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 Crossly 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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8 Responses to The need for a traditional crafts organisation

  1. miss rika December 17, 2008 at 8:59 pm #

    Congratulations! I can’t wait to see what develops. Does Nicola have any plans to become involved on the writing/recording side of things? It sounds like a great opportunity. I’d also love to get my hands on one of the kitchen sieves . . . Here is his website, for anyone else interested:http://www.riddles-sieves.co.uk/

  2. Robin Wood December 18, 2008 at 8:58 am #

    Thanks for posting his website Rika, I couldn’t access it when I checked so didn’t post it but it works now.Nicola does not have time to put into it at the moment, she is busy putting together funding bids for her next research project.I am confident that we will get an organisation off the ground next year. There is such a need for it, the crafts council specifically excludes traditional crafts from its remit concentrating on “contemporary craft” which for folk that don’t know means the equivalent of the modern art end of the craft spectrum. I have no problem with that but there should also be support for traditional craft and at the moment there is not.

  3. Bodger January 1, 2009 at 11:25 am #

    Well here’s one potential member Robin. It would be great for me as I’m just starting out into the green craft (age 56) and I’m sure there are lots of things that could be done to help each other – for example I’ve just gone through two grant applications and about to get into a third. This experience and just the knowledge of what may be available could be the difference between making ends meet and not, and I would be happy to pass on my meagre knowledge gained so far. There is also an immense amount of things I don’t know and blogs like yours are very helpful and hopefully the organisation would be more so – if you need bodies to help at, count me in

  4. Robin Wood January 1, 2009 at 11:51 am #

    Thanks for the encouragement. I presume you know the APT and http://www.bodgers.org.uk lots of good info and skills sharing on the forum there.The body we are working on now is an umbrella body covering all traditional crafts, identifying those “on the brink” and taking action to secure their future.

  5. doug fitch January 5, 2009 at 12:42 am #

    Hi there, I just chanced upon your blog. Amazing stuff. I’m off to bed now as it’s the middle of the night, but I look forward to reading more. I’m very interested in this post as I’m a potter, working in a traditional way and making my own interpretation of the Englishslipware tradition. I use sieves too, but not as fine as those ones!CheersDoug

  6. Robin Wood January 5, 2009 at 8:54 am #

    Hi Doug,Glad you enjoyed the blog, I enjoyed your site. The double jams reminded me of Brancuzi’s kiss. I am sure we have many friends in common, I am a fan of Clives work but mostly at home we have Svends pots, lots of them.Mike makes glaze sieves if you even need more.

  7. Ray Latham November 23, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

    Hi there, I really apprieceate the time and effort involved in your craft wich is a dying art as I am sure that you know. We use to have a chap localy that use to make our shrimp riddles for us as we needed them, however he has since past away, and none of his sones wanted to cary the trade and skill on.Wich is a great shame, however I was wondering if it would it would be possible if you could make me a threepnce happen riddle for my shrimping a nd how mutch it would cost, best regards ray latham

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