwell has a son that’s learning the tricks of the trade from his dad. Much like Walt And Ralph Sweet.
We’ll be ok.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2019 2:36 am 
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Eeek! I'm in my early seventies. I've become an endangered species....

I think you are right, Thomaston. If there's demand, makers will appear. And they won't face the headwinds we oldies had to face - single-handedly reinventing the 19th century wooden flute, approximately simultaneously in at least four countries! But what fun we had!

Still, the next generation are going to have as much fun, dealing with the mysteries we've left behind for them to solve. And there are many!


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2019 4:47 am 
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Not at all. As Loren stated: "The author of that article seems woefully uninformed, on many levels. Plenty of makers out there and more coming up"

Also there are plenty of good 19th century flutes, and modern tweaked replicas of said flutes, out there to study. There has never been any need before or now to reinvent the "wheel".


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2019 4:57 am 
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That organization appears blind to the distinction between extinct, and extirpated. Lacrosse stick making, for one, may be extirpated in the UK, but is thriving over here where the sport developed. There are any number of flute makers in other countries keeping the skills and thrills alive for new makers to take up the craft in the UK.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2019 8:40 am 
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And it's worth mentioning that the internet itself has become a huge resource for flute making. For a number of years after it went public there was not a lot of information available on flute making, but that has changed. Now if someone is interested in learning the craft they can track down books, documents/plans, how-to videos, and of course forums. It also makes it easier to contact established makers via e-mail, forums, etc..

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2019 9:11 am 
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Terry and Geoffrey,

It is only a matter of time when you and I and the other flute makers are listed under CITES, the Convention in Trade in Endangered Species, requiring that we get permits and subject ourselves to inspections before we can go anywhere out of our countries. Unless we weigh under 20 pounds and that is unlikely to happen.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2019 1:28 pm 
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The indications are that there is a healthy inclination of talented and motivated individuals to skill-up and create their own livelihoods in many different areas. Making a living solely from flute making may be possible, unrealistic, or even undesirable depending on the individual outlook, and how that activity fits with other desires and interests. Smart creative people have also figured out that we can create multiple strings to our money-earning bow and stay afloat.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2019 5:08 pm 
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Indeed, mendipman

In my early days as a maker, I worked part-time work in community radio to keep enough money coming in. After leaving that, I undertook woodwind repairs for a big Canberra music shop. That had the side benefit of showing me all the things that can go wrong, particularly with keyed instruments, and therefore all the problems I needed to foresee and avoid in making my own. Once I was busy enough making my own flutes, I phased myself out of that sideline.

Now down on the coast, I still do the occasional repair, particularly for recorder players, as they seem to sense that the mainstream woodwind repairers are not that familiar with their instruments.

Thinking back to the woodwind repairs, probably the one that stood out was the child who mopped his clarinet out by pushing a cloth with a chopstick - one of those square tapered plastic ones. It got stuck part way, so he pushed back from the other end with another chopstick. They passed by each other and became totally wedged. I think at this point another chopstick ended up joining them.

I couldn't get them out by pulling without using forces that might split the body. I ended up having to drill them out!


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2019 6:54 pm 
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If I had the money to spend, I wouldn't lack for choices in buying another new, high-end flute. I can think of at least four names right away that would be at the top of my list. A decision on which to buy would be at least partly influenced by the length of the waiting list, because all these makers have good reputations and I'm sure I could be satisfied with any of them. The fact that there *are* significant waiting lists for many of these makers is a good sign, I would think.

The real issue is whether the customer base is critically endangered, because that's what provides an environment for the makers to sell flutes. Are there increasing numbers of "Irish flute" players in the world? Or are we at a steady state, where those of us dying off are replaced by newcomers at the same rate? If it's the latter case, then there are still a lot of used flutes in the market to satisfy the demand. It would be a healthier environment for makers if the number of players is growing.

I have no idea if that's happening, because I'm in the hinterlands of the USA where flute players are thin on the ground (pipers, that's another story for some reason.... we're thick with Scottish pipers). I only know two other flute players in the area, and both are players of Scottish GHB and smallpipes who play flute as a secondary instrument. Maybe we should be asking if the number of pipers is growing! I know of several flute makers who double as makers of bagpipes.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 9:59 am 
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I'm going to see if they can improve the Flute entry.

They asked for this

"Would you and your fellow posters be able to send me the names of UK flutemakers we are missing, and then when it gets to the stage where it appears we need to reclassify we will look to do so?"


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:32 pm 
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Casey Burns wrote:
Terry and Geoffrey,
Unless we weigh under 20 pounds and that is unlikely to happen.
Casey


No, I'm all in favor of dieting, but there are limits!

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:38 pm 
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Conical bore wrote:
The real issue is whether the customer base is critically endangered, because that's what provides an environment for the makers to sell flutes.


Yes, this is the real point. There has to be demand for makers to thrive.

That was part of my thought process when I chose to make a wide variety of world flutes. Apart from really loving to try new things, it was also a conscious decision to diversify and not to be dependent upon a single, niche market. I had done that earlier in my career and then there was a drop in player interest and the market shrank alarmingly. Lesson learned.

As long as there are musical traditions that use these types of flutes and players who love the challenge then I think things will be solid. Engaging younger players is probably important. Getting kids excited about trad music keeps things alive.

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