Traditional basketry by young Cumbrian crafter Lorna Singleton

Modern Basketry by Lorna Singleton

19 January - 6 May 2019

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.

Modern Basketry by Lorna Singleton opens at the Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry, Kendal, Cumbria and runs until 6 May.

‘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 practiced in England - oak basket making.
Lorna is one of only four craftspeople in the entire world maintaining this skill and way of life. She will now have her beautiful work exhibited in Kendal, Cumbria.

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’s work as an example of someone keeping this traditional craft alive.
It will bring 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 in spring. 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. More information and booking available here.

Related Events

Basket Making Workshops

Weave Your Own Basket: Easter Family workshops with Lorna Singleton.

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  • © Thom Atkinson