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16" Oak Spelk Basket is made by Lorna Singleton at her workshop in Cumbria, one of only 2 professional oak 'Swillers' in the country.
Known as swills, swales, spelks and spales, these oak baskets are from the Furness area of South Cumbria (old Lancashire). They were used for everything and anything, including as charcoal scuttles to provide charcoal to the iron industry, transporting coal onto steam ships and trains, tatty & turnip baskets on farms, collecting bracken “ont fell”, and cockle pickers used a specific pattern in their work on Morecambe Bay.
The term swill basket comes from the action of swilling the cockles in water to rinse them. Spelk is a dialect work for a splinter or a splint of wood, they could be called split wood or splint baskets but locally they have always been spelks or swills.
In it’s simplest form making spelk baskets involves splitting green wood along the grain into strips, in Lorna's local tradition these are called spelks and taws.
Lorna strives to carry on this tradition, continuing the work of generations of basketmakers and woodland workers before her, the skills and knowledge they have kept alive.