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Withy Lore begins!

As many of you know, withy pots (the traditional crab/lobster pot made largely from willow) have been a little bit of an obsession of mine for a while now!

In 2016, a year before my first child was born, I began a project called Jewelwithy, after a proposal to

exhibit a collection of jewellery inspired by the craft and its heritage at The Devon Guild of Craftsmen

(now known as MAKE Southwest) was successful. Sadly, the following year, my partners father, a

Cornish fisherman, passed away before meeting our first child and many of his stories had been lost. As I

grew into parenthood the project took on more meaning. As the craft fades so too does a precious part

of my children’s heritage which holds values and principles, I would like to teach them along with a

sense of belonging.
Tommy Thomas making a withy pot in Penberth

My jewellery has always been conceptual, and this project offered me the opportunity to explore it as

an educational tool which tells a story to help raise awareness; alongside research made through film

and photography with Cornwall College and members of the withy pot community in the South West.

This was displayed at MAKE Southwest September - November 2022.

I did not know where this might lead me, but as the project developed I soon realised the importance of collaboration in documenting and sharing the knowledge, skills and stories of those I had met along the way. There is a real sense of urgency to continue the momentum and honour the last few remaining withy pot makers'; yet I lack the expertise and experience in digitally recording and editing this precious information into something accessible, engaging and that does the craft and its community justise.

Naturally a new project has developed called 'Withy Lore', to celebrate withy pots around the South West. This time I am very excited to tell you that I will be working in partnership with! They have an extensive 10-year portfolio of digital storytelling, including working with those from the fishing communities; and they have a professional, creative, kind and sensitive approach towards it. They also have experience in delivering creative story-sharing projects within communities and schools, for a range of organisations across the arts, heritage and culture sectors. I believe that by working in partnership with Storylines through Withy Lore, this will add huge value in helping to preserve and raise awareness of this important, eco friendly, heritage craft which resonates with so many.

Over the past year I have been busy planning with Storylines and we can now very excitedly say that we have begun our Withy Lore project! Funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, FEAST Cornwall, Cornwall Community Foundation, the  St.Aubyn Foundation and the Fishmongers Company will allow us to spend time with those involved in the craft over 2024, recording their memories, knowledge and reflections and create opportunities for young people to learn from them. These will be celebrated through film, photography, storytelling and art, beginning with an exhibition at the Royal Cornwall Museum from 10th March – 22nd June 2025. I am still eagerly awaiting news of funding for my plans to create a collection of withy pot artefact illustrations, to include in an exhibition book which highlights the similarities and differences between them.

Showcasing our work at Royal Cornwall Museum, a leading museum for Cornish Art and Culture, and having their support means so much! and we can not wait to begin this journey with them!

If you would like to see what we get up to, Storylines and I will be sharing blogs thoughout! We are also on the look out for young volunteers to help with various stages of the project, please do get in touch if you are interested in finding out more.

Thanks for reading! :)


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