This year’s grant recipients are pursuing some fascinating research into traditional handcraft on both sides of the equator, and we’re excited to support their work! Without further ado, here they are.
Aaron Keim is a woodworker, musician, teacher, and writer who has made a living through the ukulele for 20 years. His aim is to go back to learn from those who originally developed the instrument, Portuguese cabinetmakers and luthiers who emigrated from the island of Madeira to Hawaii in the late 19th century. He will travel to Hawaii to examine several collections of rare early instruments as well as visiting the shops of modern makers, with the goal of building an instrument utilizing period-correct tools and techniques.
Thiago Silva is an artisan based in Brazil whose work includes toolmaking, furniture making, and musical instruments (including harpsichords and pipe organs). In 2016, he and his wife started an initiative called Saber com as Mãos (Knowing by Hand), which focuses on the preservation and promotion of traditional crafts. Brazil is home to more than 200 different ethnic groups and was colonized by Portugal in 1500, and has since been heavily influenced by many other nations. It also contains among the richest diversity of wood species on the planet. This remarkable mixing pot has led to some lamenting a seeming muddying of true Brazilian craft tradition, but Silva’s aim is to find the points of connection in the diverse heritages. Through travels across the country and interviews with local craftspeople, he will look to bring together a big-picture view of the evolution of the handcraft culture of Brazil, and how all those influential factors helped shape it.
Our first grant recipient (from last year) will be published in the next issue of M&T, so stay tuned for that – it’s going to be good!