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David French - Budleigh Style Pots

David is an active withy pot maker currently based in Plymouth, who sells, demonstrates (often alongside Sue Morgan from Hope Cove) and teaches this dying art. I was intrigued to learn more about his style of pot. David very kindly invited me and my mum to his home to discuss it further.

He grew up in Budleigh Salterton, a small coastal town in East Devon which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and described as “one of Devon’s most unspoiled and charming towns” on www.visitbudleigh.com

His family, the Mears, were 1 of 4 in the village who were involved in fishing for a number of generations, but working Withy pot making in his family sadly ceased in 1965, for several reasons including, cost and the man hours required to make them. Dave is the 5th generation in his family and last member to continue to make this style of pot and he is trying to keep the family heritage alive. He explained in an email to me that:

‘I carry on the craft of making these pots to keep it in the family, but after me there will be no one to pass it on to as no one else wants to take it up.’

The Budleigh Withy Pot

Traditional Budleigh pots were made from Black Maul willow and nut stick (hazel), David explained in an email:

‘…I always use Black Maul on the large working pots, when I make small sized ones I also use Flanders Red as it is easy on the hands and turns a nice colour as it ages’ ‘Flanders is great for the small ones and will make larger working pots, but Black Maul is ideal for the working pots as it is tougher.’

He begins with 12 standards to create the funnel. Compared with the Hope Cove pots, which are made entirely from willow, the budleigh pots use string to tie it together. The binding is then done in a clockwise direction. Interestingly Cornish pots are apparently done in an anti-clockwise direction and Devon pots have a flatter top too! I must look into this and share some photos in another blog! :)

The style of base in these pots is unique to East Devon. It is worked from the centre out, as seen in the images below. I quite like the cross that is produced in the middle, which distinguishes it from a Hope Cove style pot.

David also has a selection of tools he uses....


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