Cumbrian oak swill basket maker Owen Jones is to recieve an MBE for services to basket making.
We are absolutely thrilled to discover that our friend Owen is to recieve this award. I can't think of anyone more deserving.
Former helicopter engineer, Owen was taught to make 'swills' in 1988 by retired ‘Swiller’ from Broughton-in-Furness, John Barker who served his time in a 1930’s swillshop. When Owen met first met John, he was one of the last swillers from that generation who was still making them.
We have had the privledge of knowing Owen for more 20 years and have so admired both the products he makes and his life ethic. There aren't many genuinely production orientated craftsman who have achieved both self fulfillment through their craft and supported a young family at the same time. You just have to watch his fluid intuitive and economic movements during one of his demonstrations at the shows he attends around the country, it's abundantly clear that here is one of those rare craftsmen who combines accuracy and efficiency with speed. As Octogenarian craftsman Walter Lloyd once said....... 'anyone can make something given time but a true craftsman is one that can make durable beautiful products and make them fast'.
Owen works with speed and accuracy, instinctively familiar with every single piece of hand riven coppiced oak that goes into making beautiful and functional baskets. Owen once said..........'after the first 100 baskets you can start to enjoy the process'.
Unlike his forebears, Owen enjoys the whole process from felling the coppiced oak to selling the baskets direct to his customers. Owen wastes nothing from the oak he fells, good quality straight sapwood goes for swill making, heartwood for cleft gates and woven panels and the poorer quality crown wood makes charcoal and firewood.
Over the years he has willingly shared his enthusiasm and knowledge to those who enquire or who attend one of his intensive 3 day Swill Basket Making courses. A small number of his former students carry on practising the craft but none, to my knowledge, have gone onto to learn the processs sufficiently well to earn their living from it.
He is an absolute hero of traditional craftsmanship who has single handedly preserved the craft of swill basket making.