The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Thursday, September 19, 2019


Forgotten Cumbrian craft comes alive at Museum of Lakeland Life
Lorna Singleton, Checking the shape and placement of the spelks © Thom Atkinson.


KENDAL.- One of only four swill basket makers in the entire world, Lorna Singleton keeps alive an ancient Lake District tradition.

From her workshop in the shadow of the Cumbrian fells, Singleton uses long-established methods to create beautiful hand-woven baskets for the modern day.

Now her work is on show in a new exhibition.

‘Swilling’ was popular in 19th century Cumbria. In this instance it is not a term to do with drinking or pigs, but refers to an ancient craft - oak basket making.

Swilled baskets can be seen in the illustrations of Beatrix Potter and were common until after World War Two, when plastics became popular.

In Singleton’s work, craft and conservation work together. She cuts and prepares the wood by hand, managing and restoring coppice woodland in a responsible and renewable way, seeing the whole process from tree to finished product.

Modern Basketry by Lorna Singleton shines the spotlight on the history of swilling while displaying Singleton as an example of someone keeping this traditional craft alive.

It brings together some of Lorna’s best pieces along with historic tools and a chance for visitors to try weaving themselves.

The woodlands of South Lakeland were dotted with swill shops in the 19th Century. Swill baskets were used across the UK in factories, mines, farms and homes and the coppicing that the industry relied on created a unique habitat.

Lorna, 35, who has a workshop in Burneside, near Kendal, said: “You can’t create swill baskets with machines. I use simple hand tools and techniques used by generations of swillers before me. The baskets are extremely durable.

“When I’ve made a basket I want people to use it and pass it down to the next generation, as they did in a bygone era.”

A Finalist of the 2016 Cumbria Life Award for Best Maker, Lorna will run basket making workshops at the Museum on 27 April and 4 May.

Lorna Singleton is one of the UK’s last remaining ‘swillers’, a specialist in woven products made with coppiced oak. Lorna graduated as an apprentice of the Bill Hogarth MBE Memorial Apprenticeship Trust, following three years of intensive tuition in coppice woodland management. Using simple hand tools and techniques from generations past, Lorna Singleton creates baskets based on the traditional patterns from South Cumbrian region as well as collaborating on contemporary applications for this historic practice.






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