“I really enjoy that link to the past and creating a mental map of where swill basket making was historically based” – Lorna Singleton

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.

 

Why We’re Having ‘Fun on the Fells’

By Rachel Roberts, Assistant Curator, Collections and Access

The Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry presents our new exhibition, Fun on the Fells, 11 March – 28 October.

The exhibition examines the history of walking and climbing in the Lake District and researching and writing it gave me a whole new perspective on these popular pastimes.

Every year, millions of people go walking and climbing on the fells of the Lake District. They might be thinking about whether they have brought the right map, whether they are supposed to go left or right, or even where the nearest pub is, but they don’t have to worry about their right to use the footpaths of Lakeland. However this hasn’t always been the case.

Since the enclosures acts of the 1700s, Cumbria was separated out into large farms with strict boundaries. Crossing these boundaries could result in clashes with the landowner. Throughout the 1800s, as more people lived in overcrowded and unhealthy cities, the countryside became seen as a place to escape the smog and take healthy exercise. Bills were introduced to parliament to gain access to footpaths and mountains for everyone but none were successful. By the 1930s more than 50% of the land in the UK was privately owned and off limits to most walkers and climbers.

Between the wars, the campaign for access to the countryside intensified with high-profile protests, for example the mass trespass at Kinder Scout in 1932. Finally, in 1951 the Peak District became the first National Park in the UK, with the Lake District being designated just 3 weeks later. National Parks continue to give access to footpaths and access land to all visitors, they now account for 10% of the land in the UK across 15 parks.

Today, when we walk in the Lakes we are following a much more turbulent path than we might think.

Visit the Fun on the Fells exhibition at the Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry, 11 March – 28 October 2017.

In the Moment ‘on the Lake’

In the Moment summer projects get better and better! This year, an August day out on Windermere, inspired by the lovely old boat ‘Branksome’ being restored ahead of the new Windermere Jetty opening in 2017.

‘In the Moment’ is part of Lakeland Arts’ Enriched by Moments programme of creative activity for people living with dementia and their carers. The group meets weekly in Kendal, drawing inspiration from Lakeland Arts sites, collections, exhibitions and displays, as well as local festivals and events. The sessions are a joyful blend of art and poetry, and have been described as ‘respite without separation’ – pleasurable and stimulating for everyone involved, and proven to support people to live well with dementia. Somehow, the process of immersion in experiences, the flow that happens during creative engagement has a transformative and beneficial effect that seems to extend beyond the sessions, for everyone involved.

In the lead up to the summer project, costumes from the Handling Collection and a photograph of Edna Haworth who lived at Langdale Chase and commissioned the building of ‘Branksome’ in 1896 were our starting points. Together, they provided ideas for us to create a really special day out and bring ‘Branksome’ to life in a completely new way. We shaped the day to include a visit to the Jetty conservation shed, experience an hour on the lake, disembark at Langdale Chase where we would see the boathouse built specially for ‘Branksome’ and then have afternoon tea close to the terrace overlooking the lake where Edna is standing for her photograph.

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It has been wonderful subject matter to be immersed in, enabling a relaxed and playful connection with the late Victorian era. The group created their own accessories, including appliqued capes, cuffs, choker necklaces, boater hats and false moustaches!

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Everyone enjoyed role playing their way into their costumes!

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The group also spent time thinking about the boat, making drawings and maps and two members of the group partipated in stitching the outline of Branksome onto white fabric.

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The visit to look at Branksome being restored was illuminating. Stephen, the Senior Boat Conservator, explained the process of finding just the right shaped piece of oak, known as grown crook of oak, to replace the original stem. This way of growing oak gives the wood the curvature in the grain which will follow the line of the stem. A brand new figurehead, inspired by some of the intricate carvings at Langdale Chase, illustrated how the boat is being restored to its former glory. Stephen also told us that an oak tree felled to make room for the development of the new museum is being used to create the steam bent timbers lining the interior of the boat.

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We left the Jetty Conservation Shed, amazed by the craftmanship and care that the conservation team are employing, and made our way to Waterhead for our picnic as we waited for our boat to arrive. We made a happy gathering, wearing our hats which were very welcome in the bright sunshine.

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We boarded The Princess of the Lake, our very own wooden launch for an hour! It was glorious to be on the lake, everyone so thrilled, the beautiful weather, landscape, sense of friendship and shared experience.

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As the boat pulled into the Langdale Chase jetty, we got our first view of the boathouse which was the original home of ‘Branksome’ and Bernice and John waiting to welcome us.

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Safely off the boat, we unfolded the stitched drawing of the boat and floated it into the water by the boathouse – a symbolic returning of ‘Branksome’ to it’s original home.

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Up on Edna’s terrace at what is now the Langdale Chase Hotel, we held up ‘Branksome’ to dry, creating another connection between the boat, the lake, its original owner and original home.

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The afternoon ended with afternoon tea and poetry readings. We’ve had two more ‘In the Moments’ since our wonderful day out and each time we’ve projected images of the day directly onto the studio wall which has had the effect of bringing that moment on the lake directly into the room again. Members of the group have created personal dioramas that create a visual sense of their moments on the lake, as well as prints and a large inked landscape of the lake.

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Get involved: our next big project with ‘In the Moment’ is the Creative Age Challenge in late October during the weekend of the Kendal Wool Gathering when knitters and crafters are Yarn Bombing the museum. We are working in schools and with community groups in Kendal to create a Hand Made Herd – a flock of small scale sheep that will fill the oval in the front of Abbot Hall Art Gallery. During the weekend of the gathering, sheep will be on display and then auctioned at 3pm on Sunday 30 October to raise funds to support the Enriched by Moments programme. Invite us to run a sheep making workshop in your workplace, school, community centre. Come to MOLLI’s Woolly Workshops during half term. Volunteer!

For more information about the Enriched by Moments programme check out the website at http://www.lakelandarts.org.uk/learning