One of only four swill basket makers in the entire world, Lorna Singleton keeps alive an ancient Lake District tradition.
Her exhibition: Modern Basketry comes to an end at Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry, on Monday 6 May. In this short interview, Lorna reflects on her work being on show and the reaction from visitors:
How has it felt to have an exhibition of your work at Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry?
This was the first time I’ve exhibited my work at home here in Cumbria so it was a bit nerve-wracking! I’m really enjoying having the exhibition at the museum. It’s been a great chance to spend time at the museum and look through the Joseph Hardman photos for swill related photos, which is something I’ve been meaning to do for years.
What has it been like showing visitors how to make baskets?
I always really enjoy teaching and doing so at the museum alongside the traditional artefacts has been wonderful. All baskets are made by hand, it isn’t a process that can be mechanised. Swill basketry is a very labour intensive process. Whenever people have a go at the techniques they appreciate the skill involved and respect the products a lot more.
What reaction have you had to your exhibition?
Very positive! Visiting the museum and seeing the feedback ‘leaves’ on the tree up there is always entertaining and lifts the spirits. I’ve been contacted by people whose ancestors were swill basket makers or who have really old swill baskets. I really enjoy that link to the past and creating a mental map of where the industry was historically based.
What next for Lorna Singleton?
It’s currently bark peeling time in the woods so I’m busy doing that for the next few weeks. I have upcoming exhibitions at Creative with Nature in Todmorden and at the Ruthin Craft Centre in Wales. I have also been making and teaching hazel baskets for a few years now and I have a trip to Romania to learn Roma hazel baskets, which I am extremely excited about and look forward to passing some skills on when I return. Beyond that I hope to build a new workshop so I’m also planning that and working out how to fund it.
Lorna’s exhibition ends at close of play on Monday 6 May. At time of going to press there was one place left at her swill basket making workshop taking place on Saturday 4 May. Find out more here.