Withy Lore kicks off with sharing and making

Posted on: 4th March 2024 No Comments

Following our recent funding success for the Withy Lore project, we were delighted to welcome withy pot makers from around the South -West to our first project event. Kindly hosted by the Royal Cornwall Museum, this event was focused on providing space for those interested in the withy pot craft to come together, share, learn and make.

Talking pot

As a critically endangered craft, there are not many withy pot makers remaining, so it felt very special to listen in as withy pot makers from Gorran Haven, Mevigissey, Penryn, Porthleven, Mullion and the Scilly Isles talked pot! We’d prepared some prompts to encourage sharing, and the impressive range of pots, made by those who came, kept the chatter alive throughout the day. We were glad to be able to record some of these fascinating conversations, which will feed into the Withy Lore exhibition next year.

One thing we were keen to capture was the terms used to describe different parts of a pot. Armed with post it notes and a large diagram, we set about documenting these. It was interesting to hear the different terms used and consider their origins and link to the Cornish language, and we were glad we recorded the conversation as there was a lot to take in!

Withy pot barnacles installation

Over the years of delivering community projects along our coastline, we’ve seen many photographs that include withy pots. In this amazing photo of Penberth, shared with Anna by Kathi Jones, the scattering of withy pots appear like barnacles. This photo inspired Anna to create a beautiful piece for her Jewelwithy project and has since led us to develop the idea for a new installation titled ‘withy pot barnacles.’

With help from some of the withy pot community we devised a plan to make a series of withy pot tops, which would later be linked together to appear like barnacles in a cluster. It’s important to us that these ‘barnacles,’ which will be smaller than a working pot, would are made in the makers own style. Each barnacle will showcase interesting differences in weaving style, finishing, willow and size. The closer and longer you look at withy pots, the more you can note these changes.

‘Withy pot barnacles’ will be installed and photographed on the coast before being displayed at RCM in 2025. We hope that it will help raise awareness and ignite conversations about this important heritage craft.

Pot making in the museum

We’ve got a whole year to make pot ‘barnacles’ for the installation and expect most of the making to happen next winter when the withy becomes more pliable again. But we couldn’t resist the opportunity to make the first barnacles as part of this event.

Pete, Tom and Aaron making withy pot barnacles

Over the course of the afternoon, we watched on as Pete Thomas from Gorran Haven,  Tom Chambers from Porthleven and Aaron Grigg from Mevagissey, each produced a ‘barnacle’. Using a variety of willow in a beautiful array of colours, each ‘barnacle’ had it’s own character.

Withy pot conversations continued, and other makers now plan to contribute ‘barnacles’ next season. We were also kindly donated a pot top by Dave French, from Budleigh Salterton, who sadly could not be there but sent his barnacle by train with fellow maker Jof Hicks, who we were delighted could join us from the Isles of Scilly.

Invitation to make withy pot barnacles

We want to include as many pots and styles as possible in this installation, so are now inviting pot makers to contribute ‘barnacles’. We won’t need these until early 2025, so expect most of them to be made next winter. We’ve already been bowled over by people’s generosity and willingness to contribute and are excited to see the installation grow. If you’re able to contribute then please do get in touch.

Thanks to…

Thank you to the Royal Cornwall Museum for hosting this event, as well as to everyone who came along. Particular thanks goes to local basket maker, Geraldine Jones who kindly donated willow, to Tom Chambers who was tasked with cutting this, and to Aaron and Adrien Griggs who brought some of their beautiful willow from their willow garden.


This project has been made possible with thanks to funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, FEAST Cornwall, Cornwall Community Foundation, the St.Aubyn Foundation and the Fishmongers Company.

Leave a Reply