I’m incredibly pleased to have been chosen as winner of the 2018 HCA/Marsh Endangered Crafts Award. This new award, funded by the Marsh Christian Trust is aimed as craftspeople working on one of the 62 crafts currently listed in the ‘critically endangered’ or ‘endangered’ categories of the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts and secure its survival for the future.
I will be using the award to learn about making Devon stave baskets with Mark Snellgrove, the only current practioner in the UK. These baskets are very unusual as they are constructed like a barrel with the sawn staves individually fitted onto steam bent rims. There is a lot to learn and I’m looking forward to this new challenge and helping to promote and preserve this craft for the future.
Summer is surely now just around the corner so it was the perfect time to be teaching a group how to make wooden hay rakes as part of the Rusland Horizons project in Cumbria.
Our venue for the weekend was the fabulous Stott Park Bobbin Mill near Windermere which has a long connection with coppicing which continues today.
A wooden hay rake is a relatively simple item but with lots of details in getting it right. First we made the teeth, or tines, by splitting a short ash log into squares and knocking them through my tine cutter. We made tines collectively, rapidly filling my Devon stave basket; there’s some exciting news about those to come, keep following the blog.
At the same time, part of the group were busy shaving the rake head on the shavehorse. I love that the quiet of using hand tools allows people space to chat as they work.
A big part of getting the rake right is drilling all the holes for the tines. It’s a great exercise in teamwork, sighting for each other and working together to get them straight
We made split stail rakes, sawing down the handle to open it out in a V to attach it to the heads. It was all very busy and exciting at this stage so I missed taking photos of the process but we finished with a set of fine new rakes, ready for the fields.
I make wooden hay rakes each year which I sell at my Learn to Scythe courses around the UK. They’re too large to post but if you’re interested in buying one, get in touch and we can try and arrange to meet or you can come and collect one if you’re near Manchester.
Great thoughts on craft from Jonathan Anderson in Sunday’s Guardian ahead of the Loewe Craft Prize.
This quote feels especially important, not only that he wants to change the situation but that the gap between how art and craft are perceived is recognised and discussed:
“I feel an obligation to help craft practitioners: to redefine craft and prevent it from being seen as a lower form than art.”
Read the full article on the Guardian’s website
When you get your new scythe, it’s easy to overlook the small wooden wedge in amongst all the other parts and packaging. I’ve got used to having spare wedges for people who have mistakenly overlooked and thrown away this vital part so it’s brilliant to see that, following my suggestion, they are now unmistakeably stamped. Thanks to Richard Brown for the photo.
What’s so special about the wedge? Well, the scythe is an incredibly subtle tool. When set up correctly, it whispers effortlessly through the grass cutting it cleanly and neatly. Small changes to the various angles though will throw it off and leave you struggling to cut or, worse still, digging your scythe blade into the ground.
The wedge is used to adjust the height of the cutting edge of the blade from the ground which, when you’re stood holding your scythe, wants to be about 8mm. All of this is covered in detail in my Learn to Scythe book and on my courses where I’ll help you set up and adjust the scythe so all the angles are optimised for you.
I’ve just finished making a small group of these ash splint wall baskets. These are one of my favourite shapes to weave with a subtle swelling and single steam-bent ash hanger.
My craft teaching season is about to start with a trip down to Cornwall this week so I’ll be weaving less and passing on skills more. It means I won’t have much time for making baskets myself so, if you’re interested in these lovely baskets, snap one up now.
Ash splint wall basket, approx 7″ high to rim £100
Another beautiful film about weaving ash splint baskets, this time featuring Jamin Uticone of Swamp Road Baskets. I love hearing him talk about the trees he uses, his trading and the minimal impact his craft has on the forest. It’s wonderful to watch him working and marvel at the beautiful material he has available.
Watching it is inspiring me to weave up some pack baskets of my own, like this pair I made last year, more photos here. Watch this space for news of those and some other baskets which I’ll have for sale soon.
If you’re feeling inspired yourself, why not book onto one of the ash splint basket making courses I am teaching in 2018? You’ll learn how to source and pound your own splints and weave them into a lightweight, strong basket.
The next date is 17-18 March 2018, book directly with Yurt Works, Cornwall
The scythe season is rapidly approaching and I hope I’ll see you on one of my Learn to Scythe courses where you’ll learn to set up, sharpen and mow for the maximum effectiveness and enjoyment.
One of the trickiest things to learn when you start is to slide the scythe blade on the ground, keeping contact with the earth all the time. Lifting the blade requires extra effort and means you’ll not get a neat cut. If you’ve been on one of my courses, you’ll know that we spend a lot time learning to ‘Keep it on the ground!’
Here are a few folk who could do with some help, I could have posted many, many more. If you have a friend who swings their scythe like Poldark. maybe send them this post. Please don’t copy their technique.
This is a very beautiful film about Stephen Jerome from the Mi’gmaq First Nation community of Gesgapegiag in the province of Quebec, Canada. The short film shows Stephen harvest a tree and convert it into a rib basket using simple tools.
I learned a lot from watching this and seeing techniques similar and different to my own. If you’d like to learn about ash splint basket making, I will be teaching courses during 2018. Visit my craft courses page or sign up to my newsletter for updates.
I have been invited down by my friend Tim of Yurtworks to teach an ash splint basket making workshop in Cornwall on 17th -18th March 2018. I met Tim when I lived in the SW and am really looking forward to being back down there and teaching ash splint basketry again. We’ll be pounding splints from some local ash from Tim’s coppice so it will be an exciting workshop to see how that compares with my usual timber.
During the weekend you’ll learn all the process to source and prepare weaving splints from UK ash and weave a simple fruit basket.
More details of the course and how to book are on the Yurtworks website http://www.yurtworks.co.uk/courses/basketmaking.htm
Thursday 19th April 2018 10:00 – 4:30 £90 inc materials.
Email me stevetomlin8[at]gmail.com for more details or book your place here.
I’m really excited to be running my first spoon carving course in Manchester this spring. Take a day off work and learn how to carve wooden spoons from local timber using axe and knives. The course is suitable for beginners or those with carving experience looking to expand their skills and understanding of wood working.
The Edge Theatre is a fantastic venue in the heart of Chorlton, South Manchester.