Gail McGarva a remarkable boatbuilder

Gail McGarva will be speaking at the Heritage Crafts Association spring conference at the V&A in March and the next few blog posts will be profiling some of the excellent speakers you’ll get a chance to hear if you are coming and to whet the appetite of those who are yet to book. I blogged about Gail’s work with the Lyme Lerret before here
This is the moment her new Lyme Lerret was launched.

Gail learned her boatbuilding after living for 16 years on a boat. For her first project at the Lyme boatbuilding acadamy she wanted to build a boat with a story. Gail read an article on the Shetland boat builder, Willie Mouat, last of the line of his particular tradition of boatbuilding. He was talking about the Gardie Boat, the oldest example of a Shetland boat, built in 1882 and conserved by the Boat Haven Museum in Unst. Gail immediately knew she wanted to build the daughter of the Gardie Boat. She contacted Willie to ask for help with the project and he said the whole Unst community would be delighted.Eevetually she took the boat up to Unst and launched it down the same slipway as the original Gardie boat had been launched 120 years earlier.

I think this is what makes Gail special, she not only appreciates the beauty and craftsmanship of these gorgeous wooden vessels but has a deep understanding of the place they have in the culture that gave rise to them. This adds a whole extra layer of value beyond beauty and utility. Gail’s next project concentrates on this aspect. She is working with Lyme museum on the HLF funded “Maritime Lyme” project. The project will collect and tell the stories of an historic Dorset fishing vessel through a series of community events, an oral history project and the creation of an archive of documents and photographs. Here are a last couple of photos of the Lerret and at the bottom links to interviews.

Two good interviews with Gail on Lyme radio in 2007 here and on woman’s hour 2009 here 

I would happily listen to Gail talk about boatbuilding all day but we have so many good speakers and time is limited, we also find at these events that it is important to leave some time for folk to meet informally and chat with inspiring craftspeople. We hope that presenting these wonderful crafts in the Victoria and Albert Museum will also help to raise the profile and status of traditional craft. It will be an exciting day, hope you can make it. Book here

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