Endangered Crafts




 My journey began with history, a deep desire to discover the history of our traditional arts and crafts movement and who were the artists keeping the endangered crafts revived today. The first place to look is, of course, the Heritage Crafts Association. Which is a volunteer-led foundation, working in partnership with Government and key agencies to protect and work towards a healthy sustainable framework for future generations. They offer sponsorships and fund projects that support and endangered crafts such as Clog Making with Jeremy Atkinson, Swill Basket Making with Owen Jones and becoming a WheelWright with Phill Gregson.


 All three men have a deep-rooted history in developing their craft. Either it’s been passed down from father to son as a long family tradition, or well-respected friend and member of their community taught them. I could sense the pride and honour they felt from being taught by great masters and the sadness that they were the last of their generation. Without the support of the HCS, the skill these men have required and rich history surrounding the crafts would soon be forgotten with the passing of time.


Meeting ‘The Clog Maker’  Jeremy Atkinson in Hereford was a fantastic experience, his devilish humour and keen intellect kept me laughing well into the evening hours. We spoke as he worked in his cosy workshop lit by the huge roadside window. Jeremy talked about the changing tides of the industry and due to the speed of machinery, he couldn’t keep up with mass production. Therefore, he only deals with bespoke clogs. 

The English clog has always been part wood, part leather, both a locally sourced and traditionally made. Hand-cut leather uppers with hand-carved soles. The English tended to carve welsh and west country alder, the Scottish birch and Lincolnshire willow. The Welsh used alder, birch and sycamore, which Jeremy established would last longer and could take more wear and tear.


Jeremy Atkinson - www.clogmaker.co.uk

Driving along a winding country road, wildflowers engulfing each curb, and the air fragrant with the scent of damp wood, vibrant red roses, and wild blossoms. I turned into a lush green, golden lit cul-de-sac. To be greeted by Owen Jones a ‘Swiller’. A tall eathy man, rough hands with a bright, welcoming smile.

 

Owen Jones - www.oakswills.co.uk

As I observed his work, time took on a different quality. Every minute was peaceful and uplifting. Surrounded by enchanting landscapes, playful birds and a babbling river you couldn’t help get lost in time, lost in another world. ‘It’s peaceful’ he says, I agreed. ‘I get so much enjoyment from watching the season change and being surrounded by nature’, and I could understand why.

  

 The precise origins of the baskets’ are unknown, but they did have much usefulness. Carrying coal in steamships, mines and veg baskets for the local markets. Farmers also made use of the design for broadcast sowing, harvesting root crops and carrying animal feed.
These days, the oak swill basket have adapted once more. Used in the home for everything from laundry to logs and large versions are sometimes used as Moses baskets. Owen mentioned that if you use a sheepskin rug in the bottom, it’s a perfect little nest for a newborn baby. Owen has been a ‘Swiller’ now for the past 30 years, and Owen said it’s still a challenge; every tree is different, and each batch of baskets has its own journey.’ Which makes each basket so much more unique.

 

Owen Jones - www.oakswills.co.uk

Phill Gregson - www.wheelwrighting.co.uk

I was excited to be heading home for the next part of my project, back to Lancashire, there I was to meet a fourth-generation Wheelwright, Phill Gregson. Renowned for his skill and abilities, Phil has travelled all over the world, earning himself the position of Yeoman of the Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights. Not many people can trace their family back to their great-grandfather and still be in the same trade. There is something quite nostalgic knowing you are apart of family tradition, a rich history of craftsmen. Notwithstanding, the fact you carry a responsibility of passing that tradition on, sharing your skills with the next generation, in this modern world of fast-paced technology, that can be a heavyweight to bear.

Phill Gregson - www.wheelwrighting.co.uk


Phill mentioned that his father didn’t want him to follow in his path as a Wheelwright. Predicting the difficulties that lay ahead within the modern world. However, it’s hard to let go of a family tradition. Those cherished memories from father to son, that history and knowledge that makes you one of a kind. After trying different paths, they all eventually lead back to becoming a Master Certificated Wheelwright. 


A wheelwright has been around for millennia and is one amongst the oldest crafts known to man. The overall appearance of the wheel has barely changed. Except for subtle changes in the 17th and 21st century to help keep up with the demands of a changing world. There are many parts to creating a grand wheel. Firstly you begin with the nave or hub, a well-seasoned piece of elm. Then there are the spokes, two spokes for each felloe. Once they were hammered into position, the wheel had its rim. For the shoeing, the wheel was then set over a pit of water and laid upon it was a red hot strip of curved iron. Hot iron burned into the wood, the wheelwright punched in rose-headed nails and turned the wheel round in the pit of water. This was done repeatedly on both sides. Finally, the wheel had to be boxed. Meaning, a cast-iron box inserted and fixed with wedges with the centre of the nave. And there lay the Axle arm. It was them the responsibility of the wheelwright to make sure his wheels were properly hun for the axle-arms. 



 Phil and Emily, his wife, welcomed me with open arms and captivated me with their many stories of travels across America for their “World Wheelwright” project. As well as their passion for helping others through workshops and charity projects. I couldn’t thank them enough for their time, knowledge and passion for what they do and how to keep it going for generations to come. 

Phill Gregson - www.wheelwrighting.co.uk


Find more information about their incredible journey http://www.worldwidewheelwright.com/
Many thanks to Phill Gregson at http://wheelwrighting.co.uk/


Do you want to work with ethical fashion brands

I had an incredible opportunity to collaborate with an inspirational woman, Molly, founder of Pink City Print.  After nearly a year of chatting about the shoot, Molly and I finally had a
chance to meet. It was one of those surprisingly sunny days in March, and over a coffee, we discuss her brand, her journey and passion for ethical fashion. Molly’s brand works alongside the artisans of Indian, these men and women are involved in every process of creating all the beautifully handmade garments. Molly also works closely with the Women’s Centre teaching them the embroidery skill to help them become more independent, and it creates a new way for the ladies to earn an extra income.


 An embroidered dress can take up to three days to complete, using natural fibre, cotton, silk, and hand-loomed Khadi cotton. Each piece is worked on by hand and completely unique. While shooting in the Canary Islands it got so hot I just had to put one on, and boy did it feel good! It was such an honour to be a part of this brand’s mission, which also reflects my mission. And to think, if I hadn’t followed her on Insta and if she didn’t reach out, then this opportunity might never have happened, but thankfully it did! And we produced amazing visuals that show off the astounding talents of the artisans of India. Check out ”The Process “.




Iceland - Trip of a lifetime

Where to start with our trip to Iceland. Well, it was magical, mysterious and takes your breath away at every opportunity it can. Chris and I hired a car, became adventures and travelled around the entire island in 9 days, and what a journey it was. We battled rain, wind, and hard terrain to reach each location, and when we thought the weather and tiredness couldn’t get any worse the sun appeared and the most amazing landscape revealed itself!

The 20 hours of light gave us more than enough time to explore Iceland to the full, and a long day driving and hiking makes for a hungry couple. The food was amazing and very expensive, however, after 7 days of lunching on cheese and crackers in the car, the evening meals were a welcome relief! Check out our Vblog to see the full 9-day trip which includes the most amazing whale watching experience.

Using Format