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‘From selecting and felling the oak, through to completing the swill, all is done by my hand and so to complete the final link and meet the customer is most rewarding.’ Owen Jones
Owen Jones MBE lives and works in Cumbria and has been making traditional oak swills and baskets since 1988.
‘I was taught to make swills in 1988 by a retired ‘Swiller’ from Broughton-in-Furness, called John Barker. John had served his time in a 1930’s swill shop and when I met him he was one of the last swillers from that generation who were still making them. Now there is no one left alive from that era and I feel very privileged to have been taught by John, to have learnt from within the tradition and to now continue a local trade which has remained largely unchanged for centuries. When I first started I was supplied my oak and hazel by a local coppice man, Bill Hogarth, who was reliable, knew what I wanted and became a good friend. Bill was the last true coppice merchant in this area and after he died I had to source my own wood and so for the last 17 years I have been coppicing in the local Rusland valley. When I learnt the trade, I just caught the tail end of their previous uses and sold to farmers and industries e.g a snuff factory. However this market soon dried up and so from the early days I travelled countrywide to demonstrate and sell at fairs and shows. From selecting and felling the oak, through to completing the swill, all is done by my hand.’