Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The need for a traditional crafts organisation

For many years I have felt we need an organisation to support traditional crafts in the UK. I have lobbied and campaigned in the hopes of getting a government organisation but finally realised that it will be better if it comes from the craftspeople ourselves.

The last few weeks I have been in correspondence with many folk in the traditional craft world and we hope to create an organisation that can help preserve and promote some of our wonderful heritage of craft skills.

Today I met with Brian Crosby of the Basketmakers Association to discuss the way forward and together we visited the last sieve or riddle maker hand weaving garden riddles.

Here is Brian on the right and Mike Turnock the sieve maker on the left. Mike buys in 4" slabs of beech and saws them into thin strips that are steam bent to make the sieve rims.

Cutting wire mesh to fit a rim.

and making another hoop to hold the mesh in place. The anvil is an old axle from the 19th century Dove Holes Tramway.

Fitting the sieve together if everything is cut correctly it is a tight fit.

Next Mike showed us how he weaves specialists riddles. First drilling the holes, note how the holes are not evenly spaced around the rim in order to get even wire spacing inside.

The drill bit is a cut down masonry nail, Mike prefers to use this as by pushing it in different distances he can make holes to suit different thicknesses of wire without changing the bit.

Starting to weave. By using a special "crook" Mike lifts one wire and lowers the next.

Then threads the wire through.

He then pulls it tight, cuts it off, bends it down, turns the point in and hammers it into the side wall.

Mike makes sieves and riddles in all sorts of sizes and some specialist ones. The one he is holding here is for shrimp and the pile in the background for grading cockles.

Mike is 63. He works very hard and can make a living at his trade. He can not afford to work part time because of the workshop overheads and he can't afford to take anyone on. He says he will work past 65 but how long this trade will carry on for is uncertain.

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