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 will go on show in a new exhibition here in Kendal.
Modern Basketry by Lorna Singleton opens at our wonderful Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry on 25th January and runs until 6 May.
‘Swilling’ refers to an ancient craft – oak basket making – which was popular in 19th century Cumbria. Swilled baskets can be seen in the illustrations of Beatrix Potter and were common until after World War Two, when plastic grew in popularity.
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.. 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.
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 will bring together some of Lorna’s best pieces along with historic tools and a chance for visitors to try weaving themselves.
“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.
You can book by calling 01539722464.