Traditional basketry by young Cumbrian crafter Lorna Singleton

Modern Basketry by Lorna Singleton

New Year New Maker

19 January - 6 May 2019

The woodlands of South Lakeland were dotted with swill shops in the nineteenth century. These little workshops made swill baskets, woven from strips of local oak. This display showcases beautiful pieces by Lorna Singleton, who is one of only two professional basket weavers still working in the Lake District. Singleton follows the long tradition of swill basket making in Cumbria, coppicing the materials of her craft in the Rusland Valley and creating pieces that bring together long-established techniques and contemporary design.

In the Lake District’s old swill shops, a fully qualified swiller could make a basket in around 40 minutes but much more time would be spent in preparing the timber and maintaining the tools before construction could begin. In a week one swiller would produce around 40 baskets. The baskets were used across the UK in factories, mines, farms and homes and the coppicing that the industry relied on gave a unique feel to the woodland. 

Singleton comments, “I am honouring the generations of swillers by creating baskets in traditional patterns. However, the oak swill and the techniques used to handle it are incredible and deserve celebration, so I also endeavour to design and make contemporary products that show off the unique strength and flexibility of swill.”

Singleton’s pieces will be shown along historic tools, objects to handle and a chance to try your hand at weaving in our family area, so you’ll leave with knowledge and inspiration that could keep this wonderful traditional alive.

If you would like to have a go at basket weaving first time or improve your existing skills with the help of a professional maker, you can join one of our basket making workshops led by Lorna Singleton. More information and booking available here.

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Basket Making Workshops

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  • © Thom Atkinson